I just stumbled upon this four-part sermon series by Pastor John Piper. I think I’m going to start working my way through it in the coming weeks, and I thought some of you may want to as well. If you listen, please come back and share any thoughts or words that were meaningful to you in the comments section!
I have a post scheduled to come soon on prayer, and I keep thinking people are going to read it and think, “Wow, this chick really thinks she’s good at prayer.” I don’t think I’m specially prayer gifted or anything. It’s just something important to my life.
But, to keep a healthy balance, I’m posting today about a Christian discipline I’ve always been terrible at. Fasting. When I’ve spent even a day fasting (even those cheating, sundown-to-sundown kinds), I’ve always hated it. It’s just torture and horribly distracting. I’m not proud of this, but there it is. I really need to grow at it, and I’ve tried to grow in it a lot in the past. In more recent years I’ve tried to make it more doable, but useful, by fasting in ways other than totally eliminating all food and drink (the coffee fast of ’12 is forever burned into my brain as a “special” spiritual season). But I know I need to discipline myself to be able to sacrifice anything for the sake of spiritual growth and growing closer to the Lord.
Anyway, enough about me and my Christian shortcomings. I could go on forever. Here are some good thoughts from John Piper on fasting. In addition to it being a vital spiritual discipline, I know most readers on this site are spending a lot of time in prayer these days, and fasting goes hand-in-hand with seasons of prayer.
George MacDonald wrote:
[God] changes not because thou changest. Nay, He has
an especial tenderness of love towards thee for that
thou art in the dark and hast no light, and His heart is
glad when thou dost arise and say, “I will go to my
Father.” . . . Fold the arms of thy faith, and wait in the
quietness until light goes up in thy darkness. Fold the
arms of thy Faith I say, but not of thy Action: bethink
thee of something that thou oughtest to do, and go to
do it, if it be but the sweeping of a room, or the prepar-
ing of a meal, or a visit to a friend. Heed not thy feel-
ings: Do thy work.
I found this quote while reading this precious, short, free e-book: When the Darkness will not Lift by John Piper.
I really appreciated Pastor John Piper’s response to this question:
As you seek to grow in Christ, I want to share with you this YouTube playlist from Desiring God. It is Ask John Piper, and includes hundreds of short (usually 1-3 minutes) biblical answers from Piper to a wide variety of questions about the Bible, theology, Christian life, and current events and issues. I highly recommend surfing through it!
In the last several days I’ve encountered all sorts of encouragement on the web. I feel like I keep posting the same pastors and writers over and over, but it’s because I really respect them, and they’re biblical, and maybe a little because I live overseas and don’t have easy access to new people. But definitely more the first two.
Lately, I’ve been trying to cultivate the habit of replacing thoughts-of-the-flesh with thoughts-of-the-Spirit (ahem, I’ve also been reading Galatians, if you can’t tell). This means, as a chronic worrier, when the “what ifs” move in and the anxiety starts to mount, instead of letting it build, I try to immediately put something else in my mind (“Whatever is true … think on these things”). For years my first line of combat has been prayer (“God, please stop these thoughts/calm my heart/make me sleep”); then reading or reciting scripture (“At times I am afraid, I trust in You)”. I’ve had to build up my arsenal in these really tough times, though, and one way I’m doing that is to always be reading at least one book of encouragement (though I may be reading a book for fun on the side, because sometimes reading books about suffering, etc. can bring me down, if I’m not in the right place for them). Anyway, it’s really been working, guys. I’ll be lying in bed, starting to worry, and will just get up and read my book until I’ve replaced the thoughts with truth.
Anyway, let me share with you some places I’ve found encouragement lately, and you can take your pick.
1.) Yup, you guessed it, I’m going to say it again… Tim Keller’s Walking with God though Pain and Suffering (specifically parts 2 +3). I actually just finished it tonight, and I practically highlighted the whole book. I’m glad I did, too, because now I can go back and reread some highlights when I need encouragement again (which will probably be in the next 10 minutes… or 30 seconds).
2.) Tonight I found John Piper’s small book (under 100 pages) When the Darkness will not Lift for free (pdf) on the Desiring God website. It sounds like the perfect thing for right now, and I’ll probably finish it in one sitting. It’s about how to have joy while waiting for the Lord. Perfect, right?
3.) My husband and I watched this encouraging 9-minute video the other night before bed. Sometimes a brief encouragement, as opposed to an hour-long sermon or a 300-page book, is just what you need for that moment. It’s a casual conversation between Pastors John Piper, David Platt, and Matt Chandler on trials and suffering. It made me cry, of course. I was the most touched by Matt Chandler’s words on being “perplexed, but not in despair.” And I learned that David Platt has faced infertility in the past, which led to my next encouragement…
4.) This short interview with Heather Platt was used by God to speak to one of my biggest fears right now — how to rejoice (and not wilt) when my close friend, who is pregnant, gets back to town in a couple months. Sometimes (not all the time, I know), it’s also nice to hear a good post-infertility, God-came-through story, which the Platts have.
5.) I also want to read Charles Spurgeon’s Beside Still Waters, which has great reviews. I heard CJ Mahaney read it daily to his daughter when she was in the hospital with childbirth complications. It sort of looks like you can get the pdf for free here, but so far I haven’t gotten it to work. Let me know if you do, because there isn’t a Kindle version for sale that I can find, unfortunately.
6.) I read that factoid about Mahaney in this little list of resources I randomly came across. It’s meant for pastors to prepare their congregations for suffering, but I breached the system and am bringing it straight to you, no middle man. It has a few more books you may want to look into.
What are some places you’ve found truth-filled encouragement (big or small) recently? Perhaps a video clip, a sermon, a book, an article, a devotional or a song? Please add to my list!
I was really touched by this response by Pastor John Piper on what he would say to a couple struggling with infertility. It’s less than 5 minutes, but I believe God will use it to speak to your heart today.