Three members of my family just completed an altered version of the Daniel Fast. It's a 21-day "partial fast" based on the experience of the prophet Daniel. I learned some things.
First, I'm no Daniel. My version was substantially less strenuous than recommended.
Second, my version was a challenge. I consumed no fried food, soft drinks, beef, pork, eggs, snack food, leavened bread or regular milk. I tried to avoid cheese, but that stuff is on virtually everything. I had only two cups of coffee.
Third, I realized I was addicted to caffeine and sugar. I didn't think I was a big drinker of soda and coffee, but headaches and drowsiness hit me early in the process. One day, I texted my wife and daughter and said I had to have a cup of coffee to get my work done. When you stay away from caffeine, one cup really makes an impact.
Fourth, there really are alternative ways of eating available today. When I travel for Texas Baptists, there are certain unhealthy food choices, which tend to propel me along our state's highways. During these three weeks, I discovered vegetable plates and great grilled chicken salads.
Fifth, the further along I went, the less I needed a bunch of food. Water and 100 percent fruit drinks could satisfy and sustain. And bananas became an essential part of my life.
Sixth, and most importantly, the Daniel Fast helped me begin to reorient my way of living. In our world, it is so easy to satisfy any physical craving, but it's not healthy to do so either physically or spiritually. This effort provided a means for asking God to help me live above animal needs. We are, after all, the pinnacle of God's creation, but we so often behave just like hungry dogs with no sense of higher calling.
The biblical book of Daniel begins with an important story about this man who would eventually sit with lions and remain unharmed.
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine; so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself. ... Then Daniel asked the guard whom the palace master had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: "Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. ... So he agreed to this proposal and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations. So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom; Daniel also had insight into all visions and dreams. Daniel 1: 8, 11-12, 14-17, NRSV
Parents today try so hard to make their kids exceptional by carting them to organized sports activities, getting them to the best schools and keeping them in church. How did we forget this important story from the life of one of our Hebrew heroes?
In America, most of us today eat "royal rations of food and wine." What if we adults changed our habits and started setting an example? What if younger folks said, "To heck with how Mom and Dad eat and drink; I'm going to be like Daniel."
The story of Daniel and his buds shows the spiritual, physical and mental parts of our lives are all connected. There are so many people who just focus on one part of healthy living. They get obsessed only with the spiritual or the physical or the mental. Daniel had and has a better way.
Daniel remained consistently a man of God. His prayer habits landed him in the famous lions den, but God delivered Daniel. That miracle resulted in the foreign King Darius making a royal decree that "in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel." Why?
For he is the living God,
His kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion has no end.
He delivers and rescues,
he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth;
for he has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.
Daniel 6: 26-27, NRSV
May we live more like Daniel, and may more people be led to worship the one and only God as revealed in Christ.