A few years back, I found myself in a real rut.
Spiritually, physically, emotionally. A rut. I’m sure you can identify with me as we’ve all been there from time to time! I was constantly weak and it seemed like I caught EVERY little bug that went around, bouts of depression, a diet that was nothing short of sinful (you’ll understand more of the “Belly god” problem as we work through the next couple of weeks), my mind didn’t seem to be hitting on all cylinders, I was spiritually struggling and couldn’t seem to hear from God and had some BIGTIME needs. I needed a breakthrough in a huge way.
To break through the fog, I tried everything. More Bible studies to attend, more books to read, more this and more that. The result of my efforts? Well, the Word never returns void and there was certainly fruit but the physical/emotional/spiritual (and even relational) fog just wouldn’t let up.
In the depths of that valley and at my wit’s end I discovered a spiritual discipline that I’d really not encountered before (maybe better said, “didn’t care to encounter”) that took me to a whole “notha” level in my walk with Jesus….and forever changed me.
Ready for it? Sure? It may scare you a little…..
WAIT! Hear me out before you leave this site!
In todays post, I want to give you some basics on Biblical fasting and help to squash some misconceptions and fears that have caused believers to look upon fasting with disdain and in turn, have kept Gods people from the tremendous blessings associated with fasting….and at the end of todays blog, issue a challenge to 2springs Church and anyone else who wants to start the New Year off by pressing for spiritual breakthrough.
First things first – What Is Fasting?
Fast (fa;st) – to abstain from food, or to restrict oneself to meager diet either as a religious observance or as a ceremonial expression of grief; to go without food; also (contextually) to go without drink. To keep or observe a day as a Time of abstinence
God created the human body to need food and water. To make sure the body gets the fuel needed to operate, God created within us an appetite for food called hunger as well as bountiful and delicious food (fuel) for our bodies to consume. Eating satisfies our appetite and provides the strength needed to carry on throughout the day…nothing sinful, nothing wrong with eating. Obviously,even in our consumption of food we see Gods creative genius and wonderful grace.
So why in the world would we fast?
The reason is simple. Fasting can be used to accomplish a spiritual purpose!
As you read the Old Testament, you’ll find the Israelites were commanded to fast once each year: “In the 7th month on the 10th day, you shall go without eating” (Lev 16:29). This particular fast took place on Yom Kippur, or “The day of Atonement“. On this day the High Priest would conduct special, God instructed sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people. He would enter into the “Holy of Holies” in the center of the Temple (the only time of the year He was allowed inside). Everyone fasted to identify with the Priest and to remember the experience of atonement as the lamb was sacrificed for the forgiveness of their sins (Oh, my…what a picture of what was to come!)
Now today, we (believers only) do not live under the Law. We live under grace so there is not a requirement to fast. But our Lord Jesus made it very clear that we are allowed to fast (Matt 6:16, 9:15). We see that fasting was a spiritual discipline for the Early Church as well…
“As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I’ve called them. Then having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:2-3)
The “Why” of fasting is not to make a spectacle of yourself, outwardly showing your dedication to God but it’s a simple, intimate very beneficial commitment between ourselves and our God. The spiritual rewards are endless….physical, emotional, spiritual blessings and life change!
That Brings Me To Our Challenge
Beginning January 1st, several friends and I decided to embark on a fast together. We realize the possibilities of breakthrough for us personally and we purposed last night to invite others to join us on our fasting journey. We’re calling and challenging you (whether you are a 2springer or a friend in Christ who just happens to read this blog) to unite with us on a Daniel Fast. Tell your friends and challenge them to join us as well! Over the next couple weeks leading up to the fast, we’ll be posting teaching that will prepare you for what you’ll soon experience (good and bad….fasting isn’t all fun and games, it gets hard)).
Some may be contemplating joining us already but are wondering, “What is a Daniel Fast?”
You probably remember the story of Daniel, right? At around 16 he was taken captive by the Babylonians who chose from among the captives several of the brightest, strongest, most promising young men to groom for serving the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. The King wanted Daniel to serve in hs palace (1:4) and help rule over the Jews. But he couldn’t allow Daniel to continue on in his own spiritual journey or be given to Jewish custom. The king decided it’d be best to “Make” Daniel a true Babylonian.
He “appointed for them (Daniel and 3 friends) a daily diet of delicacies and of the wine in which he drank” (5)
Without going into great detail, the Law of God forbade Daniel from the diet of the Babylonians so he…
“purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the kings diet, nor with the wine” (8)
Notice the word “purposed”! Thats what the secret to the Daniel fast is all about! Making a commitment to follow the Lord throughout the fast and seek His will.
Instead of the fine foods that the King had commanded Daniel to consume, Daniel chose to eat “pulse” instead (verse 12 KJV). “Pulse” is basically where we get the English word vegetable. The context and culture in which the text is written indicates Daniel probably had a “salad” diet of lettuce, greens, cabbage, spinach and so forth.
Within 10 days Daniel and the 3 friends appeared to be in better shape than the others who had obeyed the Kings orders and consumed his own diet. If fact, as you get to Chapter 12, you’ll find that Daniel continued a fast for 21 days abstaining from “pleasant food” (12:3). He abstained from food he enjoyed and only ate what was necessary. Therefore the 21 Day Daniel fast is an expression of abstinence for the purpose of self-discipline.
In Daniels case…well, he finds great reward (more on that later). I honestly believe that God will show out in the lives of those who participate in this Daniel fast as well.
Tomorrow. we’ll discuss the practical benefits of fasting and I’ll give you a list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts” when it comes to what can be and can’t be eaten during the Daniel Fast.
I hope you’ll join us! Life change is on the horizon! Are you willing to be stretched enough to receive it? What better way to start out he New Year! If you have any questions, feel free to call me or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll have a FB Event page for the Daniel Fast (sign up and get updates/encouragement along the way), and our twitter hashtag with be #2springsfast if you’d like to share your journey in that way. Again, check back here for some preparation pre-fast and for devotions written for each of the 21 days as we get going!
Love you all and Soli Deo Gloria!, Pastor