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?
Do you have an older sibling? It can be difficult to live up to the high standards set by older brothers and sisters. It can be equally difficult, and sometimes more painful, to live down the reputation of a notorious or embarrassing older sibling. James and Jude are two men in the Bible who had to deal with both challenges. Their older brother Jesus was both perfect and, in their minds, embarrassing.
Jesus must have been a hard act to follow, don’t you think? It may have been difficult for James, Jude, and the rest of their siblings to feel close to their wonderful, though different, big brother.
After Jesus’ public ministry began, his brothers James and Jude seemed to take a stand-back-and-watch attitude. One day Jesus would do great miracles and be acclaimed as a hero. The next, he would present a convicting message and offend the powerful religious and political authorities. In the end, he angered too many people and was sentenced to death. He’d claimed to be not only the promised Messiah but also God himself! No doubt, James and Jude thought their brother had gone off the deep end.
Yet the resurrection of Jesus overcame the doubts of his younger brothers, who later became leaders in the early church. Both brothers are remembered for the letters in Bible they wrote.
This same power that transformed James and Jude can transform you, too, and turn you from an unbelieving cynic to a faithful follower of Christ.
Do you find waiting tough? Most twenty-first century people do. We don’t want to wait in traffic, wait in line, wait for the economy, or wait for a table. So the thought of waiting on God sets us back on our heels. We think our timing is what matters and then God says, ‘Wait!’ and it can be especially difficult to wait on God.
Look at this great promise from the prophet, Isaiah. ‘Those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not grow faint’ (40:31). And the prophet, Jeremiah, said, ‘The Lord is wonderfully good to those who wait for him and seek him.
The Lord will reward you for waiting upon him. You can remain calm when it appears that nothing is happening when you think it should. Waiting is a response contrary to the ways of the world. But when you learn to wait, you’ll find the winds of adversity will lift you up, like wind beneath the wings of an eagle, instead of knocking you down. As you develop a patient faith in God, you will be able to endure to the end of the race’and win. As you seek God and wait on Him to complete His work in your life, you will be find strength. Try it and see!