Isaiah 26:16-17 Lord, they came to you in their distress; when you disciplined them, they could barely whisper a prayer. As a pregnant woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we in your presence, Lord.
Today, as I was feeling such an overwhelming anxiousness about the events and times we are living in- I finally got real with God in my prayer. Do you know what I mean? Have you ever had that sensation, where you feel like you are holding so much inside? I was having so many thoughts and they were combining with a load of “what ifs” and “how do I knows” and it was rising to a fevered pitch inside of me. Finally, in my car, driving in the dark, I cried out to God, “Lord, I only want to hear from you. I don’t want to hear from anyone else. I don’t want to hear from the devil, I don’t want to hear from people who are saying anything at all. I just want to hear from you. I renounce all lies from the enemy and only embrace the truth of God. I give you my mind, Lord.” Over and over, I emphatically dumped my emotions on the Lord and drew up a line in the sand, telling the enemy not to cross.
“No one but the Lord. I only want to hear from you Lord!”
In that moment, such a peace came over me and washed away all of my anxious thoughts and mis-givings. I chose to walk in him. I cried out to him- I literally cried out- and he answered me.
And at that time, he began to speak to my heart. He didn’t tell me to forget about preparing my house. He didn’t tell me not to worry. He strengthened my heart and continued to tell me to trust him and to believe him.
Here in this small space I will share with you the revelation that fell on me. In order to do that, I need to recount my birth story to you.
When I was expecting my first born Ariel, I read every book on child birth. I read Dr. Bradley’s method. I read a book that promised me if I followed the faith formulas in the book that I wouldn’t have pain in childbirth. I read magazines and text books and talked to every veteran mother I could find to talk to.
I went to childbirth classes. I could tell you all the different stages of labor and I could recount every labor and delivery story I had read online and discussed with someone in person.
But, I have to tell you what- nothing- absolutely nothing at all- prepared me for laboring through childbirth. The entire time I felt like someone had lied to me. Dr. Bradley ( a man- no surprises here) said that contractions would feel much like a sexual sensation. I. Can’t. Even. Another sweet woman who received a miracle from the Lord of 4 pain-free deliveries after multiple disappointing miscarriages tried to package her testimony into an algebraic equation. If you could find the value of x- you too could have a pain free childbirth, where you actually only feel a strong pressure and you need to pray for your water to break or you would never know you are in labor.
None of the real stories prepared me. None of the advice I took prepared me. I didn’t know how incredibly difficult labor was until I went through it. When I was caught off guard by the intensity of the pain of laboring without medication for my first born, I became really afraid. I really felt like someone had tricked me. I didn’t want to take an epidural, because I knew that (according to all the books on natural childbirth I had read) real mothers didn’t get epidurals. (No insults here- just giving you my thought process at the time.) I had something to prove, but it didn’t make my experience any easier.
You see, I had a lot of head knowledge, but no practical experience with labor. I had read a lot, but I didn’t take the advice of my mother to get as much rest as I could, when I stayed up all night (the night before I actually went into labor) timing my tiny, itty-bitty, infinitesimal contractions. I really didn’t take any in person advice (where it mattered, at least) and I didn’t prepare myself physically. I also foolishly got really, really dehydrated walking around down town in the hottest days of the summer that week.
So, when the birth process started- it was all over but the shouting- literally.
When it came time to birth my second born, I had learned my lesson with my first. I knew how to rest. I took it easy. I drank lots of water and I learned how to really pray- (Oh Lord God, in Jesus’ name PLEASE don’t let my water break till the end of labor.) It was so much easier, because I was real-life, practically prepared for what was ahead of me.
What does this have to do with fasting, Briana? Everything. Follow me here.
God showed me today that the present day American church “knows” a lot of scripture about the end times and suffering. We can quote all the important verses. We have been to the seminars, watched the Left Behind movies with Kirk Cameron – or Nicholas Cage (whichever one floats your boat) – and we have probably decided on our own “birth plan”. “I’m taking the pre-trib rapture birth plan, thank you, doctor Jesus.” (Americans somehow have been tricked into thinking they won’t ever have to experience what the rest of the world has been experiencing for centuries. We just get to go in the rapture without being refined in any fire first. 😉 )
But, like my doctors and nurses did when I handed them my birth plan, Jesus is saying, “Look, I really appreciate that you have this whole thing figured out, but I really need you to know that it may not go anything like you think it’s going to go.” I gotta say I wasn’t very happy when I heard those wise and true words. I was even a bit offended that I had written my plan out and the nurse was telling me with a tiny, amused smile that I wasn’t going to get my way. I thought she was telling me she didn’t care about my plan. No. She was just telling me I didn’t know how unpredictable child birth can be.
Jesus did tell us somethings we can count on- and one of the things that rang true to me today is this: “We think we are ready, but we really aren’t.” So many parables he tells in scripture over and over are about the unprepared who think they are ready, but they are not.
“Briana, that’s not very comforting. That makes me scared.”
I didn’t say it. Jesus did when he spoke it to my heart today, when I was praying. He gently and in the most non-fear provoking way told me that I need to understand this. As much as we prepare spiritually, as much as we prepare physically, we cannot know what the end of days will actually be like. So, we need to trust the Lord. I have this crazy feeling that all the theologians who went before us and wrote the books of theory were looking through a far away glass darkly. But, when you start to walk into days of trouble, you begin to have a whole new level of revelation. Why? Because God speaks to his children. Jesus said he would never leave us or forsake us. He is with us in the delivery room.
We need to trust him with the end game.
I remember the end of my labor with my son Ellis. I had the easiest time of it. No yelling or crying. Just cheerful and focused walking and laboring. But, suddenly I went from being barely progressed and dilated to 4 to delivery in 17 minutes flat. No lie. It was the most intense 17 minutes of my life. I felt like the room was swirling and like I was in a tunnel. I was aware of the doctors and nurses running into the room in a flurry and I had no idea what was happening to me.
My vivid memory was when the nurse rolled me over onto my side to try to restart my son’s heart in the middle of the worst contraction in the world. I could see two nurses getting the incubator bed ready for my Ellis. It was glowing yellow and looked peaceful and warm. I did not feel peaceful and warm. But seeing the glow of the warmer reminded me of why this was happening to me- I was about to see my son in person.
I had never seen him before with my eyes. I had never seen his amazing smile. I had never watched him slam dunk in basketball or win every single hurdles race in track in his regular track seasons. I had never watched him hugging all his friends or laying on his bed reading his Bible.
I had never heard his voice say, “I love you, Mommy.” (He still says that now as he drapes his 17 year old 6′ 2″ athletic frame over my shoulder like a bag of potatoes.) He was just an idea. He was a movement in my mid-section. He was a butterfly sensation. But, he wasn’t manifested in my life.
Friends, when the kingdom of God is ready to be birthed, those who walk through it will experience things that they never thought in a million years they would ever experience. But the birth pangs bring about the birth. The birth is the kingdom of God- something we haven’t seen with our eyes or held with our hands or heard with our ears. But, what is coming is so glorious we cannot even imagine it.
During the labor and delivery, we need to be fixed on the promised coming. We need to be fixed on what is leaving. The old life with all of it’s pressure and aches and pains, uncertainty and waiting- the old habitat will be exchanged for a glorious heavenly habitat. There will be no more pain, no more dying, no more hunger, no more thirst. We will be in the manifest presence of the glory of Jesus Christ. We will see him with our eyes and put our fingers in the nail scars in his hands.
All doubt will flee and the final resurrection that has been prophesied about for ages past will come roaring to life. “For I consider that the sufferings of our present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18
So, when it feels like you can’t catch your breath- when it feels like you never knew it could feel like- when the reality of this present age is stretched out to birth the coming kingdom- fix your eyes on the hope of the resurrection.
If anything will prepare us for the days ahead, it will be to be kingdom minded. It will to be satisfied with Jesus alone. It will be to fast and feel hunger intentionally- to intentionally push into Jesus instead of into a bag of chips or a pile of cookies. It will be to take your fears and anxieties of this coming age and cast them upon Jesus. He promises to be with us always, even to the end of the age.
Let’s look at some serious scripture:
The Destruction of the Temple and Signs of the End Times
1As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
2“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4“Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
5Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
9“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
12“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
14“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ a standing where it b does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 17How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.
20“If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. 21At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.
24“But in those days, following that distress,
“ ‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
25the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ c
26“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
28“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it d is near, right at the door.30Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
The Day and Hour Unknown
32“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.33Be on guard! Be alert e ! You do not know when that time will come. 34It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ”
Verse 28 says “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leave come out, you know that summer is near.” This means, when the life starts to peak out, it’s not going to stop. The kingdom is coming. The birth pangs produce the birth.
Let’s Pray- Today’s prayer focus will be on God’s kingdom coming and for Jesus to open our eyes to our hope in glory. You may spend time praying through the Lord’s Prayer and asking him to lead you and strengthen you in your inner being (Ephesians 3 prayer), but today, I implore you to spend some time talking to Jesus about your focus. Are you kingdom focused or are you focused on holding together the pieces of this fallen world?
“Father, in Jesus’ name, we glorify you. Hallowed be your name. Your name is holy. It is by your word that the earth was formed. It is by your word that demons flee. It is by your word that I am build up and sustained in Jesus Christ my Lord. I worship your name- the name of Jesus.”
Lord, your kingdom come! Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Bring your kingdom here, Lord. Bring it! Build it! Birth it. Prepare me for the birth pangs. Teach my heart. Strengthen me in ways I didn’t know I needed to be strengthened. Oh Lord, open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you. I want to focus on the kingdom and not on the pain of transition from this world to the next. I pray for your will to be done in my life. I pray for you to be glorified in my life, in Jesus’ name.
Spread the light of Jesus throughout this land. May the church rise up and seize the opportunities to share the gospel. May we not back down and not relent from bringing the truth of the kingdom to those around us. Anoint us to walk in your power and not in our flesh, in Jesus’ name. May we walk in your power and in your Spirit.
Give me (and pray this for others) your Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that I can know you better. I pray that you enlighten the eyes of my heart to the hope of my calling. I want hope, Lord. I want your mercy. I want to have spiritual eyes to see so that I can have the faith that moves mountains.
Reveal Jesus to me, Lord. Reveal him to me in all of his glory. I need a special understanding of Jesus. I need to fix my eyes on him as I run the race marked out for me in this life.
Help me to be kingdom minded, Oh Lord. Give me eyes for eternity. May the things of earth become strangely dim, in the light of your glory and grace.
Lord, let me bring as many people as I can to heaven with me. (Pray for individuals) I ask that I will be a person who spreads the holy aroma of the gospel everywhere I go. I pray for you to bring your Spirit to stir others around me to repentance. May I find the power to speak the word I need to say, even when I am nervous or afraid of failing. Strengthen me in my inner being, so that Christ can dwell in my heart through faith. Oh God, strengthen me in your glorious might.
Fill me with the knowledge of your will with all wisdom and understanding that the Spirit brings that I might live a life worthy of you!
Lord, I repent of my sin. I struggle daily to follow you. Wash me and I will be white as snow. Cleanse me and I will be clean. I forgive those who have sinned against me.
Strengthen what is weak in me. Strengthen my spiritual muscles. I need you, Lord! Bring me holy friendships and relationships that I can benefit from and can pour into.
Spend time bringing your requests before the Lord. Think of the sick, the weak, and all those who are suffering. Remember the persecuted church.
Pray for protection for the body of Christ. Pray for the Lord to intervene with the power of the Blood of the Lamb. Pray for protection against Satan and against all danger for your family, your church, your pastor and leaders, your town, county, state and nation. Pray for the Lord to raise up the Body of Christ to lead the way and to be a light for Jesus in the darkness.
Spend time worshipping the Lord and bringing him any other things on your heart.