Ahhh, a New Year and new fad diets. Keto, Paleo, and the Whole 30 are some of this year’s top diet trends. However, another diet has risen in popularity thanks to film and TV actor, Chris Pratt. Pratt announced on Instagram that he was starting the New Year with the 21-day Daniel Fast. It’s typically not news when a celebrity limits their food intake, however, Pratt’s decision was covered by Time, USA Today, Men’s Health, Today, Entertainment Tonight, People, The Huffington Post, Breitbart, GODTV.com (fittingly), and many more news and information outlets. What made this particular diet so interesting?
Pratt’s decision to participate in the Daniel Fast comes not from some Hollywood nutritionist or a trainer to the stars. Rather, it comes right out of the Bible. Instead of going for the latest diet trends, Pratt decided to reach back to 605 B.C. to start his A.D.2019.
The Daniel Fast is based on the book of Daniel, chapter 1, and takes participants on a 21-day experience designed to bring them closer to God. Foods included are fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains/unleavened bread. However, if we only look to Daniel for diet tips, we are missing the bigger picture.
Not only is the prophet Daniel synonymous with unwavering integrity and an uncompromising spirit, he gives us a great lesson in self-discipline in the toughest of circumstances: Comfort and abundance. You may be scratching your head thinking, “Wasn’t Daniel in exile? How was he comfortable or living in abundance?” Yes, Daniel was in exile, but his exile looked a lot like everything most people could ever want.
This is the same Daniel who survived the lion’s den. Any kid who went to even one Sunday School class probably heard about Daniel surviving a night in a cave of hungry lions. It’s interesting to note that Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den as an elderly man (about 80 years old) for disobeying the law against praying to God. But way before that, when he was a teen, he was already recognized for his disciplined, Godly life.
In the first few verses of the book of Daniel, chapter 1, the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, attacked Jerusalem and took the Israelites captive. Daniel, a teenager, was among those captives. But instead of this bondage looking like starvation, shackles and slavery, it took a different, shinier, form in Babylon. To set the stage, Babylon, (56 miles southwest of modern Baghdad) was the height of opulence and vast resources, known for its magnificence and culture. Babylon was the first city to exceed 200,000 people and they had an intricate system of canals used for irrigation and commerce. It was a hustling, bustling city of all you could want or need in that era – the crown jewel of the Babylonian Empire. It certainly would seem like an upgrade over Jerusalem, which was still so… Old Testament.
While in “bondage,” Daniel and a few other young, intelligent, strong men were chosen by King Nebuchadnezzar to come into his royal court, eat food, and drink wine from the king’s table. In addition, these chosen Israelite captives would learn the language, read Babylonian literature, and learn agriculture, astrology, astronomy, and mathematics (Daniel 1:4). It sounds like a privilege, rather than imprisonment.
However, Daniel decided that he would not defile himself by partaking in the king’s food and wine because it had been sacrificed to idols. Again, this took place around 605 B.C. Food didn’t come easy, especially to a captive. Daniel was being offered not only food each day, but rich food and wine that was fit for a king. And he declined it. We would think eating the king’s food would be a benefit, but Daniel saw it as defilement. Instead, Daniel asked permission from his guard to be given only simple foods like fruits and vegetables, and only water to drink.
One of the reasons Daniel is so revered — even in a pagan country — is that he habitually exhibited discipline, self-control, excellence, and a singular focus on God. He was in the most advanced city in the world at that time, living in the king’s court. But instead of reveling in his Babylonian way of life, he remained steadfast and committed to God.
Sometimes staying faithful to God is harder in comfort than in times of struggle. Daniel challenges us to stay focused on God even when we are offered the seemingly “good things” in life. For him it was the king’s food. For us, it might also be heaping platefuls of delicious food. Or it could be hundreds of channels on TV; or Amazon Prime; or social media; or unrestricted access to everything the world (wide web) has to offer. Ironically, abundance can squash our desire for the One we need the most.
The truth is, our culture has more in common with Babylon than we might like to admit. However, we can take the example of a faithful teenager from 2,624 years ago. After all, he’s still making news today.
“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, emphasis mine)
Lord, please help us to focus on You. Let us not toss up meaningless, heartless prayers as if You are a magic genie or a spiritual check mark on our to-do list. I pray that our hearts, our eyes, our minds would be singularly directed toward You. I pray that You would reveal those areas of comfort or abundance that we enjoy at the sacrifice of our relationship with You. Lord, reveal and move us toward repentance for putting anything or anyone above You. Thank You for all that You’ve given us. May we never elevate Your blessings over You. Amen.