The following blog is by Amy Etheridge. Amy is wife to Aaron (the campus pastor at the Cannery) and mama to three kids: Elijah, Toren, and Dahlia. Her fasting experience and insight has been invaluable during this season — and she's provided some great thoughts as we head into the last week of our 30 days.
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There’s something amazing that happens as we approach the end of enduring something difficult. We tap into places in our hearts and minds that we never knew existed before we pushed into the end of ourselves.
Let me give you two examples from my life about finishing something difficult. The first was in high school when I ran cross country. Throughout the season, our team would ride the bus to different cities in steamy southwest Florida, but the courses would always be the same. Winding around neighborhoods and empty fields or farm lands and then ending at the track of the local high school. As soon as my feet hit the track and I and saw the finish line I would push myself so hard for that last quarter mile that I’d be in a full sprint. I just wanted to be done! My coach would often tell me, “If you could tap into that speed throughout the whole 10K you would go from being a good endurance runner to an excellent cross country runner!” Here’s the truth about that situation, I only ran cross country to get into shape for basketball season. I wasn’t there for the team or for the win, I was only there with half the heart.
Let's compare this with another example from my life — natural childbirth! Yep, drug free, blood, sweat and tears. My first labor was 26 hours long. I never knew I could experience such pain. It was amazing and I grew as a person through that experience. Looking back on it now I wanted to run from the pain and I had no idea the reward in the end because I wasn’t a parent yet. So, when I was in labor with our second, I went into it with a completely different mindset. I didn’t care what the labor was like I couldn’t wait to meet our child! The joy to simply know and love our child allowed me to press into the pain and endure it with a thankful heart.
As I have thought about our church finishing up our 30 days of prayer and fasting, I have been longing for all of us to finish strong. It may be tempting to lose momentum or simply start to “grin and bear it." So I’m writing to encourage you to press into these last few days with a full heart and with holy expectancy.
In the example of cross country, I forgot the big picture of the race & my team and instead fought only to be finished. Contrast that with my experience of childbirth — with our second child, I forgot about pain and thought only of knowing our child. This is how we can finish strong, by letting our mind focus only on Jesus! Jesus is our prize, He is our win.
Whether your time of fasting went “well” or “poorly” isn’t the important thing in the end. Some of us may have been convicted of sin in our life and are ready to change. Some may have learned a special revelation about God and His character. Some may have been given a push to go on mission in His kingdom — I praise God for all of these things! A lot of us may have doubted, given in to temptation, may have slept in past our early alarms to rise and read the Bible more, or we may have overlooked opportunities God put in our path because we were too selfish. God is full of grace and is slow to anger, so don’t allow your heart to feel condemned! The important thing is how we grow and move forward with God together. We need to trust Him in all things — the good that comes our way, the hardships we face, and the ugliness we see in ourselves.
I strongly encourage you to read John 14 today! Jesus gives so much hope and courage for His disciples in this chapter. No matter what you are feeling I really think the Holy Spirit will minister to you as you read this scripture today!
I also want to join together and pray this over our church family today. It is a prayer from Paul to the church in Ephesus, and it's provided below.
We love you and are in this with you!
A Prayer for the Ephesians (and for us, too!)
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.