When Starving is Good

In a message on Galatians 5 preached many years ago, John MacArthur noted that one proven way to kill something is to starve it. Now that may sound cruel, but MacArthur wasn’t referring to physical humans or even to animal;. he was referring to “the desires of the flesh;” about those propensities and inclinations to do what “I WANT” that are inside the heart of every human.

In Galatians 5, Paul draws a sharp contrast between what he calls “the desires of the flesh” and “the fruit of the Spirit.” It’s really a very simple image to grasp. In the heart of every Christian there is an ongoing conflict between what God desires (the Spirit) and what I desire (the flesh). Paul says plainly that these are “against” one another and “opposed” to one another (ESV).

If you’re a Christian, then you obviously desire the Holy Spirit to ‘come out on top’ in this fight with the flesh. Perhaps you’ve noticed in your own life that the “fruit of the Spirit” (5:22) has given way to the “works of the flesh” (5:19). How do you give God’s Spirit His rightful place in your heart? After all, verse 24 of Galatians 5 says, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Take MacArthur’s advice: starve it.

It’s simple, really. Whatever you feed will grow and live. Whatever you starve will wither and die. The reality is that too many professing Christians are feeding the desires of the flesh, and too few are sowing to the Spirit. If you’ve read this far, stop now for just a moment and think. Decide if there are things in your life that you know are feeding the desires of your flesh.

Inevitably, you came up with something. The best thing that you can do – the thing that will honor God and build your faith – is to get rid of whatever thing is feeding the desires of your flesh. Even if it is of great personal cost, do what is right and count it as the cost of discipleship, remembering the words of our Lord:
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:26, ESV)