Following Jesus takes Intentionality

Following Jesus takes intentionality.

If you get anything out of this post, that’s what I hope you come to understand. Following Jesus takes intentionality. As with most things in life, if you neglect your walk with Him, or practice it improperly, you won’t reap the benefits. I’ll give you an example in a different arena of life:

When I was 19 years old (roughly 2002) I could dunk a basketball without any trouble. In fact, I could touch my elbow on the rim. Once in a college game I did a reverse dunk and a kid on the team from Chicago said, “The brothers back home ain't ever gonna believe this…” Fast-forward to 2017 and I’m officiating a Jr High girl’s basketball game. A player shoots the ball and it gets stuck between the rim and the backboard (as is often the case when Jr High girls shoot a basketball). The warm-up balls had already been put away, so I think, “I’ll just jump up there and knock that ball loose so we can continue play.” You might be able to predict where this is going.

First attempt? Swing and a miss. Second attempt? Swing and a nudge—but it lodges the ball deeper into the rim. I glance over at the guy who’s officiating with me with a look of, “Bro, do something to help me here.” He looks back at me like, “I’m literally 5 feet tall. What do you want me to do?” Obviously the fans and players are looking at me like, “Dude. You’re embarrassing yourself.”

So with all my strength and might and a quick prayer to God I take a little bit of a running start and knock the ball loose. The crowd cheers but not for joy, for pity. It was a condescending clap. The worse part, my wife was the coach on the sideline. She had to witness that. Thankfully our children were at home with a babysitter.

So here’s the question. How do you go from being able to dunk a basketball with ease, to barely being able to touch the rim? Neglect.

Same thing is true spiritually. How do you go from feeling like God is your everything to maybe He’s not even there? Neglect.

And it may not even be that you’re not praying, or you’re not reading the bible—you might even be tithing and serving—but something is off. I want you to know that you can be doing all the “right things” and it still feel like God is gone. Why? Intentionality.

Which, if there’s any one thing you can do (spiritually) that requires intentionality. It’s fasting. Fasting is perhaps the most neglected spiritual discipline within all of Christianity. Yet, Jesus assumes his followers will fast, and even promises it will happen. He doesn’t say “if,” but “when you fast” (Matthew 6:16). And he doesn’t say his followers might fast, but “they will” (Matthew 9:15).

So at the end of this post I’m going to include some tips about fasting, but here’s what you really need to know: Fasting is disconnecting from the world so that you can connect to God. Read that sentence again: Fasting is disconnecting from the world so that you can connect to God. If you want to draw nearer to Him this year I’d encourage you, make Him the only thing you have for awhile. You do that by disconnecting from the world (food, technology, etc) and connecting to God.

  1. The first thing to realize when fasting is that fasting is not about physical wellness. Certainly there are VAST amounts of physical benefits to fasting. You can find hundreds of scholarly articles about what fasting does for your body; but that’s not our primary purpose. Our primary purpose is to connect to God. So if the only thing you’re concerned about is losing weight, than fasting might be good, but acknowledge that upfront. “I’m not doing this for any other reason than to jumpstart my wellness.”
  2.  Before you begin a water-only fast you should consult a medical professional. Just for the record, I am not that.
  3.  In conjunction with not eating you should probably eliminate technology. Fasting from food but watching TV or scrolling on the internet to take your mind off of how hungry you are does nothing for your spiritual well-being. Try spending every moment you feel hungry in prayer or bible study. Use the booklets we’ve created to help you stay focused.
  4. There are side effects to fasting. I have fasted for as many as 10 days, my wife has fasted for as many as 7—here’s some of the things we’ve noticed.
Don’t eat solid food right away! You will wreck your digestive system and all the benefits you previously obtained. One of the things that has worked for me is drinking an orange juice the night before I break my fast. Then the first day I’ll drink a dairy-free protein shake. I personally have found OWYN to be the best tasting. I generally do one the first day, then 2 the second day. On day 3 I introduce some soup/broth…and maybe some vegetables. Day 4, I’m usually up to fruits…but still no meat or dairy. Day 5 I’m trying to eat as “clean” as possible. So no processed foods and no added sugar foods. Simply put, resist the urge to eat right away.

Again, I’d like to reiterate. I am not a doctor. All of these recommendations are coming from personal experiences from years of practicing fasting. Would you consider joining me in this journey?