Recently, sloths have been making some appearances. They have had cameos in movies and videos and in some cases have gone viral (a term that today means…became popular). Sloths are best known for their movements, specifically the slow pace and intentionality. They are not known for their looks, but for their speed (or lack of…tacked at .17 miles per hour). I bring up the Sloth because God reminds me of how much I miss when I move too fast… and that brings up what I want to talk about.
Slow as a Sloth
I typically don’t like to fast. I know it’s important, and it’s encouraged throughout the Bible and Jesus models it. I know that there are many benefits to fasting. The clarity and focus that occurs as one intently focuses on Jesus is something supernatural. I have dear friends who fast regularly for extended times and speak of its benefits. Many times, a fast is used to better hear the voice of God, seek a breakthrough or stand in the gap for someone. I still don’t like to fast; however, I have fasted many times and frankly, will fast again.
Many churches, including my own, have seasons where they encourage their community to fast. The beginning of the year as well as the Lenten season (the days that lead to Easter) are popular time periods for such a community fast. The fasting opportunity is completely voluntary and the options of what to fast are left up to each participant. I know of many people who declare a Daniel Fast, meaning that the participant will eat only fruits and vegetables for the duration of the fast (among a few other edits of one’s normal diet). I also know others who simply do water for 21 days, no food whatsoever (this fast is intense and a doctor’s approval may be wise). I also know of others who may fast social media, television, alcohol, a hobby, etc. Therefore, the idea of fasting is simply to take something you may have allowed to become too important (an idol perhaps) and eliminate it from your life.
21 Day Fast
Every year I am faced with the opportunity to participate in our church’s 21-day fast, and every year I struggled to think about what I am going to fast. I have several options, but I don’t want it to become rote. I usually begin by having numerous conversations with the Lord about it. What is He suggesting I fast? I have to check my attitude because it’s not something I’m excited about (I think I already explained that), and I think about anything in my life that perhaps has become an idol. I realize that I have a lot of idols, more than I want to admit. These idols don’t always look like idols. I’ve heard one way to identify an idol is to consider what in my life I find takes no effort to spend time or money on or perhaps that which I am most afraid of? I know these are not full proof tests, but it does cause me to think. Sometimes the littlest things or best things become idols. For example, can my marriage become an idol? Are my children an idol? Perhaps my reputation, my health, my work, my choices, my church etc. My conundrum continues. Does God want me to fast, and if so, what do I fast?
My God suggested something to me in one of our conversations. He simply challenged my attitude about my fast. He asked me what the point of the fast was. I simply suggested it was to get closer to Him, hear His voice, remove idols that get in the way of our relationship; bottom line, spend more time with Him. He seemed perplexed (not that God gets perplexed) as to why I was dreading this. He challenged my paradigm. God does that from time to time. He asked if my attitude would change if He were to invite me to an all-expense paid luxury vacation to the islands, simply to spend time with Him. I responded that I certainly would do that with no hesitancy.
God then birthed a great idea. The 21-Day Slow emerged. God simply said, “Now, I would rather you take the next 21 days and slow down, spend more time with me, draw close to me by being quiet, reading, more intentional prayer, worship etc. (aka the promised island vacation). I thought the solution to my dilemma was brilliant. God’s focus was on the objective not the mechanics. Sometimes I get caught up in the how and not the why. I recently read that Steve Jobs (Apple founder) commonly asked three questions. First, “What’s not working?” Second, “Why is it not working?” Lastly, “Is that the best we can do?” Perhaps when I slow down, I see what God wants me to see. Perhaps He gently shows me the areas of my life that could improve (those idols that get in the way) and how to improve on them. I find that God is my confidant. He honestly addresses what’s not working, why it’s not working and how He equips me to do my best work. The opportunity to be the best husband, wife, father, mother, business partner, friend, etc. is available to me with Him. God provides me a gentle reminder that He’s always with me, and He’s never going to give up on me, and that to delight in Him, indulge in Him, hang with Him is always more important than wondering what I’ve got to eat or not eat to show Him I love Him. Therefore, there may be one way to fast and that is to fast from being busy and perhaps that’s what I can learn from the Sloth.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.
Read more articles by Stephan Tchividjian at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/stephan-tchividjian/