THE AGENT ORANGE OPTION
Recently, my husband, Wes, and I were talking about his continuing efforts to keep the wilderness just across our fence line from creeping back onto our property.
Wes, with the help of my sons and, sometimes, me, has cleared off pine and scrub trees. We’ve battled stickers, pulled up weeds, poisoned the poison ivy, planted grass and cut back the brush that hangs over the fence from the neighbor’s property. Wes is out there, almost daily, weed-eating, moving, cutting branches, disposing of leaves, killing fire ants and using a humane device to drive away gophers. We now have a lush, green three-acre plot that looks like a well-manicured golf course.
The neighbors, just across one side of our property, keep a line of live and dead pine trees and scrub along the fence line by choice – for privacy reasons. And so, we battle daily to keep the wilderness from creeping back in, over and under and through the fence (well, mostly Wes does).
That sin is like weeds or that the evil or concerns of this world can choke out positive Christian growth is not a concept I thought up. You can read the Parable of the Tares in Matthew 13 and the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4 for concepts related to that analogy.
But what if, as a Christian, you feel you have tried the spiritual version of weed eating, pruning, mowing and pulling up “sin weeds” by the roots, and yet you still have a particular battle that keeps coming back? Maybe you have tried nourishing the spiritual soil by adding more Bible study, sermon podcasts, prayer and meditation, hoping you will grow enough good Christian “fruit” to choke out the weeds of sin, to no avail.
If you still have troubling re-occurrence of a sin with more tenacity than the most aggressive, invasive weed, it is time to get out the “spiritual Agent Orange.” Fasting. Yep, fasting.
Fasting isn’t just for once a year on the Day of Atonement [Leviticus 23:27-28]. It can be used any time throughout the year.
It works on casting out demons [Mark 9:17-29] and it works on the toughest, most aggressive and invasive weeds like anger, jealousy, bitterness and sins of the tongue. [See Hebrews 12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble [you], and thereby many be defiled. James 3:6 And the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.]
The actual poison known as Agent Orange kills indiscriminately. Used incorrectly or broadly it destroys all plant life and kills people. You can follow this link to learn more about the destructive (but effective) power of this herbicide and defoliant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agent_Orange
You have to use fasting correctly for it to work on stubborn, invasive sin growth. Isaiah 58 gives some pretty detailed information about fasting. First, let’s take a look at how Israel did it wrong: Isaiah 58:1-4 [NIV] Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. 'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?' "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.
We also have instructions in Isaiah 58 about the kind of fast God wants from us.
Isaiah 58:5-6 [NIV] Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? [Emphasis mine]
Fasting can break any yoke of sin and set me free from the oppression of my sinful nature, if entered into with the correct purpose.
Fasting is not for bending God to my will. Fasting is to bend my will to God’s will for my life.
Nor should fasting be considered as a tool to leverage in requesting from God the oppression of others – not even an enemy.
It is, however, an effective agent for pushing back the would around me – useful to quiet the “noise” of everyday life so that I can better listen to God’s voice and more clearly see the path He would have me walk. And it is an effective tool for killing the most stubborn sins that threaten to choke out the Holy Spirit in me.
I would never recommend a product like Agent Orange. But I have used fasting to petition the Father for a clear path and to stop the encroachment of anger when someone hurt me and to break the yoke of a sin that continued to trip me up.
As Christians, we do battle with sin daily. But for those stubborn sins, we can always get out the “spiritual Agent Orange” of fasting. I recommend using it frequently to prevent the jungle of sin from creeping back into your beautifully-tended spiritual yard.
I welcome your thoughts, questions and comments. Write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org.