Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.
(Daniel 1:11-15 NIV)
In his book "David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants," bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell offers a practical explanation for David’s historic defeat of odds on favorite and “Philistine fall guy” Goliath. “First,” Gladwell observed, “David's sling is a devastating weapon, one of the most feared in the ancient world. The stone that comes from his sling had the stopping power equivalent to a bullet from a .45 caliber pistol.” Gladwell notes that, in addition, David wasn’t just some sheepish sheep herder, but, as the Bible notes, experienced in defending his flock against ferocious of beasts. David was already accustomed to saving a population from potential annihilation. The only difference is that the frightened sheep (Hebrews) and the bloodthirsty beast (Goliath) walked on two feet instead of four.
As I was thinking about the practicality of God’s word, that is, how God has designed His creations, including us, our bodies, minds, and spirits to react positively to Biblical mandates, spiritual disciplines, and just plain ole Judeo-Christian wisdom, I thought how often, it seems, we expect some bolt of lightning or “writing on the wall” to occur before we react to God’s Word. Akin to Gladwell’s observation of David, I have often thought about the practicality of Daniel abstaining from King Nebuchadnezzar’s royal food and wine. Theologians and even food & beverage experts have surmised that there may have been some distinct advantages to fasting, especially from the meats and fermented beverages, that were neither prepared nor preserved with the food safety practices of today. In addition, the royal food would have been foreign and spiritually defiling to the kosher constitutions of these perfect young physical specimens (Daniel 1:4). Limiting their diets to a routine that already included regular fasting to accompany their prayers, may have been their healthiest option. Undoubtedly God was at the root of young Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s physical and mental acuity. I would suggest that He is still at the foundation of our bodies, which the Apostle Paul called “temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God”
(1 Corinthians 6:19)
As we prepare our hearts, minds and bodies for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, this Easter, I would note multiple studies, along with active and ongoing research, continue to tout the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of Biblical discipline and wisdom. Even the most irreligious researchers, and health advocates and professionals proclaim the healing, calming, and positive preventative maintenance practices of fasting and meditation. Research published by Harvard’s Chan School of Public health suggests that “a religious upbringing can profoundly help adolescents navigate the challenges of those years,” and “a religious upbringing contributes positively to a wide range of health and well-being outcomes later in life.” Multiple studies reveal the positive power of prayer, forgiveness and marital faithfulness (both emotionally and physically). Christian couples who serve together, stay together, pray together and mutually agree to support the church financially are generally healthier, have less conflict, and even live longer. Those who serve the poor and marginalized, and those Jesus called “the least of these my brothers,” suffer less from depression and anxiety. Nowhere have I found that loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself, has anything but positive effects - both in this healthier life and the next.