Does something strike you as odd when you read Matt:17:14-21? This passage describes what happened when Jesus and a few chosen disciples came down from the Mount of Transfiguration. They were met by a man whose son had a demon that the other disciples could not cast out. After Jesus cast out the demon, the disciples asked him why they could not cast it out. Verses 20-21 gives us the answer. "So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief, for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain,'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." (NKJV) As I was reading this passage many years ago, the question came to my mind: When did Jesus fast? Did he go away quietly and fast before casting out the demon? No. Since Jesus told his disciples that only fasting would expel such demons, and he did not fast, what is the message here?
In the newly published collection of essays by Dallas Willard,The Great Omission, Willard expresses his concern over the thinking behind the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) movement. He believes that it encourages Christians to think of Jesus making decisions and acting on them on the spur of the moment. And so as Jesus did, so we shall do. When faced with difficulty, all we have to do is decide for ourselves on the spot what course of action Jesus would follow, and we act on this decision. What this mindset overlooks is that Jesus did not act on the spur of the moment. Jesus's actions were the result of a lifestyle of spiritual dicipline. Because he spent time in prayer and studying and meditating on God's word, because he fasted and worshipped God when he was alone, in public he was able to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit which annointed Him at His baptism. In my example from Matt 17, Jesus was able to cast out the demon because he fasted in private. Because Jesus practiced spiritual diciplines, he was ready to do what needed to be done in the circumstances God placed Him in. John was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day when he received the visions he wrote about in Revelation. Paul and Barnabus were worshipping in the church at Antioch when God called them to their mission. Peter and John were going to the temple for prayer when Peter told the lame man to walk and five thousand were saved that day. And Jesus obeyed God in the obscuritry of his earthly life before he began His public ministry. We are called to the same life of dicipline. Our practice of these diciplines empowers us for the service of our Lord, even when these opportunities for service come unexpectedly