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KEEPING THE FAITH | Set your sights on taking action toward a better you

Fasting is not just abstaining from food. It can be giving up simple pleasures. Some fast to detox from social media as a way to focus and prioritize their time in prayer. Maybe you want to narrowly define how you will use technology, such as for work purposes only. The immediate benefit of fasting is that it causes you to reflect upon the purpose of your fasting.
The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin

The concept of 20/20 is often associated with good visual eyesight; however, we all must admit the year 2020 did not appear perfect by any measurement, and we failed to see some things coming.

There is much to be said about hindsight, but if you are reading this message, then lift your hands to God and say, “Thank you!” because you have crossed the threshold into a new year despite adverse circumstances.

I have a simple question for you this week — what is YOUR vision? Where do you see yourself Dec. 31, 2021, and what was accomplished? How do you plan to complete those personal goals and seize opportunities? 

Perhaps your intentions are to learn how to relax, to be more patient, to improve your relationships with others, or even simply be kinder and gentler to yourself. Whatever “it” is, own it!

Let’s be clear, I am not advocating loose verbal resolutions, but rather taking deliberate and intentional action toward a better you and me. The challenges with resolutions are they often lack accountability. Thus, after a few weeks in the gym in January, too many return to the life of a couch potato instead of obtaining the physical fitness and weight reduction they desire.

The passion is within the pursuit, but you need to know what you are seeking.

Hence, I do encourage vision boards — a visual and tangible representation of your goals. In fact, we are encouraged to do so. Habakkuk 2:2-3 states, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.”

Jack Canfield, creator of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, has an excellent, quick resource to assist in creating, designing and implementing your own vision board. You can easily dismiss any soft sales pitch and simply take advantage of the free resources available on the site.

Visualization can be a motivating factor. For those who know me, I live by making lists — things to do, items to purchase, potential sermon themes or, in this case, ideas for this weekly column. I obtain great satisfaction in crossing or checking off a completed task.

Vision is often addressed in the Holy Word. There is even an admonishment for failure to adhere to God’s vision, which will lead to harm. The King James Version expresses in Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”

In Scripture, fasting and prayer go hand in hand. Together, they can produce powerful results. Fasting and prayer can also bring clarity to your vision, call and purpose. I have discussed the power of prayer in prior articles, but this is the first time broaching the concept of fasting.

There are many examples of fasts from sunrise to sundown contained within the Holy Word. Fasting through abstaining from food twice a week was once a regular practice. Even Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days. Fasting is a scriptural way of seeking God’s presence, and there is a broad range of application. 

There are several different types of fasts within sacred text. However, I want to share for discussion the traditional Daniel Fast, which is considered a partial fast because it limits the diet without totally abstaining from food.

Daniel 1:12-17 says, “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water. At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for 10 days. At the end of the 10 days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others. God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom.

And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams. Daniel 10:3 notes, “All that time I had eaten no rich food. No meat or wine crossed my lips, and I used no fragrant lotions until those three weeks had passed.” Daniel clearly was a man who believed in power and purpose of fasting. In fact, he believed in it so much that he was willing to challenge the authority of both the king of Babylon and the king of Persia.

Fasting is not just abstaining from food. It can be giving up simple pleasures. Some fast to detox from social media as a way to focus and prioritize their time in prayer. Maybe you want to narrowly define how you will use technology, such as for work purposes only. The immediate benefit of fasting is that it causes you to reflect upon the purpose of your fasting. The very moment you want to reach for that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup stashed away or check your notifications on Facebook, it serves as an alarm to pray and focus upon your vision or goal.

So I ask again. What is YOUR vision? What steps are you prepared to take that will make it a reality? What is the aim and how will you get there? What does victory look like to you?

I would love and welcome you to participate with me and many others Jan. 4 to Jan. 24 in a Family & Community-wide Fast & Prayer. Typically, this fast allows one or two meals daily, consisting of only fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. No sugar, pasta, meats, processed foods, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (UGH!!) or other forms of chocolate during the 21-day fasting period. I encourage you to visit this website for a simple tutorial to further understand how to maximize the benefits of this fast.

If you’re not able to abstain for dietary or medical reasons, I would encourage you to consider giving up something else, such as a habit that you have been trying to break. You may also establish a routine that you have long wanted to implement, such as increasing your daily leisure reading. This is also an excellent time to embrace a new skill or obtain knowledge that will add value to your life.

You are encouraged to pray to God at 6:30 a.m. and/or 6:30 p.m. On Thankful Thursdays, you are encouraged to use the various social media platforms and post or share how the fast has helped you or your struggles. We will celebrate the end of the fast at 7 p.m. Jan. 24 via zoom for testimonials. Email to obtain the credentials and password to participate in this virtual gathering.

Remember, our life’s journey is akin to a marathon not a sprint. “This race is not given to the swift nor to the strong, but to the one that endures until the end.” So run with patience and keep the faith!

The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II serves as the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, chaplain for the Youngstown Police Department and local coordinator for the African American Male Wellness Walk of the Mahoning Valley. He resides in Youngstown with Dorothy, his partner in marriage and ministry. They share the love and joy of six children and seven grandchildren.

— All biblical citations are New King James Translation unless noted otherwise.