Ask someone what he might be doing for Lent, and you’ll likely get responses along the lines of: “I’m giving up Facebook” or “I’m giving up eating chocolate.”
Granted, these may be noble notions on their own, but people – young and old – often get too caught up in what they might be “giving up” for Lent instead of why they are doing it.
We know that Lent is a solemn, reflective season that prepares us for Christ’s glorious resurrection at Easter. The forty days of Lent recall the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert resisting Satan’s temptations before starting his public ministry. During Lent, Christians are called to renew themselves through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (charity). Think of it as a spiritual tune-up.
“Solemn” and “reflective” does not have to mean miserable and depressed. Lent gives church leaders a wonderful opportunity to teach about sacrifice, and how these sacrifices can be pleasing to God. When we sacrifice in one area, we grow or make room in another; in the case of Lent we can make more room for God. Fasting is a perfect example: it’s less about what we are giving up (food) and more about how we are growing (in prayer).
“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
An avid cola drinker, for the past 15 years or so I have proudly proclaimed that I am giving up pop for Lent. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that simply sacrificing pop wasn’t enough – God was challenging me to do much more. To spend more time in prayer. To be a better steward of my resources. To be more generous. To be more empathetic. To be less selfish and more selfless. And to be more “present” to my wife and children.
As ministry leaders, we should pray for humility; that we can “die to ourselves” and instead set our hope on the living God. In doing so we recall the sacrifice He made for us on the cross.
So yes, I will once again give up drinking pop. But it’s admittedly only a small part of my Lenten plan to strengthen my relationship with God and with others.
I know that some people like to let everyone know what they’re sacrificing, whether it’s for accountability or for sympathy. Others may declare their Lenten promises to show people that they are actually doing something. That’s cool…and to use one of my favourite lines: I’m not here to judge.
I won’t be posting my Lenten promises and sacrifices here or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for the world to see. If you want to really know (for whatever reason) what I’m going to be doing for Lent, just ask me.
May we all use these next forty days to strengthen our relationships with our loved ones and with our loving God. May we all be come less selfish and more selfless. And may we all decrease so that He may increase.