I typically don’t like to fast. I know it’s important, and it’s encouraged throughout the Bible. 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. I still don’t like to fast. I have fasted many times and frankly, will fast again. However, did I say I don’t like to fast?
Our church has, over the past few years, encouraged its community to fast for the twenty one days that lead to Easter. The 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.
Therefore, when I was faced with the opportunity to participate in our church’s 21-day fast, I struggled to think about what I was going to fast. I had several options, but nothing was settling with me. I spoke to the Lord many times about it. What was He suggesting I fast? I had to check my attitude because it’s not something I’m excited about (I think I already explained that). I thought about anything in my life that perhaps had become an idol. I realize that I have a lot of idols, more than one realizes at first. 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? I know that is not a full proof test, 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, etc. My conundrum continued. 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 in Tahiti? Would I want to go? I said, “Heaven yes” (the alternative is not appropriate here). I said I would clear my schedule, pack immediately and leave on the next flight. God then simply said, “That’s the point. I’m not concerned about what you are going to temporarily remove from your life to draw close to me if your attitude is not right. I actually am more interested in spending more time with you and you with me.”
The birth of the 21-Day Slow emerged. God simply said, “Now (this year), I would rather you take the next 21 days and slow down, spend more time with me, draw close to me (aka Tahiti). 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 you 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 sacrifice to show Him I love Him. Simply put, He simply wants me. BTW, next year, it could be a fast.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.