Do you feel like your being swallowed up by life? Fasting can be an effective means of keeping you from being consumed by your surroundings. Daniel’one of the leading Jewish young men taken into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar’undertook several disciplines in order to maintain his faith and identity. His decision to fast was one of the most visible ways by which he avoided being fully absorbed into that culture.
Daniel did something in particular that you might find helpful. He frequently practiced partial fasts in which he abstained from certain items but not from food altogether. A partial fast is a limitation of food or drink but not a complete abstention from them. A good way to develop the discipline of partial fasting is to begin with a fast from lunch one day to lunch the next. You can choose to give up soda or certain types of food you’d normally eat during this time. Instead of eating, take time to pray and read your Bible.
A normal fast can often be more disruptive to daily life’and that’s a good thing at times. But at other times you may sense the need to support your prayers or spiritual activities with fasting, but feel the need to sustain your food intake. In such times, you may give up certain items’and these don’t have to be limited to food. How about fasting from video games, Internet surfing, or television?
Innocent bystanders often get hurt by the mistakes and poor decisions of others. Disasters happen that haunt us for life even though we have no direct responsibility for the events that take place. Often the best way to handle these things is to accept them and to make the best of the situation.
Daniel and his friends were innocent bystanders. They suffered a lifelong exile to Babylon because of their country’s prolonged disobedience to God. But they didn’t let their misfortune destroy their relationship with God. With courage and faith, they faced the realities of exile and lived successful lives. Their lives offer us insight into how to deal with tragedy.
After being taken from Jerusalem to Babylon, Daniel and his three friends were trained for service in the Babylonian government. Their captors often demanded that they do things that stood in opposition to God. To protect their relationship with God, Daniel and his friends set clear boundaries for their behavior. They followed God’s plan for their lives, despite its conflict with the command of their captors. And God protected these faithful men from the foreign laws and unstable tyrants they lived under.
Although Daniel and his friends were exiled to Babylon for the sins of their ancestors, they didn’t use that as an excuse for continued failure. Instead, they trusted God to redeem their lives, and they were determined to live according to God’s precepts and teachings. You can do the same.
When you experience unfairness in life, the examples of the prophet Daniel and his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will give you encouragement and direction. Despite their lives of obedience, Daniel and his friends weren’t protected from God’s judgment on their nation, Judah. Innocence doesn’t automatically protect you from tragedy. But you do have the assurance that God is concerned about what you’re doing, and He will honor your faithfulness and obedience.
Daniel and his friends sought to live according to God’s plan, but they found that others opposed their efforts. This led initially to great danger, but ultimately a great victory. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to walk through a fiery furnace because they obeyed God. Only the ropes that bound them were burned by the fire.
Then when he was 80 years old, Daniel was thrown into a den of lions because he was faithful to God, but he walked out unscathed. God used these trials to bring blessings to his servants and glory to himself. As you seek to be obedient to God, he may lead you into some difficult situations. But more often than not God uses such trails to strengthen your character and bless you.
If Daniel and his friends hadn’t believed that God was sovereign, they might have decided that compromise was better than risking their lives. But then they wouldn’t have experienced the glorious victories God gave them. What an affirmation of God’s faithfulness!