Don VanHoozier, one of the godliest men I’ve ever known, challenged me as a young pastor to consider the words of this passage from Joel.
“Declare a holy fast, call a special meeting, get the leaders together, Round up everyone in the country. Get them into God’s Sanctuary for serious prayer to God.” (Joel 1:14, Message)
Its significance was drilled deep into my soul and became part of my core. There are to be times of a holy fasting and prayer. It’s why every year, we declare 40 Days of Fasting and Prayer at Woodland. Here is just a bit of explanation.
Fasting is denying our bodies the sustenance needed for good health. When we go without a meal or go a day or more without meals, we are reaching out to God who sustains all of our lives. Knowing our different levels of health, we trust Him to nourish us on the bread of life while we fast. If you are a diabetic or have other health needs, then you need to approach fasting differently than a person who doesn’t have those challenges. God honors your fasting what you can.
• Joel calls on the leaders to fast because of the terrible disaster that has come upon the land.
• He calls out to the drunkards and wine drinkers, perhaps with some irony. The disaster will affect them because the vineyards are ruined and there is no more wine.
• He calls to the farmers because the crops are lost.
• He calls upon the priests, for there is nothing for the sacrifices in the Temple to offer to God.
However, they can all offer up to the Lord their fasting and prayers during this time of national tragedy.
We haven’t experienced a national tragedy in my lifetime on the scale of the book of Joel, but who can deny that America has had its disasters and tragedies such as the all too common school, theater, and church mass murders. There was the devastating wildfire in the Great Smokey Mountains in 2016. Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey caused flooding and mass destruction in Puerto Rico and the Southeast U.S. In particular, Hurricane Katrina humbled our nation with over 1800 people dying as a result and costing $108,000,000,000.00. Other national tragedies include:
• The demeaning and devaluing of marriage in our nation.
• Gender confusion and the pretentious promises of medicine to remake someone who doesn’t like the way God originally made them.
• The political conflict that has made us so vulnerable to Russian influence of our national conversation.
• The weakening of our democracy because a house divided cannot stand.
• The increasing debt and the potential impact of inflation and taxation to support that debt.
• The prolonged wars that we are involved in.
Sometimes it takes a national disaster to awaken the church and a nation. Jesus asked a question that bears thinking about. “Jesus responded, “Do you think those murdered Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die. And those eighteen in Jerusalem the other day, the ones crushed and killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed and fell on them, do you think they were worse citizens than all other Jerusalemites? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die.” (Luke 13:2–5, Message)
In other words, don’t blame others. Begin by searching your heart and turning wholeheartedly to be a passionate follower of Christ.
We fast as a church to awaken our souls and spirits to God; to repent of our sins; and to think rightly about ourselves. Perhaps the days of delay before Jesus’ return have been God’s grace and goodness as He awaits America to once more – drunkards and leaders included – to return to faithfully following Christ.