Serving the Lord seems to be fun and great until we are called to step out of our comfort zone and do it. When the cost of serving becomes something we are not prepared to pay for then we come up with a thousand and one reasons why we can’t do it. Each one of it will even sound valid and reasonable. Yet when we are really honest, we know that deep down inside, we do not want the inconvenience. This was what Ezra discovered when he assembled the people to travel back to Jerusalem. None of the Levites wanted to make the trip with him.(Ezra 8:15) It was a big leap of faith, venturing out into the dangerous unknown. Where they were going wasn’t a vacation spot, it was a place where they need to do things from scratch. It was hard work and they do not want the inconvenience. They were perfectly happy where they were. That is exactly one of the problems the church faces today. We are often quick to give suggestions and proposals that sounds grand and dandy but when the time comes for us to roll up our sleeves and go to work, we are quick to delegate others to do it. Imagine if Christ had said no when God had sent Him down to Earth to become man and eventually die on the cross for our sins. He didn’t have to do it. He was there in heaven with all the comforts and treasures due Him. But He did it, He left a perfect place to be in an imperfect place and to die for a whole species of hard headed people who, not only, didn’t welcome Him but outrightly rejected Him. His perfect love for us compelled Him to do so. He who owe us nothing gave His all for us who owe Him everything. Think about that….
Aside from the fear of inconvenience, there is also the fear of the unknown that holds us back from stepping out and serving God. What will happen when we step out? Will we succeed? Fail? Will we meet with a lot of roadblocks? Ezra and the people also faced similar problems. Ezra responded out of desperate faith. He choose to run to the Lord and seek His help. Ezra proclaimed a period of fasting and prayer (Ezra 8:21) for the whole nation. In Ezra 7:11-28, 8:22, Ezra had found favor from the Persian King Artaxerxes. He could have easily requested horsemen and soldiers to escort them on their trip yet he didn’t do so because he told the King that God is able to take care and look after His own people. (vv. 22, 23) That was why he proclaimed a fast. God was his only option and he pursued that option seriously. Many times when faced with fears and dangers, we look for solutions and help everywhere except from God. God is often the last option. After exhausting all options and failing, only then do we run to the Lord for help. We do not have the desperate confidence and faith that Ezra had. This kind of faith and confidence can only be realized when we have only 1 option – God. Ezra obviously had previous experiences with God, maybe from small things that progressed to bigger things where God’s faithfulness was proven time and again. Know the object of our faith. Our faith is on the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipotent and immutable God. Whom then shall we fear?
Fasting and prayer does not guarantee that God will act favorably to our requests. God will act according to His will and timing. Many times we go into a fast thinking that it’s a master key that unlocks the door to all we wish for. God sees our heart and our motives and He will not be influenced by our action. In Ezra’s case, the Lord acted favorable towards his faithfulness and protected them in their journey. (Ezra 8:23. 31-32). The people expressed their gratitude to the Lord by offering up sacrifices and burnt offerings to the Lord (Ezra 8:35)
But what happens when we fast and pray and then God said no? What do we do? How do we react? Do we pout, grumble and complain? Do we throw a fit and then turn away? David fasted and prayed for his son’s life, but God said no. Instead of pouting, he got up, washed up and worshipped the Lord (2 Samuel 12:13-22). He knew that God’s ways are higher than his ways. Let’s learn from David and trust God’s heart. He knows what is best for us and in His infinite wisdom, He is never mistaken, in His perfect love and grace, He is never unkind. Trust Him to see you through, trust Him to prepare what is best for you and for me.
Fasting and prayer is our way of expressing our total dependence and devotion to God. It’s not and should not be done with the motive of persuading God to see things our way. We pray, we fast, we wait and then we submit to His perfect will.