One of my favorite authors, who wrote the masterpiece “Celebration of Discipline” destined to become a classic, is Richard Foster. He writes,
“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”
This notion of instant satisfaction does not need much explaining. It is the reason why some people cannot step away from their technology, why some people are obese, why some people have to be noticed, why some people eat out all of the time, why some people can’t stay at a job for any length of time, and why some people, well, you fill in the blank. We have drifted so far from the truth that we forget that one of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit is self-control. What is the cure?
One cure to this illness that effects modern man in epidemic proportions, including the Christian, is fasting. That’s right, I said it. One of the “F” words we do our best not to mention. It is inappropriate. Our lives are too busy. People’s souls, including our own, are just not that important anymore. We are too efficient. To production-minded. Go without food? Go without something else you love and that consumes so much of your time and energy and focus? I had a friend, a really close friend, fast going to the gym for three days this week. Every time he went this week, the Lord would tell him before he got out of his car to pray instead. So he chose, each time, to not work out so he could us that signfiicant amount of time to commune with the Jesus. He denied himself and used this time to stand in the gap and pray for me. That is a true friend.
In fasting, your flesh starts to roar. You quickly learn what gives you joy each day, what you look forward to the most, what controls you, and what might have too strong a hold on you. But in the midst of it, what else happens? You learn that you can say no to your flesh. That the death of your flesh might be a good thing. In fasting, our faith rises that if God can give us grace to say no to whatever we are abstaining from, then He can give us strength to say no to EVERYTHING else in our lives He is wanting us to deny. And better yet, the act/art of fasting also increases our faith that God can also give us strength to say yes to whatever it is that we have not been able to say yes to up to that point.
The bottom line is this: Quit whining about your inability to say yes to what you need to say yes to and no to what you need to say no to. Do you lack self-control? Then do the unthinkable: fast and pray. Obey Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, through fasting, will come along side you, breathe deep into your spirit, and cultivate the wonderful fruit of self-control. As Brother Dan always points out, Galatians 5:22-23 does not mention these nine fuits being the result of self-determination, self-effort, or self-mastery. The Holy Spirit produces all nine of these fruits. Character for the Christian is essentially the Spirit’s job. What remains for you? To allow Him to work. To give Him a fulll yes. To play your part by putting yourself in the right position. Fasting is one of the premier ways we can do so.