"They do not know God's righteousness, and all the time they are going about trying to prove their own righteousness, they have the wrong attitude to receive His. For Christ means the end of the struggle for righteousness-by-the-law for everyone who believes in Him." (Romans 10:2-4, J. B. Phillips)


"If you try to be justified by the law you automatically cut yourselves off from the power of Christ. You put yourself outside the range of His grace." (Galatians 5:4 - J. B. Phillips)


If deception were easy to detect, it would not be deception. Satan is the master deceiver, for he disguises his voice to sound just like the voice of the Lord. He appears as an angel of light and tells you something that is right and good, and yet it is calculated to land you in a prison house of despair.


Many years ago I thought I heard the voice of the Lord telling me that I should fast. This was to be a fast in preparation for launching out into a new phase of my ministry, as well as to heal me of a number of physical problems. It was to be a complete fast of forty days.


How many times I have tried to comply with that "word," I cannot tell. But each time I tried, I failed. Then I would be faced with periods of condemnation and depression. Somehow, as time went on, the thought settled over me that I would never be healed or never be anointed for a powerful ministry if I didn't complete that long fast. And furthermore, I was willing to accept that thought! I felt I deserved the pain of a long fast because I believed my physical problems were related to years of intemperance, and I had read how men and women of God had been launched into powerful deliverance ministries immediately after a long fast. So I was willing to suffer through a long fast in order to pay the price for spiritual power and to be healed of some long-standing ailments.


However, as the months rolled on into years, and my struggle to achieve this fast became more intense, I began to question the source of this guidance. At times I was sure it was God, but at times I was not so sure. What I did not realize was that slowly but surely, the basis of my trust was being shifted away from Jesus to another foundation. I found myself able to believe and perform when I was fasting but crippled in my faith when I was not fasting.


I can remember many times during this long struggle that I cried out in bitterness, "0 God, I wish I had never heard of fasting!" Fasting had become my only hope. It had taken the place of Jesus as my Savior, and much of the time I was not enjoying my Christian life in the least. Yet I struggled on. "Lord, I failed that time, but I'll try again!"


The Devil fortified his hold on me by quoting scriptures, "Remember Naaman, the leper? He didn't get his healing until he obeyed the word of God through the prophet to go and dip seven times in the Jordan. Your word is to fast 40 days, then you will be healed and your will be anointed to heal." 


Of course, I would receive that scripture as the Word of the Lord to me as the solution to my problem. The Devil is good at quoting scripture.


Once I fasted 14 days and was helped physically but the killing element was in the fact that it was a growing, death-dealing legalism that was not only strangling my own spiritual life, but was being poured out on the people to whom I would minister.


I had fallen into the same error into which the Galatians fell, that of having begun in the spirit, I was now seeking to be made perfect by the flesh. I had made my religious observances my Savior. Jesus had become secondary. He was there to help me, but I must do the work. If I could perform, I would be blessed. If I could fast, I would be healed, anointed, cleansed, blessed, and mightily used of God to bring life to the people I ministered to. It had come to the point that everything in my whole life depended on my ability to do this complete fast.


The enemy kept bombarding me with scriptures: "The Spirit drove [a strong word of compulsion] Jesus into the wilderness to fast." Then Satan would say, "The reason you feel so strongly about this fast is because you, too, are being driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to fast. And just as Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit, so will you be able to release the captives like Jesus did."


Not only did my foundation shift, but my focus shifted as well. I now had my eyes on the fast, or rather on myself. If I could do it... if I could only do it... then my whole world would be brighter and happier. I began to suffer pain at night, with long hours of sleeplessness, as I fought off thoughts of self condemnation. Even when I slept, I would dream dreams of being exposed as a hypocrite, or see myself rejected as ineffective and powerless as a man of God. The words of Job so clearly expressed my plight:


"I have been allotted months of futility, and nights of misery have been assigned to me. When I lie down I think, 'How long before I get up? The night drags on and I toss 'til dawn... when I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions."


One morning after I had walked my daughter Judy to her school bus stop, I decided to take a longer walk. It was such a beautiful morning, and yet I was still under this struggle inwardly, feeling like an enemy of God rather than a friend—much less a beloved son. For though my root problem was a struggle for righteousness-by-the-law, I knew I had failed God on many counts and I was not altogether without blame.


As I walked along, the words of an old hymn we used to sing in my youth back in Texas began to rise up in my heart and I started to sing it. As I sang, the tears began to flow and I began to feel a sweet release.


"My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus' blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus' name.


On Christ the solid rock I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

All other ground is sinking sand.


His oath, His covenant, His blood,

Support me in the whelming flood.

When all around my soul gives way,

He then is all my hope and stay.


On Christ the solid rock I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand

All other ground is sinking sand


When darkness seems to hide His face,

I rest on His unchanging grace.

In every high and stormy gale,

My anchor holds within the Vail.


On Christ the solid rock I stand.

All other ground is sinking sand.

All other ground is sinking sand."


Oh, how I needed to hear and receive those words! How desperately I needed my foundation restored. It was Jesus and not fasting, not prayer, not gifts, anointing, or any other thing. He was indeed the end of the struggle for righteousness, peace, power, healing, anointing, guidance, fulfillment, and everything else. The struggle was all a subtle snare. I had been caught up in self-effort. I was no less a Pharisee than Saul of Tarsus, whose fanatical religious zeal for God took him to the extremes of murdering those who called upon the name of Jesus.


Praise God, the struggle is over! I have a Savior again. His name is Jesus. He is for me, not against me. He is my Healer. He is my perfect fast! It is the power of His Spirit whose anointing abides upon me. Fasting has its place and temperance in all things, yes! But it is JESUS, JESUS, JESUS, who is The Fountainhead, The Vine, The Rock from whence we are hewn. All else must be an outflow from the life of Jesus within. That which issues out of a framework of law or legalism promotes death. That which proceeds forth from a framework of grace ministers life and peace. 


I again received Christ Jesus as my Savior, my Lord, my life, my strength, my healer, my health, my authority to heal, my power to minister, and . . . I have in faith received Him as my forty day fast! The Lord reminded me that not only was his death accredited to my account, but his life also. Everything he did has been accredited to my account, and that includes his forty day fast. In Christ I have fasted forty days which brings to me all the benefits of that fast! He will surely take the struggle out of my walk with him and in my service to others.


"For I can testify about them (the Jews) that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God, and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes." (Romans 10:2-4)


The most subtle deception of all is when the Devil urges us to do a perfectly good thing at the wrong time or with the wrong motive. It is simply being out of step with God that makes life a mess of confusion whether you are a Christian or not. It is all important that we live life daily with a deep and abiding certainty of God's loving acceptance, and not with a fear of condemnation.


The Devil does not usually move against us with one decisive stroke. He plans his moves ahead. I am sure he would make a great chess player. As I look back on the experience I have related above, I can see that it took him years to maneuver me into a position where I would be vulnerable to bite on his bait and swallow a ton of legalism concerning fasting. He has intricate plans to devastate us and take away our joy and effectiveness. But by the grace of God we shall resist him steadfast in the faith!






















    END of the STRUGGLE [Robert Fitts]          3

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