Fasting provides a very practical and perhaps even stark set of lessons for anyone participating in the spiritual discipline. As followers of Jesus Christ who are on a quest to grow in our faith, we can use the fast to learn about ourselves. And one thing I know for sure about the Daniel Fast is that the experience gives us many clues about our strengths and our weak areas. We can see where we are mature in our faith and also where we need to do a little growing up. Plus, we can see if we are catering to our flesh (the Bible calls that being carnal) and when we are submitted to the Lord and walking in the Spirit.
One very easy-to-discover clue is about our level of carnal living. If you find yourself so focused on the food and your “deprivation,” you just found a valuable clue about your attitudes and perhaps this even spills into others areas of your life. Do you find yourself being concerned about YOU a lot of the time. I laugh every time I see Joyce Meyer do here little robot dance as she says, “What about me? What about me?”
Oh, we are so self-centered in our culture today and that way of thinking is promoted in advertising, television shows, competitions and even school! We are trained by the world to watch out for #1 (ourselves).
But our faith takes us into a different way of thinking. We are actually called to deny ourselves . . . put ourselves to death and instead live in Christ. That means we’re to submit our thoughts, ideas, wants, opinions and will to the Lord. Paul says it so clearly in his letter to the Galatians:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20
So how does the fast show that you may have an issue about submission or that you want to hold on to your own ways? One very clear example is your decision to not comply with the Daniel Fast eating guidelines “because YOU don’t want to.” Or making a decision to do the fast your own way because that’s the way YOU want to do it.
Please don’t get me wrong. There are times when modifying the Daniel Fast guidelines is a wise and good decision. For example mothers who are pregnant or nursing need extra protein because they are supporting their child’s life along with their own. So to keep the core of the fast and then add some additional chicken, fish, cheese and yogurt can be a wise and prudent decision. This is the same with anyone who has health issues. Fasting should never bring harm to your body. So keep the core of the fast and then add the appropriate foods to meet your health needs.
Last year I exchanged message with a woman who was so angry with me because I told her the only beverage on the Daniel Fast was water because of Daniel 1. Her response was, “I will never come back to this site. I’m going to find a site that allows me to drink juice.” Hmmmm. Clue?
Another clue we can see in our fasting experience is if you find yourself so busy that you don’t have time to pray, study or meditate on God’s Word. So the fast is just changing the way you eat for a while, but it doesn’t promote spiritual growth or changes that improve your life.
You’ve probably heard the line, “If you’re too busy to pray – you’re too busy.” There is a lot of truth there. Busyness keeps us from being able to have God and His Word affect our lives. Consider what Jesus said about this very matter in the parable about the seed and the Sower:
Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. Matthew 13:22
If you find yourself too busy to be in God’s Word and to spend quality time in His presence, then this is your clue that changes are in order. Even if you can’t give a full hour to daily study, what can you do?
A woman I know really struggled with this issue when she had two toddler boys who rightfully needed her attention all day long. She knew her spirit needed daily feeding and the thought of getting up early or staying up late just didn’t work. She also needed rest. So she developed a different plan that worked for everybody. She called it the “Quiet Hour.”
Every day at a specific time, everyone was quiet for one hour. Each of the boys were to lay on their beds. They could read books or play quietly with toys. But there was not talking. No interrupting mom. No getting off their beds until the hour was up. The boys usually fell asleep. Then during this time, mom would have her very special time with the Lord. And she had her own boundaries. This hour was reserved. Not a time to put on the dinner roast or get the laundry done or make that phone call. She had an appointment with God and His Word and keeping it changed her life.
I have another friend who uses her lunch hour at work for her quiet time. I do best first thing in the morning. Whatever can work for you . . . be creative and figure out a way you can spend daily time feeding your spirit with God’s nourishment.
There may be times when your routine for quiet time gets interrupted. But these should be the abnormal times. Create a “new normal” for yourself. Make a daily appointment with your Lord and then keep it!
If you find yourself struggling during your fast . . . pause, look and discover clues about your life. The fast can serve as a reflection to show you areas needing change. Ask the Lord to help you uncover behaviors or attitudes that are not aligned with Him. And then use this time of extended prayer and fasting to develop new habits and your “new normal.”