"If any man will come after me, let him DENY HIMSELF, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23.
The path that Jesus walked is a way of self denial.
You are reading this book because you desire to "come after him." Then DENY YOURSELF!
Someone once said, "No man spake as this man! Few have learned to deny self.
While we read in the scripture of Jesus, "Rising up A GREAT WHILE BEFORE DAY, he went out, and departed into a solitary place and there prayed". (Mark 1:35) How many of those who would do the works he did, find little or no time for prayer. How few of them can bear solitude. Yes, often they pray beautifully in a crowd, or when others may be listening. But the lonely hours of the night spent in solitary prayer bring no glory to SELF. Self would rather turn a little, to find a more comfortable spot on his comfortable bed, and drift softly back to sleep. Self says, "I must have my rest." Self will raise his hand smilingly, when asked who will pray an hour during the night or early morning. Self will rejoice that he has been seen taking this sacrificial hour, and how well his neighbors will think of him. But self will turn off the alarm when it sounds, and go back to sleep. Self says, "It does no good to pray anyway, when you don't feel like it." Jesus said, "Let him DENY HIMSELF." This is sacrifice -- real sacrifice to God. And God honors sacrifice.
In one of my early meetings, in southern Missouri, good crowds had been attending for a week, but not one soul had responded to the altar call. My wife and I decided that this MUST be changed, and agreed between ourselves that we would pray all night for souls to be saved in that meeting. Already we were weary in body, for the hour was late, and the service had been a hard one. Soon weariness began to creep down upon us, and even to stay awake seemed almost impossible. Again and again one must waken the other. There was no shouting, no excitement -- nothing to keep us awake but the knowledge that in this little community which God had given to us as our responsibility, souls were lost, and we must see them saved. And we had promised God to pray it through. As the sun crept over the eastern horizon, we knew that we had kept our vow, and that something was going to happen that night. We could hardly wait for the time of the service. And that night, victory came. One after another responded to the call, until nineteen souls had found salvation, and were shouting the praises of God in a little country schoolhouse, under the ministry of a preacher who had only been preaching three weeks. As we went home rejoicing from that service, we knew that God had taught us a lesson -- it pays to DENY SELF the rest he may think is rightly his. It pays to pray it through, whether self is stimulated by any good feelings, or urge to pray, or not.
SELF says, "Pray if you feel like it." SELF DENIAL says, "PRAY ANYWAY."
There are times when prayer is a delight -- when it is a time of refreshing to the weary soul. But there are times when prayer is meeting the enemy face to face upon the battleground of the world, to drag by force from his grasp the things which by God's promise are rightly ours, but which satan will keep us from having, if he can possibly do so. There are times when we must wrestle in prayer, as did Jacob, when he cried, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." Gen. 32:26. There are times when the answer is slow in coming, and we must hold on patiently as did Daniel, for three full weeks (Dan. 10:2). There are times when this wrestling may leave the body weary, and the nerves overwrought, as in the case of Elijah when he had prayed down the fire and the rain (See I Kings 18, and 19:4). At times like that, prayer requires self denial. But it pays. Only the person who BELIEVES in the power of prayer will deny himself the rest which his body demands, in order to pray. And God's promise is "Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, BELIEVING, ye shall receive." Matt. 21:22.
Real prayer -- determined, prevailing prayer -- is the greatest outlet of power on earth.
The early church prayed ten days and then -- the miracle of Pentecost.
Moses spent forty days in the mountain talking with God, and his face shone so that he wore a veil.
Muller prayed, and secured one million dollars, making possible the care of 2,000 orphans.
Jesus went upon the mountain to pray, and returned to cast out demons which go forth only by prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:29.) He did not say to the sorrowing father, "This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. Wait while I go away to fast and pray." He had already fasted and prayed! Self denial, fasting and prayer, was a part of his daily life. It was his habit of life. He prayed first, and when the need arose, he was already "prayed through", and ready to meet the need.
How many think they are denying self, when their self denial is only for selfish ends, to make their voice to be heard on high. (See Isa. 58:3-7.)
Fasting is an important part of self denial. The desire for food -- the richest, the tastiest, and the best -- is one of the strongest desires of self. It was for food that Esau sold his birthright. It was to physical hunger -- the desire for food -- that satan directed the first of the series of temptations to Christ when he was in the wilderness. Paul, that great apostle of power, declared that he was "in fastings often". (II Cor. 11:27.)
Food itself is not sinful. But if it is given undue importance, it becomes a god, and when it becomes a god, it becomes a SIN.
Paul warned his church at Philippi of some whom they might be tempted to follow, "they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose GOD IS THEIR BELLY, and whose glory is their shame, WHO MIND EARTHLY THINGS." Phil. 3:18,19.
Many who desire the miracle working power of God in their lives today are hindered by the fact that they still would rather miss God's best for them than to miss a good meal.
How hard it was for me to remain on my knees in my closet of prayer when the good smell of food cooking began to filter in through the cracks around the door! And it was not until I resolutely turned my back upon the delicious stew, and went back to my closet without my dinner, that I heard the voice of God. It was only then that I proved to God that he meant more to me than food -- that my belly was not my God.
Fasting itself has no power to accomplish miracles, unless it is done rightly. The Israelites of Isaiah's time cried out, "Wherefore have we fasted, and thou seest not?" (Isa. 58:3). God's reply, through his prophet, was, "Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high." (v. 3,4.) If our fasting is to help any about making our voice to be heard on high, it must be accompanied by a real heart searching, and seeking after God. It must include an enlarged vision of our responsibility to be our brother's keeper. Fasting must be done unselfishly, if it is to be done effectively. "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?" (V. 6:7). When fasting is done God's way, he has given the promise, "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. THEN SHALT THOU CALL, AND THE LORD SHALL ANSWER: thou shalt cry and he shall say, Here I am." V. 8,9.
Jesus fasted, and expected that those who followed him would fast, but pointed out to his followers that not every fast was acceptable with God (See Matt. 6:16-18). Those who fasted boastfully were branded by him as HYPOCRITES. He declared that they received ALL of their reward in the admiration of those around them, who looked only upon the outward appearance. The fasting which he recommended was to be done privately -- a secret transaction between the individual and God. If possible, even the immediate family were not to be informed that a fast was in progress. When fasting is done this way, God will hear from heaven, and will reward you openly, by answering your prayer.
How much better to have people say, "That man has power with God. The sick are healed, the lame walk, the dumb speak, and the blind see when he prays," than to have them say, "That man is sure a pius man. He fasts three days of the week. He has completed a twenty one day fast, and is even now in the tenth day of a forty day fast."
Some fine people have been misled into wasted time and sacrifice, which brought no good to anyone because they became puffed up and did their fasting with a spirit of boastfulness. It is satan's business to spoil all that we try to do for God. Let us be watchful in this matter, or else he will make useless one of our most effective weapons, the weapon of self denial through fasting.
True fasting is a matter of giving God first place over all the demands of the self life. It goes deep into the personal life. Paul recommended that while husband and wife are each to consider his or her body the personal property of the other, and to be subject one to the other, seeking to please each other in every way possible, that it is wise that the christian husband and wife set aside by agreement times when personal gratification is to be ruled out, in order that God may be FIRST, that he may occupy all their thoughts, that one or the other, or both together, may give themselves to fasting and prayer. God does not condemn marriage, nor the rightful relationship of husband and wife. But even this, which is rightfully yours, may, like our food, be set aside for a time of seeking God, with great profit.
The closer we walk to God, the greater will be the power in our lives. This closeness can be achieved in one way -- "Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you." James 4:8.
Self denial will many times take you out of the company which you would find most enjoyable. No doubt, the company you keep is good company. But if you are to have power with God, you must have fellowship with God. Fellowship with god's people is wonderful, and is needed by every Christian, especially those who are young in the Lord. But there is another fellowship which is even more necessary. "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" I John 1:3.
Those who have power with God, and are bringing deliverance to the sick and suffering, and winning souls to Christ, are spending much time alone with God before they spend time with the people.
These things cannot be done in a moment. Power is the result of WAITING UPON THE LORD. Self says hurry. But self must be denied again. Pentecost followed ten days of waiting upon the lord. Daniel's vision of the last days followed 23 days of waiting. Because Moses had not learned to wait upon the Lord to know His method as well as His will, he had to wait forty years in exile before he was ready to do the work of deliverance which God had given him to do.
"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him." Ps. 37:7.
Waiting is almost a lost art. Everything is done in a hurry. So many things require only the pushing of a button, but there is no button to push -- no magic formula -- no "royal road" -- to power with God. The man who has waited upon God commands the demon to depart, and the tormented one is free. The man who hasn't time to "waste" in waiting speaks the same words, seems to do the same things, but nothing happens. Waiting upon God is not wasted time, although it many times may seem to you as well as to others that you are doing nothing. Waiting on God includes fasting, prayer, and just plain waiting. When we pray, we talk to God. but when you have prayed until there seems to be nothing more to say, then you need to wait for an answer. Let God speak to you.
Self is restless and impatient, always clamoring for action or for attention, or for gratification. Self is mindful of the things that are of this world, the things of the flesh. But "If any man will come after me, let him DENY HIMSELF." Luke 9:23.
Will you come after Him? Will you do the works He did? Then wait in His presence and let Him speak to your soul about the things of self which have not yet been denied. Let His life of self denial be your pattern, and you are well on the way to sharing in His MIRACLE-WORKING POWER.
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