“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”
Ten days into our churchwide Daniel Fast, the novelty has worn off. The cravings are coming back with a vengeance. Time for a little Q & A to inspire you to stay with it all the way through Palm Sunday, March 24th!
Below are some of the questions you’ve asked in recent days. I’ll start with a fascinating, totally frank exchange I had with one of our young women:
Q. “What’s the point of fasting?”
A. It’s denying your physical self in order to focus on the spiritual – your relationship with God.
Q. “But I feel like it’s having the opposite effect on me. It’s like all I think about is food. And every meal takes so much more thought and takes a lot longer to prepare. And I’m constantly exhausted. Like so tired I could sleep all day. And I have a blaring headache. It’s like it’s so much harder to focus on God and pray.”
A. That’s where overdoing it comes in.
“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
Q. “So what are you saying?”
A. When you experience the symptoms you’ve just shared, that’s a sign that you should probably choose a less harsh form of fasting. Make sacrifices…but not the kind that harm your focus on God.
Q. “Is it my fault that my body feels this way? Is it something that’s wrong with me?”
A. No! Each of us is different. Don’t blindly follow a plan created by some human being. Instead, read the Scriptures for yourself and come up with your own obedient approach.
(When I mentioned this discussion to my wife Judy, she said, “Sounds like she might have a touch of the flu that’s going around!” That makes a lot of sense. Leave it to my wise wife to put two and two together. )
Here’s another question that came from one of our Bethel men:
Q: “Am I allowed to use sweetener that is made from fruit? It has no sugar.”
A. If you look at the 21-day Daniel passage, you see that there is in fact a lot of leeway given.
“At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.”
No meat or wine is clear. But then comes the phrase, “no choice food.” What that meant for Daniel would be dramatically different from what it means for us today. Yes, there are a lot of people out there giving their opinion about what that means, but nobody really knows. Don’t let somebody else’s interpretation of “choice food” put you in bondage. Once you talk this through with the LORD and determine what you believe He wants from you, let the above passage in Colossians 2:20-23 temper any judgment you may imagine might come from others.
For example, Judy and I are continuing to drink black coffee. It has brain-healthy benefits that we do not believe would be wise for us to give up. Having said that, we certainly support those who have decided they should go without caffeine. We are also continuing to drink our lunch each day – a protein concoction we mix up. The mix contains 2 grams of sugar. I wish it didn’t, but it does. We still believe it’s best for us to continue with it. Other than that, we are pretty closely following the guidelines on the sheet the church passed out. So, if you find the fruit sweetener helps you stay on the rest of the Daniel Fast, go for it! Some people are using a little honey, too – something I have absolutely no problem with – and neither does the LORD.
Frankly, our family has been having fun coming up with Daniel Fast recipes and trying them out. We’ve also done a lot of text-whining back and forth when we hit tough parts during the day! Actually, it’s been a wonderful bonding thing – something challenging we have in common. Misery loves company! I’ve been posting on Facebook pictures of some of our attempts to follow the Daniel Fast, in hopes that it will encourage the same kind of bonding churchwide. Here’s one of the pics I’ve posted. It’s one of our favorite Daniel Fast desserts – whole wheat tortilla slathered with natural peanut butter, topped with banana and strawberries:
The whole point of the Daniel Fast is to lower our obsession with food and raise our focus on God. In the first few days of the “fast” (the so-called “Daniel Fast” is not really a fast. It’s a diet change. A fast means drinking only water and eating nothing) many of us have actually been obsessing on food far more! But as our bodies adjust now, hopefully we’ll begin to enter a time when we can start to push our food concerns aside and let our vision be filled with God.
And finally, I share this question that came in from a wonderful Christian woman who is one of our most devoted volunteers.
Q. “This is kind of a loaded question so if you don’t have time to answer, it’s okay. This is the first time I’ve ever engaged in a long term fast. What exactly are the spiritual things you are supposed to be gaining? How does it make you closer to God? We’re reading the daily Lazaroo as a family and trying to see what God is doing through this but I’m not making a connection. All I’m feeling right now is a little more tired and a nasty headache. How do you approach a fast to get what you’re supposed to get out of it?”
A. (This Bethel member has been in counseling with my wife Judy, so she directed the question to her. I’ll share with you Judy’s reply):
“I understand! We human beings tend to think that if we make some sacrifice for God it will produce an immediate noticeable benefit In our relationship with God. We are shocked to discover that initially, our sacrifice seems to have the opposite effect. The pain and discomfort we experience – along with the irritability – seem to hyperfocus us on the physical rather than the spiritual, creating the exact opposite result we anticipated.
“Worse yet, there’s no immediate gratification such as a candy bar or a few chips or a cookie to help us get over our frequent feelings of discontent through the day. So we feel a little panicky! But actually, this is exactly what fasting is supposed to accomplish: desperation! For most of us, as long as we are fat and sassy and well fed and experiencing no significant challenges in our lives, we are content to put God on the back burner. It is only when we get desperate that we break through into a deeper relationship with God.
“Fasting creates a self-imposed crisis. When we cry out to God in our discomfort, we peel away the layers of complacency and experience new levels of intimacy and connectivity with God.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Hope this helps, Bethel! Hang in there. If we persevere, the spiritual benefit is coming…and it will be well worth it.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
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