The Daniel Fast

I’ve done my best not to talk about it, because the Bible is pretty clear that were not supposed to make a big of doing it, but for the past 3 weeks we’ve been fasting. And not just Nicole and I — most of our church has been on a Daniel Fast. In general this means that we don’t eat meat, dairy, bread, sugar, caffeine, salt, pasta… pretty much anything good. Nic and I have been doing a slightly modified version — she’s breast feeding Benjamin, so she kept poultry, and leaving milk out of my diet started doing horrible things to the inside of my mouth, so we added that back in, and we both decided to keep fish for the protein (which is still a sacrifice, cause I hate fish). Aside from that, we’ve successfully eschewed all the good tasting foods for 20 days. Tomorrow at lunch will be 21, and we’ll celebrate by eating burgers until we can’t move, and then eating some more.

We, as a church, were challenged by our pastor to do this fast, so that we could re-direct our hunger towards God. This isn’t the first time he’s challenged me on it. A couple months ago in staff meeting, he excitedly told us all about this great new thing he was doing: “not eating!!” and wouldn’t we like to try it?! Of course I missed the point at the time — I like food. But when he challenged the church, he gave us a much better explanation of it. And, having never fasted before, we figured we’d take the challenge and see what God would do.

So that’s the background. The honest reality is, even though I’ve definitely been hungry, and its definitely made me talk to God more — mostly thoughts like “Dear God, I could really go for a steak right now” — I don’t feel like I’ve gotten any closer to Him. We were told if we wanted to experience God in an exciting new way, we should fast. But all I’ve really experienced is a feeling like there’s a hole in my stomach. People around me talk about what they’re learning through this, or how God is changing them, and I’m wondering what I’m doing wrong.

And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. God doesn’t work on-demand, and just because we’re not eating, doesn’t mean God has to do amazing things in our lives. I know there are some for whom this is a huge sacrifice or a huge challenge, and I’m confident that God will honor them in a way that is appropriate to where they are in their walk in life. But I’m equally aware that God hasn’t worked any miracles in me or through me in the past 21 days.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not glad I did this. I am, in fact, very satisfied that I made it to 20 days — with or without a revolution in my life. And for those of you who disciplined yourselves through this fast, and didn’t feel the Holy Spirit moving, let me tell you why this was worth it. And I should note here, that this isn’t my discovery — rather, God hit me in the face with it during my devotions a couple days ago, and I’ve been waiting until the fast was over to post it. From My Utmost for His Highest (emphasis mine)…

. . . add to your faith virtue . . . —2 Peter 1:5

Add means that we have to do something. We are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do. We cannot save nor sanctify ourselves— God does that. But God will not give us good habits or character, and He will not force us to walk correctly before Him. We have to do all that ourselves. We must “work out” our “own salvation” which God has worked in us (Philippians 2:12). Add means that we must get into the habit of doing things, and in the initial stages that is difficult. To take the initiative is to make a beginning— to instruct yourself in the way you must go.

Faith without works isn’t worth much. It’s great to believe in something, but if you don’t act on it, it’s not very valuable. The fact is, many of the great leaders in the Bible had developed the discipline of fasting. God’s Word does not say that every time they fasted, a miracle happened. Sometimes it did, and we have many of those occasions recorded. But sometimes the Bible simply states that someone fasted. Great leaders, strong Christians in the Bible added to their faith with a humble act of obedience called fasting. And this is the important thing for me about this fast: obedience.

God doesn’t say: obey me, and I will make your life full of sunbeams and roses. He says: obey me.
He doesn’t promise that if you don’t eat meat, you’ll suddenly get a halo over your head. But He does promise to complete the good work He has started in you.

Beware of the tendency to ask the way when you know it perfectly well. Take the initiative— stop hesitating— take the first step. Be determined to act immediately in faith on what God says to you when He speaks, and never reconsider or change your initial decisions. If you hesitate when God tells you to do something, you are being careless, spurning the grace in which you stand.

We took up this fast expecting God to do something great. So far there are no angels singing heavenly hymns behind me. But I am proud that I have learned a discipline that Daniel, and Esther and even Jesus applied to their own spiritual lives. This is a tool in my arsenal now that I know how to use. It’s actually strange that I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years, and I’ve never learned to fast before… I knew the way — the Bible talks about it all over the place. But now that I’ve learned this discipline, when God tells me to fast, I know that I can act immediately on His instruction.

We have to get into the habit of carefully listening to God about everything, forming the habit of finding out what He says and heeding it. If, when a crisis comes, we instinctively turn to God, we will know that the habit has been formed in us.

There was no crisis in my life when I started this fast. Things are pretty good, and I’m pretty blessed. I didn’t need a miracle, and God didn’t deliver one. But I did need to learn how to act on my faith — so that when a crisis does come, I will know how to humble myself and trust Him.

But God will not give us good habits or character, and He will not force us to walk correctly before Him. We have to do all that ourselves…We have to take the initiative where we are, not where we have not yet been.

God doesn’t require us to fast. It’s not a prerequisite for getting into heaven, or to having a relationship with him. Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t sanctify ourselves through fasting. Rather, it’s a habit we take the initiative to develop, because God develops our character through obedience.