My church began a 21-day fast on January 1. I didn’t want to discuss it while it was in progress, but now that it’s over, I’m going to share some of the things I learned about myself– and God– during the first 21 days of 2011.
Waste (and Waist) Reduction
I wasn’t super strict, but I did cut out some foods and activities that I didn’t police myself on:
I ate NO fast food, pork, seafood, or red meat. (You wanna talk about denying yourself and crucifying your flesh? That right there was rough for me.) The second week, in addition to those dietary constraints, I ate only two meals a day, and I personally chose to do it after 3 pm. The third week, still following the same diet, I only ate one meal, and it was after 6 or 7 pm. I also cut out some reality shows in favor of non-violent, non-sexual dramas and shows (like the ones aired on the new OWN) that wouldn’t compromise my spirit.
I disciplined myself to read the Bible every morning and evening, and I listened to audio sermons at times when I felt particularly lost or weak about some things. I knew it was important to keep my mind focused on why I was fasting. I lost a lot of weight as a natural, physiological result, but that was not the purpose of the fast. I wanted to draw closer to God and get serious about some bad habits and things lacking in my life that I want to see manifest this year.
Who’s on the Throne of Your Life?
Matthew 9 tells of a story with Jesus and His disciples that illustrates the need for prayer AND fasting for some critical situations. I think it’s up to individuals to let the Holy Spirit lead them to fast in a way and for a duration that will personally benefit them in their situations and the reasons that they desire to earnestly seek God.
It was about time for me to get back to basics and put first things first. I learned to, as my pastor put it, take my stomach off the throne and put God back there (in His rightful place). I put lot of activities that I was giving priority (“idols”)—such as the internet, and certain reality TV shows to the back seat or kicked them to the curb altogether. I spent more time with my daughter, hanging out, and of course, praying and studying the Bible in areas where I am trying to grow, breaking mental strongholds, as well as some of the things I hope to accomplish this year. On the last night of the fast, my pastor said that those who participated and “paid the price” have set the course of their year on track. This fast wasn’t easy, and at times I was weary, but for me it was worth it.
To paraphrase two key verses I’ve been holding on to this month:
Without faith it is impossible to please God, for we must believe that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. – Hebrews 11:6
The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (makes great power available). – James 5:16
What are you believing God for this year? What—or who—is on your throne?