This article is the third in a series based on the assumption that God is after something, He is doing something to get what He is after, and He is willing to tell us everything that we need to know for our participation. God is using this time of chaos (like so many others) to prepare His children for a season of opportunity that will be exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think.

Conditions can be viewed in two opposing ways. We can consider them as responsibilities forced upon us for some desired outcome, or as opportunities for reward. Our mindset in this regard has a great deal to do with our relationship and interaction with the one setting the conditions, as well as our response to them.

A classic example is our view of labor for income. Those who appreciate labor as an opportunity to earn income enjoy their work and make better employees. Persons who feel their labor is forced on them are generally disgruntled workers, slaves to their jobs.

In regards to God’s conditions for His promised blessings, this is another battleground with our carnal mind. At enmity with God, the mind of our flesh would have us perceive and relate to God as oppressor. This is a mindset that must be cast down (2Corinthians 10:5).

The Father’s good pleasure is to give us His kingdom (Luke 12:32). His desire is for a people who will surrender to His reign, welcome His habitation, and enjoy the intimacy of His presence. Recognizing our weak estate, our loving Father has graciously and lavishly provided motivation for pursuing what He is after.

Last week, we explored what God is after through an examination of His promises in Isaiah 58. Now, having understood what He desires in our ultimate relationship with Him, we will consider the conditions He has graciously offered as opportunities to participate in the good work He has created to acquire them (Ephesians 2:10).

Before we go there, it will be helpful in the battle against our carnal mind’s deception and deceit to fully appreciate this matter of participation. God is working in us to will and to do to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Without His Son, we can do nothing (John 15:5). “Good works” are God’s work. They are created for us to walk in them, not do them. This alone is reason enough to see God’s conditions as opportunities.

Fasting that Pleases God

Isaiah 58 challenges us to think about fasting from a different perspective. For most of my Christian life, my consideration of fasting focused on the method and a restricted view of the purpose. The food or activity to fast and the number of days defined the method. The purpose was limited to hearing God’s voice and getting God to do something important.

Isaiah 58 expands our view of fasting in two important ways. First, God has given us fasting as a catalyst for our participation in His good work. Secondly, He has prescribed four very specific purposes for our fasting – those things that please Him. We will cover the first two in this article.

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
(v. 6)

This verse sounds much like Jesus’ inauguration speech, found in Luke 4:18, “To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…” And then I am reminded that our King passed on His anointing to us, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20:21)

Let’s face it, this loosing, undoing, and breaking sounds like a lot of hard work. It certainly adds perspective to Jesus’ commission to go and make disciples. One thing I have discovered in fifteen years of workplace ministry, most leaders need to be set free before they are much use to God. To be honest and transparent, this is truer of myself than I would care to discuss.

And so, we remind ourselves that this is opportunity – opportunity to be an instrument of God’s liberty for others, while we find it ourselves. The truth will make us free, including the truth that we need to participate with God for the freedom He requires.

Walking in spiritual and emotional freedom, we are then capable of more practical endeavors.

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
(v. 7)

I confess this verse intimidates me, for it requires a surrender that truly challenges my faith. I want to ask, “What is enough sharing? Is this ‘bring to your house the poor’ for everyone? Who are these naked? How unhid must I become?”

Some of you will recognize that these questions expose the limits of my faith, and serve to inhibit God’s answers to them and my subsequent participation in His good works. Is it the same for you? The frustrating thing for me is I know what’s required.

If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him. John 7:17-18

To know when to share, bring, cover, and not hide, one must will to do His will. I believe this is true for me, but can one know for sure who has not been tested? Most of us are born with test-avoidance build in, and excuses are easy to come by. Again, our carnal mind must be resisted.

Do we see these conditions for God’s gracious promises as opportunity or burden? Most people have sense enough to pursue opportunities, not ignore or avoid them. Perhaps that is the test.

This has been hard to write, and I suspect hard to read. Pray for me, and I will pray for you – that God would grant us grace and courage to pursue opportunities for His grace, in and through us.

Humbly yours and forever His,