Tuesday was the last day of my 21-day Daniel Fast.
I confess I finished feeling a little guilty.
Going into the fast my purpose was clear, in that my goal was to become closer to Christ, but as it progressed the purpose began to take on another appearance. My focus strayed from Christ, and instead settled upon the foods I could and could not eat. I began to search for recipes as to how I could take the approved foods and weave them together in some fashion as to make them more palatable. In essence the fast became more about the food and less about Christ.
How fitting then, as I finished the fast, was I led to this scripture:
So, then, if with Christ you’ve put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? “Don’t touch this! Don’t taste that! Don’t go near this!” Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are worth that kind of attention? Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important. (Col. 2:20-23)
Believe me, I did not search out this scripture. I can’t quite remember my steps to it, but I’m sure it went something like this… I was reading elsewhere, perhaps in the book of James, and noticed another passage scribbled with ink in the margins. I’ve had this particular Bible almost 40 years so the margins are well marked. Who knows when I jotted the reference…it could have been 30 years ago. Regardless, I was somehow, someway, led to the book of Colossians.
God has a sense of humor!
He has a way taking you down a notch or two, if need be, and then pointing you in the right direction. Sometimes God speaks in a still small voice…this was not one of those times. It was more like a splash of cold water to the face!
It seemed as if God was saying, and I paraphrase… “Yes, you fasted for 21 days…you did well, but get off your high horse! The fast was not about the rules you didn’t break, but rather about seeking me.”
Colossians continues to say…“So, if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it… See things from his perspective… chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline…. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” (Colossians 3:1-14 Message Bible)
Do I think my fast in vain? Not even close!
I thank God for each of those 21 days, and I learned a lot! But even with all I’ve learned, if I forget to couple it with love, then the knowledge I’ve gained is indeed worthless!
Through the past 21 days I’ve learned more about the love God has for me, and I’m assured that nothing can ever separate me from his love. But if I stop there it has all been for naught. I must live out what I have learned by loving and caring for God’s people.
James writes, “…faith without works is dead,” and he warns of the dangers of “…being only hearers of the word and not doers…”. He says, “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God…even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it…that person will find delight and affirmation in the action.” (James 1:22-25)
Our faith must become active!
If we say we have faith then what are we doing to prove our faith? The best proof of our faith is LOVE, and THAT is what I have learned from my fast.
Now it’s up to me to live it…
This Is Love
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
(I Corinthians 13)