Today you might be beginning your Daniel Fast. Let me say, “Welcome. I hope it will be an awesome day.”
The Daniel Fast may become a pattern fast you use the rest of your life. It will not only be a gift to reset your body and diet so your mind, heart, and spirit will be sharper and more ready to listen and respond to Christ; it will also be a fast where you can form new and enduring habits of life.
There is no doubt that as we fast and focus on Christ, one character quality of the Holy Spirit should begin to take control of our hearts: humility. In the list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:23, Paul uses the Greek word “prautes," which is usually translated "gentleness." The word refers to not being overly impressed with one's self importance. In Colossians 3:12, Paul uses the Greek word, "tapeinophrosyne,” which is often translated "humility." The word means to have a right assessment of self. I correlate these two words, seeking to gain a full understanding of humility.
Some years ago, I was chauffeuring a leader around who enjoyed some national prominence. He was telling me of a friend of his who pastored a huge church in another country. Over time, the man slipped into some humiliating circumstances and was, for a season, enduring embarrassing scandalization. The man who was scandalized went on to recover and become an even greater pastor. Of course, I asked the leader I was chauffeuring around what had caused him to rebound so quickly and with so much more influence. As it turns out, the pastor, before his embarrassing moment, had admitted that he had thought himself too important and had imagined himself deserving of certain privileges others were denied. He had seen himself as more of a leader and less a pastor. He was given to ministry among the famous, while delegating the less important to others on staff. He had become a mega church leader, but had left pastoring in the weeds. The pastor had forgotten, in the blindness of fame, that his greatest treasure was Jesus. Apart from Jesus, he had become overly impressed with himself and was unable to evaluate himself accurately.
Fasting becomes a place where we can retune our hearts to Christ's character. We must have a right assessment of who we really are. We must not think too highly of who we are; we must not think too lowly of who we are. Thinking too highly or too lowly is evidence of pride.
As we move into fasting, the kind Jesus has chosen for us to do, more than anything else it will help tune our hearts and turn them to humility. Instead of being hit with some disaster, we can occasionally fast so God can show us all He needs to show us, for the heart of all success is humility (1 Peter 5:6).
"Cry out loudly, don’t hold back!
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Tell My people their transgression and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek Me day after day and delight to know My ways, like a nation that does what is right and does not abandon the justice of their God.
They ask Me for righteous judgments; they delight in the nearness of God.”
“Why have we fasted, but You have not seen?
We have denied ourselves, but You haven’t noticed!”
“Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast, and oppress all your workers.
You fast with contention and strife to strike viciously with your fist.
You cannot fast as you do today, hoping to make your voice heard on high.
Will the fast I choose be like this:
A day for a person to deny himself, to bow his head like a reed, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to the LORD?"
Isaiah 58:1-5 CSB
In Isaiah 58, we find Israel (the House of Jacob) seeking God through fasting. The Assyrians were at the door, conquering other nations, and had their eye upon Israel. In response to the impending danger, Israel was calling a fast.
Isaiah was told to raise up his voice like a prophetic trumpet and tell Israel where and how their fasting had gone so very wrong. Isaiah told them they were pretending to know God, pretending to delight in His ways, pretending to be just, and in return for all their goodness, they were asking God for righteous judgment. They assumed pretending to draw near to God was the same as actually doing it.
In verse three one can see Israel is confused because God has not noticed their fasting nor their self denial. In comparison with other nations, they were able to congratulate themselves for being more righteous, but thinking oneself more righteous than others does not capture God's notice.
Isaiah made the problem clear by exposing three of their sins. They were not as righteous before God as they assumed, and their fasting was more a show of their goodness than a humbling of their hearts, asking God to correct their habits. Isaiah listed out three sins, which were evidence that even while fasting, they were really doing whatever they pleased:
1) They were being greedy with their employees, using them for profit without compassion for their lives or their labors.
2) They were ambitious in wanting control over others, even to the point of striving, without letting their fasting nurture within them a servant's heart of peace.
3) Finally, they were making a big show of fasting, acting humble, dressing in sackcloth and throwing ash on themselves, while they all wanted what was best for themselves.
They were not eating and not really praying. In contrast, the true goal of fasting is to create time to pray, to give God extra time to change and mold the heart.
Israel had one set fasting day every year on the Day of Atonement. Moses was clear when he established this day that fasting was for the purpose of humbling oneself (Leviticus 16:29). The entire goal of fasting for Israel, as with us, is to humble ourselves, to gain a right perspective of who we are in God's sight and in relationship to others. Through fasting, we not only discover God, but we also discover ourselves. Fasting should bring us to a place of humility where compassion, kindness, and honor once again flow freely and liberally from our lives.
As I have explained elsewhere, when I do devotions, I practice something that helps me lean into and listen to Jesus. It is a very simple practice. I read a Scripture and let a certain verse or verses stand out. By stand out, I mean I let the Holy Spirit draw me to those verses, make me curious about them, cause me to be most interested in them.
I then bring out my journal and write down one of the following four basic phrases:
1) Jesus, You love me so much that You ...
2) Jesus, You love me so much that You are leading me to ...
3) Jesus, You love my wife (family, friends, church, city) so much that You ...
4) Jesus, You love me so much You are wanting me to confess the sin of …
At the end of one of those phrases, I begin to write what comes into my mind, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide me to the very thoughts of Jesus.
I do not assume everything I write falls off of the lips of Jesus into my thoughts. I have noticed, however, that often in the words that follow, a theme arises that seems very much directed by Jesus.
I ponder that theme against Scripture and sometimes share the theme with others to gain a broader perspective. I test it out to determine exactly what Jesus might be leading me to do.
I give you this example to allow you to consider the fourth statement.
Without a doubt, on any fast you involve yourself in, Jesus is wanting to reveal to you things hurting your progress and your thriving.
Sin is basically thinking so much of yourself that you give yourself a pass when it comes to thinking you are more important than someone else.
When we fast, the Holy Spirit wants to expose to our hearts how we might be using others or even demanding to be right so we can stay in control.
If Jesus is not at our center, one of our lusts, desires, or ambitions will take centerstage and begin running things.
A religious person can be one of the meanest people on earth, for he can actually believe he has a divine right to something or a divine-like message.
Fasting allows Jesus to reset the “importance" gauge in our hearts and return it to its proper place. You are important, really important; you're just not as important as Jesus nor more important than someone else. Fasting can help you restore this perspective and free you to prosper in the life God has given you.
Your decision: commit to allowing Jesus to open you up and show you where He can work some of His humility, so He can do what He loves to do— promote you.
Daily Journal Thoughts
On your "Prayer and Fasting Commitments” page, write down the date.
Next write your commitment; it might be worded something like this:
“Jesus, I seek by Your grace to humble myself before You as I ask You to speak into my life and reveal to me my true self.”
Finally, go to your "Daily Journal," and write the date at the top of the page.
To begin, ask the Lord to open your heart to listen to His voice as He seeks to communicate with your mind.
Reading a psalm such as Psalm 8 may be a great way to tune your heart to His.
Next, write down the words: “Jesus, You love me so much that You are wanting me to confess ..." Conclude that statement by writing down what comes to your mind. Be sensitive to Jesus, revealing where you have elevated your opinions too highly or where the Holy Spirit might be convicting you of not being sensitive to another person. Maybe you haven't been grateful enough or honoring enough of someone else.
Let the Lord really talk to you, especially about marriage and family.
Let Jesus plumb the depths of your heart. If you feel guilty about anything you hear, then you are not hearing the Holy Spirit. If you feel put down or not loved, again, you are not hearing the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit loves you. He wants you to see the hard places in your heart, the places where you are insecure and thus blind to how you are treating others. The Holy Spirit is not angry with you; He is seeking to transform you and comfort you so you can really thrive.
The Holy Spirit will not talk to you in a “You're a bad person" kind of tone. The Holy Spirit will talk to you in ways such as, "I love you. I understand you. I am not offended by you. I am ever here to form you into what I have created you to be.”
The determination of God to reveal is relentless; the kindness of God is even more overwhelming; so in all His revealing, our hearts are bursting with love, acceptance, and hope. The Holy Spirit does not shame; He comforts and transforms.
Write down all you can, and ask the Lord what to do with what He has revealed.
Some things you will confess as sin to God, and in other things you will feel led to call others and begin to change your tone. Just let Jesus lead you by His Spirit, and do what He says as promptly as you can. This is one of the most important functions of fasting.