In my opinion, all too often we as humans--myself included--seek someone or something to give us a joy "quick-fix." When a spirit of heaviness weighs down, our American hands quickly dial a doctor for some help, lust for what is not ours, or sip a drink to ease the burden, all the while the ultimate Physician has granted His children the power to overcome.
Joy is an aspect of Spirit-filled living. (see Galatians 5) When we as believers walk through our moments filled with the Spirit of the living God, joy erupts in our depths--the joy of the Lord. But when our eyes scan the physical realm for security, peace, or fulfillment, disappointment will eventually flood our soul and seeming joy will vanish as if it never was. Nothing created can maintain lasting joy. Nothing.
The key to victory rests in the words of Christ, "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me." (Matthew 10:38) True life is found when we crucify the self-life and follow after Christ...daily. It sounds foolish to those who have rejected Him; but when one has tasted the life found in Christ--in all of its abundance--dying to self proves to be the only route paved with blessing.
So. How to we die to self?
Well, I am convinced--though I do not fully understand--that physical fasting aids in crucifying self. As we choose to say both with our mouths and with our actions, "I desire nothing besides You, o Lord. You are my food. Your promises are my life. I pour my self out and submit to Your filling," strongholds begin to crumble. Truly, "man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord." (Deuteronomy 8:3b) (*If you are not familiar with fasting, I would encourage you to search the scriptures and ask God for His wisdom regarding this discipline for your own life.)
A second way we lay our self-life down and submit by faith to His filling is through meditating upon His Word--remembering in the moments that there is only One who is our Source of lasting joy and peace, regardless of circumstance. Search His Word--asking Him to speak intimately to your heart--and then proclaim those promises out-loud when the temptations of life arise.
A third way to die to self--a way that can seep into every tick of the clock--is through continual dialogue with the One who loves us immeasurably. He desires that our days reflect a life of power. He is God. He is able. He can invade any situation and pour Himself all over it. He can meet us in the midst of seeming chaos and lavish us with peace. He empowers His child to love and forgive when the world screams revenge. But we have to have eyes to see. We gain His vision as we look at Him, talk to Him, stand firm on His promises, and expect Him to move.
He. Is. Faithful.
I am not just talking here. This is me. This is my life. These are things He is working in and through me--things He is teaching me. At times I fail. I set my eyes on earthly things and physical people with whom I rub shoulders, desiring that they fill me--desiring that they be my Source of joy and comfort. But He so faithfully leads me back to Himself. My Creator is Life.
His will is Spirit-filled living--singing songs of praise even behind the physical bars of prison, as in the case of Paul; or even when goldfish crackers are flying past my head, as in the case of me. May we reflect Him in all His might, regardless of where our path may lead this day. May we experience His joy unspeakable in spite of circumstance.