How to say 'no' to appetites
Freedom is a key value of God’s kingdom. When God created the world He placed the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil bang slap in the middle of the garden. He didn’t hide that tree which would start the world spinning in decay; He placed it in the centre. Why would He do that? Why wouldn’t He hide that tree on the top of a mountain or on the other side of the world from the garden? Because He wanted His children to be able to choose to obey Him and choose how to live their lives. Would they trust Him and seek to obey Him or would they doubt Him and do what they thought best at the time? When something desirable appeared before them could they and would they choose it or God?
Fasting is a freedom. It is a choice. Even if our church calls a corporate fast, I, as an individual, have a choice of how, and if, I will participate. No one but God is going to know if I stuff down a meal whilst everyone else is praying together.
When I choose to say ‘no’ to an appetite - whether food totally or specific foods like sugar; or whether I choose to say ‘no’ to non-necessary spending or to Facebook, it is a choice. It is a freedom. It is an opportunity to exercise the freedom Adam and Eve had to say ‘no’, and to this time say ‘yes’ to trusting God and to relationship with Him.
Richard Foster said something in Celebration of Discipline on fasting that has brought me freedom this month:
So often when we fast or choose other acts of self-denial we find ourselves consumed with what we are missing out on, but what if there is a feast we are never normally hungry enough to want to eat and which tastes and satisfies so much more than any fulfilled earthly appetite could?
Jesus says in John 4:34:
There was something beyond earthly delights that satisfied Jesus - an inclination of His heart towards the true feast and banquet that was available to Him as He communed with His father.
So when those pangs of desire come this month to experience earthly appetites my thoughts are turning from ‘it is only a week left’ or planning how I am going to enjoy those things next month, to instead calling to mind the greater feast and banquet of relationship with God. I am choosing to turn my thoughts towards heaven and the beauty of a place filled with delights to experience for eternity with God. I think about how His supernatural presence will be always obviously present there and then turn to being so grateful and remembering that His presence is always here too. I come back to centering on Him and His presence with me now. And I am satisfied. It is a feast I would never have tasted if I had not chosen to embrace the freedom of fasting this month.
It is also a good discipline because as I learn to say 'no' to things I would normally say 'yes' to, I am learning the freedom I have in saying 'no'. I am now practiced at saying 'no' to things I would enjoy. Learning to say 'no' by choice means that when God asks me to do other things I would rather not I will be more likely to say 'yes' because those appetites won't have the same hold over me. I will live then not driven by my comforts and appetites but on the words coming from God's mouth - on His directions - trusting He is enough and that He will always satisfy.
This month's focus on fasting is part of a year long embracing of grace through spiritual disciplines. You can read all about it by clicking here.