As I am getting older, I am having a hard time retaining the outward forms of the zeal that I had for God when I was younger. When I started my journey of faith, I was determined to be the best Christian ever. Not only would I easily overcome the temptations of the flesh, I would also read the Bible every day, fast every week, attend multiple church services a week, witness at every opportunity and pray without ceasing. Over the years, I have learned my limitations and failed each of these resolutions hundreds or even thousands of times. In this context, when I read what Jesus has to say in the book of Revelation and in Luke, it is a matter of some concern.
But this I have against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place — unless you repent (Revelation 2:4-5)
. . . For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him . . . (Luke 14:29)
“But Lord”, I want to say, “I had no idea how hard it was to follow your example when I was a young man. Isn’t there any provision for those of us who overestimated our ability to pay?” It is in that context that I find an observation from the book of Daniel to be somewhat comforting.
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way . . . “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.” (Daniel 1:8,12)
At the beginning of his service to the king, Daniel is determined not to defile himself with the kings choice food. He is so zealous that he determines that he will only eat vegetables and water and he makes this request of the King’s steward. Over the course of the years, however, the outward manifestations of Daniel’s zeal begin to wane. At the end of his life, Daniel describes the fast that he performs before God sends him one of the greatest prophecies in history.
At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over. (Daniel 10:2-3)
Is it me? Or does this fast sound like what Daniel routinely did when he was a younger man? And yet he is greeted in a way that is very encouraging for those of us who have gotten more lax as we have gotten older.
“Daniel, you who are highly esteemed” (Daniel 10:11)
When I was younger, I was full of fire and passion and I thought I could do anything in my own strength. As I have gotten older, I have become more prudent. I am more aware of my limitations and of my need of God. I depend more on his grace and less on my own ability. Fortunately for people like me, there is hope that God understands our weaknesses and loves us anyway. Hope in the book of Daniel and hope in the words of the Lord.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)