[Welcome back for week 2 of our series FIRST THINGS FIRST. This week we are talking about Fasting. If you’re new to Liquid, we did a 40 day Daniel Fast last winter. As a Church, we want to prepare for the year by giving the first of the month to God through fasting. If you have any questions about fasting, consult your group coach.]
If you participated in the 40-day Daniel Fast last year, what was your reaction to it? What were the positives from your experience? Were there some parts of it that were difficult? What were they? For those that did not participate in the fast, feel free to ask others in your group, any specific questions you may have about fasting, or share your experience if you’ve ever done a different type of fast.
[Let’s take some time to debrief this week’s message. Pastor Tim talked about how fasting is the way we restore our spiritual edge.]
This week Pastor Tim talked about how to get back your spiritual edge. Was there anything in this message that resonated with you? In what ways have you lost your spiritual edge?
Management experts say that if you want to set goals that stick, you need to visualize how you will look and feel after you accomplish it. What would it look like to get your spiritual edge back? How would it feel to have a spiritual edge?
[Imagine what December 2019 will look like for you. Imagine that you’ve read the Bible in a year, had a consistent time with God, have a stronger marriage and fulfilled some of God’s dreams for your life. Try to encourage people to be specific and think out of the box and dream a little.]
APPLY THE BIBLE
Read Matthew 4:1 – 11 (Jesus’ 40 Day Fast in the Wilderness)
Background and Context
In Matthew 3:17, Jesus was affirmed by His heavenly Father. He went to be baptized by his cousin John the Baptist. During his baptism, God spoke audibly before John, Jesus and the crowd that was there and they witnessed how God affirmed Jesus. He was the Beloved Son of God. Matthew, who is writing to persuade other Jews that Jesus is God, uses this to allude to Isaiah 42: 1-4 which is a prophecy of the coming of Jesus. Reminder that all of the OT points forward to Jesus in the NT. Pastor Tim made that point in his message.
[Q] After Jesus is baptized what does He do next? Is this beginning, during or after His ministry here on earth?
[There is a sequence that we see taking place in the life of Jesus. First Jesus receives the Holy Spirit. Second, the Spirit leads Him into the wilderness. In the wilderness is where He fasts for 40 days and 40 nights. Matthew is showing us that before Jesus preached a sermon, healed the sick or even died for the sins of humanity that he went into the wilderness and fasted. Jesus began one of the most significant times of his life with fasting.]
[Q] Ephesians 2: 10 says that we have been created to do good works. Our impact in the world and for eternity is significant. How can fasting prepare you to do the good works God has destined you for?
[Have someone read Ephesians 2:10 (For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.) Scripture says that God has good works for you to do. Therefore, we need to prepare ourselves. We see Jesus doing this in the above Scripture, therefore you and I are called to do this as well. Fasting prepares us by helping us refocus on what is most important rather than getting carried away by the urgent.]
[Q] At this point, we see that Satan begins to tempt Jesus. Why do you think he chose this point to tempt Him?
[The Scripture says that Jesus was hungry after fasting for 40 days and nights. Jesus was at his weakest, therefore the enemy sought to go after Him then hoping to get a victory over the Son of God.
The way Satan tempts Jesus is intentional. He is tempting Jesus to doubt His identity as the Son of God. Satan begins by saying, “If you are the son of God.…” Satan’s strategy has NOT changed. Satan will tempt you to forget who you are. You are a CHILD OF THE LIVING GOD. You are forgiven, holy, blameless and unconditionally loved. If Satan can get you to doubt that, then we lose our spiritual edge and your confidence IN Christ and impact FOR Christ are blunted.]
The final temptation, where Satan tempts Jesus with the kingdom’s of the world is significant in the sense that Jesus was tempted to compromise His loyalty to God. We live in a world that is still under the influence of Satan. And we are constantly bombarded with the temptation to compromise our faith in Christ. We are tempted to choose the world’s perspective over Jesus. When we compromise our loyalty to Jesus, we lose our spiritual edge. It’s like we’re trying to sharpen our ax with acid.
[Q] What are some ways you are tempted to compromise your faith in Christ? How do you think fasting can bring back your edge?
[We can be tempted to compromise our faith when we choose to think like the rest of the world thinks rather than think as Jesus thinks. Jesus has called us to be ‘in the world, but not of the world.’ Share with your group some ways that you may have compromised with the world. Maybe you found yourself going through your day making little compromises. Rather than trusting in Christ, you trust more in your own ability to get things done. You allow yourself to give into temptation rather than resisting because you feel like you deserve it. You know what God’s word says about sexual integrity or keeping your thoughts pure but choose to do the opposite out of comfort and ease. Or perhaps God has called you to a ministry, or a job but you are delaying it because you’re afraid. Fasting is a denial of what our bodies or appetites want. When you deny yourself certain foods, experiences, or activities it makes us feel that we are empty. When we feel that emptiness, it is an opportunity to DRIVE us back to Jesus. When we feel hungry or crave a certain type of food or habit, it becomes a reminder that our true need and desire are for Jesus and only He can complete our deepest spiritual needs.]
[Q] When we are fasting for a breakthrough, the enemy will come after you at your weakest point. What are some temptations that you think Satan will use to knock you off track?
[Share some of your own struggles with fasting and how the enemy has knocked you off track. Where have you struggled (or are struggling) with the fast? If you have singles in your group, the enemy may try to get them to think that they aren’t as valuable as those who are married. If you have a group with moms, the enemy may say all sorts of things to them to trigger insecurity and fear. If you’re in a men’s group, the enemy may tell them that they are not good providers or are not supporting their families enough spiritually. What are specific temptations that the enemy uses to attack those in your group? Let your group share those struggles. Some of them will be internal and others external. The very act of sharing can actually lead to freedom, as we recognize the enemy’s lies and replace them with God’s truth. This is the beauty and purpose of community! ]
[Q] How did Jesus deal with the difficulties and temptations that came with fasting? How does that help you as you fast for the next 21 days?
[Jesus went straight to the Scriptures. Jesus drew near to God when under fire. Jesus knew God’s word and wielded it as a weapon. As you fast, Reading, Studying and Memorizing the Bible is critical! Remember, fasting with prayer and scripture is just a diet!. Ask your group, as you fast, how do you want to draw nearer to Scripture during this time? As a group, is there some Scripture that you can memorize together? Share with them the 1st 15 app that Pastor Tim was talking about last week.]
[As the leader, you can choose to share prayer requests and then pray for one another. Another way to pray this week is to actually pray through a Psalm. Psalm 67 is a Psalm of blessing. Pray this Psalm over one another out loud. This will also help get your group comfortable praying out loud if they are hesitant about it. This is a way to add some other ideas in praying with your group.]
Close your group time by praying out loud together a Psalm. Pray out Psalm 67 together in one voice.
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—2 so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
3 May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth.
5 May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
6 The land yields its harvest;
God, our God, blesses us.
7 May God bless us still,
so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.
CHANCE TO SERVE
[Here’s a great opportunity for you to serve here at Liquid. You can serve as an individual or a group. Make it your group goal to serve together in 2019.]
There are many opportunities to serve at Liquid. One great ministry that you can serve with your group or by yourself is the Relief Bus. The relief bus serves our homeless brothers and sisters from Newark to New York. They are a long time partner with Liquid. Another passage about fasting is Isaiah 58 which pairs fasting with food to serving the poor and oppressed. As a group, you can take fasting to the next level through this act.
Not only do we see fasting in the life of Jesus, but also in the life of His followers. The book of Acts details the rise of the Church from a ragtag group of misfits to an international, intergenerational movement. A practice that the early church seemed to always keep close was prayer and fasting.
Read Acts 13: 1-4. What were two regular practices the early church linked together? What was the result?
[Fasting and worship were always done together in the early Church. There are still some Christian traditions where the two were done together. It was a way for the early Church to regularly connect to God. And the results were tangible. We see that God spoke to this group of believers. And that God actually was able to raise up leaders for the sake of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.]
Read Acts 14:23. How did Paul and Barnabas appoint leaders?
[Through prayer and fasting.]
How do you currently make decisions now? How do you think adding fasting could give you a spiritual edge at work, at home or at school?
[We make decisions in all sorts of ways. For some, they make decisions based on their gut. For others, it’s a process of weighing our strengths and weaknesses. It is a pretty cognitive process. However, when we add fasting to our decision-making process we actually start to bring God into it. Paul and Barnabas fasted because they trusted in God ultimately. Not in their own ability, understanding or anything else. Fasting can give us an edge because we are actually bringing the Creator of the universe into our jobs, our homes, and our education.]