Have we forgotten the hidden secret of fasting? I believe that we have. Here is Part One in a series. On March 14, 2018, join us at 6 p.m. for a fasting forum live feed at WCFAV.org. If you're reading this after the 14th, the video is available on our website.
You choose—will it be the pain of discipline or the pain of regret? One yields a sense of extreme fulfillment, the other, a lingering sense of defeat. Ironically, we pray for God to heal when we should also pray for help with self-discipline to change harmful habits. Fasting is hard because self-denial is hard, and overindulging is not rewarding because conviction and depression set in. It becomes a never-ending cycle of defeat unless we break the cycle.
Throughout Scripture, we see that God disciplines those He loves. Psalm 94:12 (NIV) makes it clear that God teaches us through discipline because He loves us. "Blessed is the one you discipline, LORD, the one you teach from your law" We are also encouraged to discipline our bodies. We cannot effectively be filled with the Spirit and lack discipline. Our faith is not passive; it's active faith.
Romans 6:16 (NASB) sheds much-needed light, "Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?" Either way, we are slaves—we are God's servant or a slave to our passions and desires. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV) says that the Spirit does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. Those who say discipline is legalism are dead wrong. We are called to yield to the Spirit and quench sin—but when we yield to sin, we quench the Spirit. Fleshly appetites are subdued when fasting.
Fasting is challenging because the flesh always wants to negotiate. It says, "Can we meet in the middle? Don't completely remove food; that's too extreme ... too hard ... too rigid."
Self-control is also required for leadership. Titus 1:8 (NIV) adds that leaders "must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined." John Wesley required fasting so that his leaders disciplined their appetites rather than allowing their appetites to lead them. William Penn said, "No man is fit to command another who cannot command himself." In 1 Corinthians 9:27 (NIV), Paul said that he strikes a blow to his body and makes it his slave so that he will not be disqualified for service. An undisciplined leader is an oxymoron.
We also see the power of fasting in Joel 1:14 (MEV): "Consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; assemble the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord." The magnitude of the situation determined the response.
God's people had departed from Him. The call was to return through fasting, prayer and brokenness. Fasting is depriving the flesh of its appetite as we pray and seek God's will and mercy. We are saying, "The flesh got me into this predicament—starving my flesh is going to help get me out."
Obviously, people have overcome challenges without fasting, but fasting adds extra strength, especially when overcoming addictions. Although one addiction is ended, others may continue. The alcoholic switches to caffeine, the person addicted to nicotine switches to sugar and the opioid user switches to food. It's a never-ending cycle, but fasting can break the cycle. Fasting is not a cure-all or a magic wand; it's a spiritual discipline designed to aid in victory rather than defeat. Choose the pain of discipline over the pain of regret.
To read more, visit WCAFV.org.
Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Southern California. More can be found at ShaneIdleman.com, and free downloads of his books are available at WCFAV.org. Visit him on Facebook and subscribe to his new podcast.
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