Spiritual Disciplines- Self Denial
The spiritual disciplines all spring from the hunger in our soul to know God and His will. We begin at that place of humility, recognizing we can’t continue in our self-dependancy and need to rely more on Him. That dependance on God and not on ourselves will drive us to self-denial of physical pleasures in order to keep our focus on Him. Fasting from food is a form of self-denial that declares hunger for God outweighing our hunger for food or other physical pleasures (for examples: media, shopping, sugar, sleep, alcohol). Keep in mind that the motive behind fasting is what God is observing. Are we trying to change ourselves or God? Desiring to change ourselves from the inside out is a great place to begin. Fasting never changes God but focuses our thinking on the reason for our self-denial.
What are some of those reasons?
Often, fasting comes from an urge to have an important prayer answered; there’s nothing wrong with that. Jesus connected prayer and fasting (Mark 9), therefore, we can be assured that it’s appropriate (Acts 13-14). That connection of prayer and fasting is powerful but not because it makes God move faster or we somehow earn a quicker answer. It’s powerful because our earnestness is heightened to the point of denying ourselves what satisfies our physical hunger for what satisfies our spiritual hunger. There’s a reward for that yearning as we see in Jesus’ words:
“But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. (Matthew 6:17, 18 NLT)
Another scriptural reason for fasting is that we long for His Return (Matt. 9). Christians need to keep that truth in the forefront of their thinking. The King is coming back for a Bride, you and me. Do we have a longing for His Return? Are we desiring Him to come back to this earth and set up His Kingdom that will have no end? Are we crying out, “Kingdom come! Will of God, be done! On this earth as it is in heaven?” Fasting will put a laser beam on that future Day in your mind. It will center you on the greatness of our God and His divine plan. Fasting reminds you that you are chosen and loved. Does thinking about being His Bride stir up passion in your spirits enough to deny yourself a physical pleasure? And Jesus said to them,
“… But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:15b)
Let’s join the proclamation of the early church as they anticipated His Return:
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:17a, 20 NASB)