Lent starts this Wednesday (9th March) and continues through to Easter Sunday (24th April). It is traditionally a time when people deny themselves something as a way of preparing to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. The 40 days of lent is also reminiscent of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness: a time of preparation for his ministry. Over the years I wonder whether the act of denial has become seen as the end in itself rather than the means, or doorway, to something greater. People will give up chocolate, meat, social networking sites, a particular TV show, cream puddings and the rest. But why? What for?
In the Christian Faith denial is never seen as an end in itself. Such a faith doesn’t work. We end up with a life defined by a series of negatives: don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t swear etc. That’s a far cry from the abundance of life, and the adventure of faith, that Jesus called us to.
Christian denial (a fast) is driven by desire. A desire for something more, something greater. I deny myself that, in order to gain this. I let go of that, in order to take hold of this. So, what do you desire to gain; what do you long to take hold of; in what area of your life do you seek to grow and mature?
Here are three very different disciplines for lent. One will improve your prayer life, another your listening to God and another your acts of service. Maybe choose one. To do any of them you will need to deny yourself something, possibly several things. The focus, though, is not what you give up. The focus is what you desire to become.
I desire to pray more richly:
24/7 prayer are providing an excellent help for this lent called Prayer Spaces with a video blog everyday to.
I desire to listen to God through his Word more carefully:
I desire to serve God to more faithfully
This is a great calendar of ways to serve from MarsHill Church, Grand Rapids. Obviously some of the things will be less appropriate in our UK context or have a UK equivalent but the idea is great.
Give up something this Lent for sure. But be certain to know why.