New year and fasting.

Here we are again at yet another new year. Its the inevitable time where everyone is setting goals, making dreams, and creating resolutions. Its also the time of year where people reflect on the past year, all the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I’ve always found New Years to be an interesting time. Every year I see people post their weight loss goals, personal goals for self-edification and growth, and even spiritual goals. But a common denominator is that by February, so many of the goals people have set have already failed or fallen to the wayside. Then repeat the following year. Its a never ending cycle of nothing really changing.

I realized something some years ago when I started being more intentional in my start to the year. Every year, I begin with a 21 day fast. Now, for those of you that are not part of a church, this may be foreign language to you. Many associate fasting with the medical world and fasting before a procedure, testing, or lab work. However, Biblically fasting was significant and came with great purpose. Fasting was a way of connecting deeper with God through prayer and sacrificing food for periods of time for things like repentance, intercession, and striving for deeper understanding of God. Today, the Church also treats fasting as a means to give up something, not even necessarily food, as a sacrifice while also pursuing prayer for the same reasons as listed earlier. Either way, the idea is founded on the principle of seeking God, making sacrifices for further growth, and waiting for God’s responses. Fasting is not giving up food, praying for God to give you something and a guarantee that you’ll get your way. Fasting is pursuit of God and his ways, personally and collectively.

In my own experience, fasting has been one of the greatest disciplines I have ever cultivated in my life. I don’t say that toot my own horn but to encourage that the Christian faith and attempting to walk a holy life that honors God is not always easy. Being a Christian is hard in this world. I have had my own struggles with wanting to give into my personal desires leaving God out of it. I have struggled with making mistakes and outright sinning because I wanted something more than I wanted God. But as a Christian, our goal is strive for holiness, not happiness, and fasting is a phenomenal way to do pursue holiness. It is a discipline…which means its not easy. I have done full fasts where I don’t eat for 7 days, 10 days, and the longest ever 21 days. I have done modified fasts where I’m removing certain foods as well as other things like media. But in all of my fasts, I spend more intentional time reading the Bible, I read some form of devotional book for spiritual growth, and I journal. In my journal, I write prayers, desires, ask God questions, and more. The point is the pursuit of God and letting him work in my life during the fast.

So how do you start or decide what to do? Well, much like the new year resolution to lose weight, you need to have a plan to really be successful. Now you can be successful without a plan, but its also that much harder. Ask any health coach. For fasting, if you jump right in to not eating for 7 days and you’ve done anything like that, it will be extremely difficult but not impossible. While its not necessary, I do think its wise to think ahead of what you will be fasting and for how long. Its accountability for your fast while also pointing you in the direction that you’re wanting to go. What is your purpose for the fast? Do you have specific things you’re seeking God about? Are you just wanting to grow in your relationship with God or recalibrate (so to speak)?

New Years is a great calendar tool to sort of start fresh. But don’t buy into the deception of needing to set goals, be thin, be a better you, or anything else if you are not going to do the handwork to get there. As a Christian, we constantly need to strive for holiness and to live in a way to honor God. And that goal to honor God can be the overarching goal of all the others: the fitness, the health and wellness, the being a better you. All of it. But invite God to be a part of the story. In fact, invite him to take the lead and write the story. What if instead of just arbitrarily making goals, you make goals but also fast and pray for God’s direction for your life in those areas? What if you invited God into your marriage to help make far greater than you could have ever dreamed? What if you invited God to be a part of your health and wellness, to give you strength when you feel weak, and to help you stay on task to be healthy? What if you invited God to show you where in your own life you need to be better, including conviction of sin in your life? I encourage you to consider reframing your thoughts on New Years and maybe start this next year with a different mindset and just see what God can do while having the discipline to pursue his plans for your life.

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