The Daniel Plan is based on five elements for lasting change that are found in John 8, Ephesians 4, and many other Bible passages:
1. Lasting change requires building my life on the truth.
One of the most famous statements of Jesus is John 8:31-32: “If you continue to obey my teaching, then you are truly my followers. And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (NCV). Jesus promises that the truth will make you free. But first, the truth is likely to make you miserable! We don’t like to face the truth about ourselves, our weaknesses, our bad habits, and especially our motivations. But until you face the truth about why you do what you do and get to the root of your habits, change is likely to be shallow and short-lived.
Too often, popular diet fads offer fast formulas, easy pills, and secret cures that supposedly will melt the fat away. By contrast, The Daniel Plan helps you to face the truth about yourself and your relationship to God, to food, to your purpose in life, and to other people. If you are looking for a quick fix, you can set this book down now. But if you want to build an authentically healthy life based on the truth of God, and you’re willing to be honest with God, yourself, and a few trusted friends, keep reading.
Nothing will change permanently until you dig down to the bedrock of truth about your life and God’s purpose for it. This book is an introduction to get you started on the right pathway, but the journey will take the rest of your life.
2. Lasting change requires making wise choices.
Everyone wants to be healthy, but very few people choose to be healthy. It takes more than desire or a dream to get healthy … it takes a decision. You won’t change until you choose to change. You don’t get healthy by accident. It’s intentional. It’s a choice. Actually, it’s a lifetime of choices, but it begins with a decision.
As a pastor I have met many people who were praying for God to heal illnesses and sicknesses that could easily be reversed if they simply made healthier choices. Why should God heal you of an obesity-related illness if you have no intention of changing the choices that led to it? God is waiting on you to start making healthy choices. So if you have been waiting for sign, this is it!
As you make more and more healthy choices, you will begin to change: “Get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to—the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self, which is created in God’s likeness” (Ephesians 4:21-24 TEV).
3. Lasting change requires new ways of thinking.
The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel determines the way you act. If you want to change how you act, you must begin by changing the way you think. Your thoughts are the autopilot of your life.Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (NLT). The biblical word for changing your mind is “repentance.” To repent is to make a mental U-turn. I choose to focus my thoughts in a completely different direction. This new mind-set creates new emotions, which give me motivation to change.
Let me ask you a personal question: What old ways of thinking do you need to change? Where do you need to repent? Have you held on to some self-destructive ideas about food, about your body, about sex, or about work that have harmed your health? To get healthy, you’ll need to repent of unhealthy choices. You’ll need to think differently about your body—and every other area of your life too. Philippians 2:5 says,“Have the same mind-set as Christ Jesus.” The way you do this is by filling your mind with the Bible, God’s truth.
In The Daniel Plan, you will learn some new thinking skills, such as learning to replace negative thoughts rather than resisting them. Whatever you resist, persists. The more you fight a feeling, the more it controls you. The secret of victory over any temptation is simply to change the channel of your mind. Refocus your attention on something else, and the temptation immediately loses its power over you.
4. Lasting change requires God’s Spirit in your life.
I have already mentioned that you need God’s power, not just willpower, to change.
God’s Holy Spirit helps us break free from bad habits, compulsions, and addictions. Since he offers to help, it would be foolish to not take advantage of it. Galatians 5:18 asks, “Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?”(MSG).
The more I allow God’s Spirit to guide and empower me, the more he grows positive character qualities in my life to replace my bad habits. The Bible calls these qualities the Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 gives a list of them: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Note that last quality: self-control. You already know how important that one is and the damage that happens when you don’t have it. But what most people don’t know is that the secret of self-control is to allow ourselves to be Spirit-controlled.
This is the exact opposite of what most people think. Ask someone on the street, “What do you think of when I use the phrase ‘Spirit-filled’ or ‘Spirit-controlled’?” and typically people will describe someone acting out of control. But the Bible says that the more I allow God’s Spirit to direct and guide me, the more self-controlled I become! As the apostle Paul said, “For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13 NLT). Only a Bible-based program like The Daniel Plan can offer this promise.
5. Lasting change requires honest community.
Here’s the reality: Some of your habits and patterns and behaviors are so deeply ingrained that you will never be able to uproot and replace them on your own. You have probably tried to change many times and have failed to maintain the changes. If you could change these tough areas by yourself, you would have already done so. But some habits are so strong, we must team-tackle them together.
Actually, this is a good thing, because it forces us to recognize our need for each other. It’s part of God’s plan. We were created to live in community. We are designed by God for relationships. The very first thing God said to mankind was “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God hates loneliness. So he made us to need each other.
The deepest changes in your life will only happen as you open up to a few trusted friends who will support you and check up on you. You don’t need a legalistic schoolmaster, but you do need some friends who will meet with you regularly as a small group. At Saddleback church we have more than 32,000 people meeting weekly in more than 7,000 small groups, so I speak with confidence in telling you that if you are serious about making lasting changes in your life, the best and most effective way to do it is with the support of others. At Saddleback church, when 12,000 people lost more than 250,000 pounds, we discovered that those connected to a small group lost twice as much as those who tried to do the program on their own.