The fairness of God lies essentially in His ability and willingness to discipline when necessary. The extent and nature of the discipline depends on the type of sin that warrants the punishment. Note that discipline implies punishment and pain. There are two basic reasons why God disciplines us. The first reason is explained by Apostle Paul in Heb. 12:7-8 “… God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Secondly, God says through Prophet Isaiah. “For I knew you would deal very treacherously, and that from birth you were called a rebel. For my name’s sake, I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise, I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not like silver, I have tried you in the furnace of affliction” (Isa: 48: 8-10).
God knew that human beings will always behave as such but it is not His intention to destroy or reject the work of His hand. So, He devised a reproving system to turn around the wayward and the prodigal. What is more, God made us in His own image and if that image is not properly reflecting Him (the object), then a re-moulding or restructuring is necessary. God effects that change by discipline. The Bible says, “ … He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:10).
The irony of the situation is that many people do not recognise it when God is disciplining them. They put their suffering down to Satan or enemies and should anyone with a ‘seeing’ eye try to alert them to the true situation, they argue and take it with levity. I think it is safe to assume that when anyone commits a sin, he knows it. Furthermore, everyone struggling to get rid of stubborn sins in his life is aware of it but hates to be told by someone else. He also finds it incomprehensible that God could be punishing him so that he may resist the sin to the point of ‘shedding his blood’ rather than succumbing to it all the time. God expects us to resist the devil and sin. It is said, “in your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood … My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12-4-6).
The day you give your life to Christ and he receives you as his son, from that day he takes control of your life and he will correct, reprove and chastise you in order that you may be conformed to his image. “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there that the father does not discipline? ‘Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and then let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29).
Long periods of prayer with fasting is not about getting Satan off your back; but it is about getting God off your back and getting Him on your side. Getting Satan off your back is done automatically if and when you have God on your side. When someone is on your back, he is against you and is out to get you. Fasting and praying is to get God to stop punishing you, and get him on your side. When you get God on your side, everything becomes possible; everything adds up.
God being a wise God, and a just Father, punishes a sinner that is unrepentant – Job. 33:19-20. God punishes and disciplines man with pain so that man can change. If you look at verse 29 of the same passage, “Behold, God does all things twice, three times with a man to bring back his soul from the pit that he may see the light of life” He punishes because He does not delight in the death of a sinner, but that the sinner changes from his wicked ways and live. God brings hunger, pestilence and evil upon people to chasten them. The Bible says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God” (Heb. 10:31).
This is why I say that the period of fasting is not about getting Satan off your back, but getting God to forgive and not punish you for all your sins. It is also about you repenting, so that God may change His mind regarding your punishment. God said to Solomon in 2 Chr. 7:12: “l have heard your prayer, I have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or when I command the locust to devour the land or send pestilence among my people …” This shows that God is capable of, and actually does punish people. He inflicts on them pestilence, calamities and disasters, in order that the people may change from their wicked ways. God can and does bring evil on people when they deserve it.
The passage further states that, “And everyone passing by will be astonished, and say, ‘why has the Lord done thus to the land and to this house’? Then, they will say because they forsook the Lord he God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt and laid hold on other gods and worshipped them and served them. Therefore, He has brought all these evil upon them.” To those who will not serve the Lord, those who have forsaken the Lord and are suffering while evil continues to come upon them and their families, yet think it is all from Satan – know this; it is not from Satan, but it is God who is bringing the evil upon you because you have forsaken the Lord your God and are serving other gods.
Many will not go to church but will go to satanic temples. Many will not attend prayer meetings but will go to ‘Madam A’ or ‘Madam B’, the palmist. Many will not attend revival meetings but will go to sorcerers and spiritists, so that they can read tea leaves or look into crystal balls for them and communicate with the dead on their behalf. Does the Bible not forbid consulting the dead on behalf of the living? Many will even join witchcraft societies and clubs. God says, “And it shall be answered, Because they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath he brought all this evil upon them.” (2Chr. 7:22 ).
In Isaiah 13:9, God told Prophet Isaiah to tell the people that He will punish the world: “Behold, the day of the Lord comes with wrath, and with fierce anger, to make the earth a desolation and to destroy sinners from it for the stars of the heaven and their constellation will not give their lights, and the sun will be dark at its rising and the moon will now shed its light. I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquities. I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant, and lay low the haughtiness of the ruthless.” That is what God has said. He will punish the world to remove pride and haughtiness.
God does not only punish the world, He also does punish the host of heaven, believe it or not. Nobody escapes the punishment of God, whether on earth or in heaven except he upon whom he chooses to have mercy. The host of heaven also includes the angels of darkness. That was why, when Lucifer misbehaved, God punished him and threw him down from heaven. The punishment of the host of heaven is not limited to the angels of darkness; it extends to all the powers of darkness, the devil and all his agents roaming the firmament. God will punish them all. Isaiah 24:21 says quite clearly, “On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven in heaven and the kings of the earth on the earth, they will be gathered together as prisoners in the pit. They will be shut in the prison, and after many days, they will be punished and the moon will be confounded, and the sun ashamed for the Lord of Hosts will reign on Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his elders he will manifest his glory.”
The punishment of God is coming on the world; the punishment of God is coming on the host of heaven; which is why the angels of God dare not disobey His commandments. Anything the Lord asks them to do, they must do. We must also stop disobeying God if we are to escape His punishment. If as you read this, there is an argument in your mind whether to change your character and behaviour or not, God is saying He will punish you if you don’t. If God has been asking you to do things for Him and you have been refusing Him, finding excuses day in and out, God is saying He will punish you unless you do those things immediately.
The Bible says in Jeremiah 21:14, “I will punish you according to the fruits of your doings, says the Lord. I will kindle a fire in a forest and it shall devour all that is about her.” The fruit of your deeds is the determinant factor. How are you faring with whatever the Lord asks you to do? Are you refusing to do them, or are you doing them half-heartedly? The ‘fruits of your deeds’ means the result of your action or inaction; the effect that your action has on God’s work, or on other people.
For a witch who attacks people, the fruit of her doing is injuring people or killing them. God will punish her. The Christian who shouts and prays the loudest yet has not done all that God has shown him, should note God’s word and change: “I will punish you according to the fruits of your doings.
The Bible is full of different examples of how God punishes. The book of Haggai mentions those who remain poor; even though they work and earn ‘fat’ salaries, they cannot give an account of where the money goes. Such people may have been thinking it is Satan that is bringing poverty into their lives. Let them think again. God is now talking to them about what they should have done which they have not done, and the consequences of failing to do it. Haggai 1:7 reads, “Thus says the Lord of Hosts, consider how you have fared. Go up to the hills, bring wood, build the house that I may take pleasure in it, that I may appear in my glory, says the Lord. You have looked for much and lo it came to little and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? Says the Lord of Hosts.” Many people think the devourer comes into their lives because Satan has sent it – this is not always the case.
Many times it is the Lord who blows away your prosperity because you have refused to carry out His instructions. Consequently, He punishes you with poverty, bankruptcy, inability to pay your bills, etc. For such people, fasting and praying is for getting God off their back and getting Him on their side.
God himself has made provision for that as we see in 2 Chr. 7 when He spoke to Solomon. God made it clear in verse 13 that He will always punish people with what will hurt them and in verse 14, He gives us a way out of this. It says: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Yes, He can punish but will also forgive. But this is conditional. Hence, the word ‘if my people who are called by my name’ Who are the people who are called by His name? Christians! Because His name is ‘Christ’ and we are called Christians, we are called by His name.
If Christians will humble themselves and pray, God will hear. To pray for a nation, which God is punishing, requires humility. Those who pray have to seek the face of the Lord in humility and turn from their wicked ways. Then, God will hear in heaven. These are His conditions.
All over the world today, a lot of terrible things are going on. God is punishing nations. People have not only lost their jobs, but their families. Moreover, people have lost their sense of belonging to the human race. There are attacks of diverse diseases. Almost every food is contaminated by one thing or the other. There is bankruptcy. People are in debt; people are hooked on drugs and alcohol, etc.
Children are dabbling in esoteric activities, enlisting in cult membership, etc. Most parents now no longer have joy over their children. Children have become sources of shame to them, because the hand of the Lord is upon them for punishment. Unfortunately, many of such people may not know the way out. God has given a provision to Christians in their various countries to humble themselves and seek His face. This is why the period of fasting and praying comes into it – for self-abasement and humility.
God says, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face.” In times like this, Christians are to pray to seek the face of the Lord, and seek to know what His will is. This is how to seek the face of the Lord – praying and asking God for His will; what we must do to be saved; what must we do that the people around us may be saved?
Praying for a nation without repentance, without turning from their wicked ways will be futile. The reason why such prayers have not been answered is because many who pray have not changed from their wicked ways. It is about time we looked again and change from our wicked ways, because God has promised that then and only then, will He answer. He says, “I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sins and heal their land.”
Our job is to pray for the land in which we find ourselves, to pray for other lands as well so that God may hear our prayer and change and heal such lands. It is then that we can go out to evangelise such lands and they would be ours for the taking. Yes, He wants to save other lands and it is towards this that He wants us to pray. He wants to use our prayer and He is saying that, “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.”
That is the difference between a living ministry and a dead one. A living ministry is one in which the eyes of the Lord are open and His ears are attentive to the prayer that is made in the place. Verse 16 continues, “For now, I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there for ever, my eyes and my heart will be there for all times.” That is a living church. That is the place where miracles and wonders are performed. In order that it may happen that way, the Christians there, the people who are called by the name of the Lord, must pray and seek His will, seek His face and change from their wicked ways.
Brethren, this is what fasting and praying is all about. This is the plan that God has for us. This is what He wants us to do – to evangelise the world; to make supplications for the world. To pray for those whom He is punishing that he may have mercy upon them. God will bring them back to Himself if you make intercession for those who are under His punishment, for the world, for the people.
In Jeremiah 29:10-12, God makes a promise, “I will visit you and I will fulfil to you my promise and I will bring you back to this place for I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me, and come and pray to me and I will hear you.”
God has made a plan and He knows the plans that he has made for you, for me, and for all the nations of the world. We do not know the plans, you do not know the plans but God knows them and they are good. Indeed, God wants to stop punishing people. He says, “plans for welfare, not for evil.” We do not know these plans. Therefore He says, “When my people who are called by my name shall seek my face” – seek what is my will. That is why praying and fasting is necessary for you to know His plans. What plans does He have for the Kings/Queens, Prime Ministers and Presidents, all over the world? God said, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations, and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” Jer.29:13-14
God did not say from where Satan has driven you. No! He is the one punishing our nations. He has plans also to bring those nations back to welfare. The realisation of such plans depends on if you and I seek the Lord diligently, with our whole heart. If we will humble ourselves then He will restore the fortunes of these nations.
If you seek Him, God says you will find Him. Fasting and praying is about seeking the Lord that you may find Him. If you pray according to your own will, you will get nothing but if you pray according to the plans of God, your prayers will be effective. It is God who directs us to pray and fast and He has made arrangement for how we are to do so. Offer the prayers He wants you to offer and then He will do what He wants to do. God can never resist a prayer that concerns what He wants to do. Therefore, you have to pray according to His will.
The book of 1 John 5:13-17 says, “I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” The same thing I am saying to all who say they believe in the name of Jesus Christ the Son of God that you may know how to gain eternal life and have it. “And this is the confidence which we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Have the confidence that if you ask anything according to His will, He hears you but if you ask things according to your own will, He does not listen. Why do many prayers offered for us and for our nations go unanswered? Because we ask what we want and not what He wants. “And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.”
The way to have eternal life is to pray, and the way to pray is to ask what you know God desires, because you have the guarantee that if you ask what you know God wants, He hears you and if you know that he hears you, then you have the guarantee that you receive the request.
Furthermore, 1 John 5:16-17 mentions something that God wants all of us to do: “If anyone sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal, and I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrong-doing is sin but there is sin which is not mortal.” God requires us to pray for our “brother” who is committing sin rather than judging him. He wants you to pray for the unbelievers before you even go to minister to them. Call the names of those you are going to minister to, carry them to the Lord in prayer that He may forgive and wipe off their sins. It is then you can go and speak to them. When God has done the work, they will come; they will follow you. But if you do not pray for them but go out to speak to them in your own words, you will fail.
Is this the prayer you offer? – “God, as we are going out tonight, let those people listen to us, let them come to your house with us…” This is not how God wants you to pray for them. The way He wants you to pray for them is to ask that He may forgive their sins. He said, “And he will ask and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal.” What is this telling you? If you have been failing in your ministry, failing to convert souls, have you been murmuring saying? “I have been going out but they will not listen to me” Why? Because God has not given you “life” for them. And why has God not given you “life” for them? Because you have not been carrying their sins to the Lord in prayer and God has not forgiven them. Learn how to pray today according to the will of God as stated in the Bible. Carrying people’s sins to God in prayer is what intercession is all about. When God has forgiven their sins and given you life for them, as you speak to them, that “life” will enter into them and they will receive Jesus Christ. They will come with you with joy, and they will stay in Christ. That makes the difference between praying according to your own plan or according to the plan and the will of the Almighty God.
Christians must humble themselves to seek the face of the Lord and change from their wicked ways. Then, God will answer. He will have regard for prayers that are offered. When converts come, God will answer your prayers for them. Miracles and wonders will be performed and this will convince them that Christ is the answer to all their problems. God has plans. You have to fit into His plans. You cannot expect Him to fit into your plans; you must fit into His plans. You must pray according to how He wants, then, you have the guarantee that He will answer and will not incur His punishment. May God bless you.
Since this teaching was delivered at the church during the Lent of 1989, there have been lots of developments politically in the world for which we thank God. I need not say that after each talk of this nature in our ministry, we spend days and months praying on it. I remember we also spent days praying for a breakthrough in South Africa and Europe particularly communist Europe. We hereby thank the Lord for hearing and answering our prayers and those of like-minded people all over the world. The politicians were caught napping. They called it ‘political earthquake’ among other things. They have no answers to give. They are now back to the drawing board. When God moves He leaves human beings breathless and confused. Where human beings in the money game refused to help bring back justice to the Philippines, God moved. When people and nations with veto powers refused to help the oppressed in the places mentioned above, God moved to take glory for Himself so that no man could claim the credit. Praise the Lord! There are still more surprises that the Lord will spring between now and the end of the 1990s. Amen!
Apostle Ayo Omideyi