Lent: What Is It Good For?
The days of Lent are marked as a time of faith-filled meditation, fasting, and repentance from Ash Wednesday (today) until Easter. With Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection in full view, observers, in a sense, put a real focus on waging war against their human desires that may be contrary to God’s Word.
For 40 days and nights (not counting Sundays), Christians around the world take on a mantle of spiritual discipline as a way of deepening their faith in God. Observing Lent looks different for every believer, though fasting is usually a major factor. Some choose to fast in the traditional way, giving up a meal or certain types of foods. Others, after evaluating their lifestyle, determine to give up luxuries in order to focus more on their walk with our Heavenly Father, such as turning off the television or radio for Lent or cutting back on their sleep to devote the early morning hours to prayer and Scripture reading.
The options are endless. The important thing is to be obedient to the moving of the Holy Spirit and follow through on exercising self-control in the area God is touching His finger on in your life. Whatever you decide to give up make sure you are in line with what the Bible says about fasting. In the book of Matthew, we are encouraged to fast in “secret”.
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18 ESV)
Be careful that your motivation for fasting, and observing Lent for that matter, is to honor God and not to stoke your self-righteousness.
Just as the Son of Man resisted sin in the wilderness, purpose in your heart to remain steadfast during this time of consecration to God. Temptations come each day and will continue through this season, as it did during Christ’s wilderness testing, as recorded in the New Testament book of Mark.
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the Good News of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the Good News.” (Mark 1:12-15 NRSV)
The Bible records many times when Jesus went away by himself and focused his attention on His Father, in Heaven. Lent is a set aside time for us to do the same. As we fast and meditate on God’s Word, take hold of Joel 2.
Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. (Joel 2:12-13 NRSV)
Fasting is an integral part of observing Lent. For us, our self-pleasing nature will wage against our desire to deny ourselves. Stay strong to the calling you have in this season. God’s blessings are greater than the momentary pleasures we are giving up.
Mourning is part of the process as we remember Jesus’ death on the Cross, but it’s also a joyous time as we reflect on His resurrection. Our joy is found in Him. Let that be the lesson we all learn during this time of consecration.
Lent, what is it good for? Absolutely everything… that matters.
God’s goodness is better than what our human minds and hearts could ever imagine.
Streams in the Desert – February 17
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
The land which I do give them, even the children of Israel (Joshua 1:2).
God here speaks in the immediate present. It is not something He is going to do, but something He does do, this moment. So faith ever speaks. So God ever gives. So He is meeting you today, in the present moment. This is the test of faith. So long as you are waiting for a thing, hoping for it, looking for it, you are not believing. It may be hope, it may be earnest desire, but it is not faith; for “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The command in regard to believing prayer is the present tense. “When ye pray, believe that ye receive the things that ye desire, and ye shall have them.” Have we come to that moment? Have we met God in His everlasting NOW?
–Joshua, by Simpson
True faith counts on God, and believes before it sees. Naturally, we want some evidence that our petition is granted before we believe; but when we walk by faith we need no other evidence than God’s Word. He has spoken, and according to our faith it shall be done unto us. We shall see because we have believed, and this faith sustains us in the most trying places, when everything around us seems to contradict God’s Word.
The Psalmist says, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living” (Ps. 27:13). He did not see as yet the Lord’s answer to his prayers, but he believed to see; and this kept him from fainting.
If we have the faith that believes to see, it will keep us from growing discouraged. We shall “laugh at impossibilities,” we shall watch with delight to see how God is going to open up a path through the Red Sea when there is no human way out of our difficulty. It is just in such places of severe testing that our faith grows and strengthens.
Have you been waiting upon God, dear troubled one, during long nights and weary days, and have feared that you were forgotten? Nay, lift up your head, and begin to praise Him even now for the deliverance which is on its way to you.
–Life of Praise
None but Jesus
By: Charles Sourgeon
“He that believeth on him is not condemned.” John 3:18
Suggested Further Reading: Acts 15:5-11
When I stand at the foot of the cross, I do not believe in Christ because I have got good feelings, but I believe in him whether I have good feelings or not.
“Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.”
Mr Roger, Mr Sheppard, Mr Flavell, and several excellent divines, in the Puritan age, and especially Richard Baxter, used to give descriptions of what a man must feel before he may dare to come to Christ. Now, I say in the language of good Mr Fenner, another of those divines, who said he was but a babe in grace when compared with them—“I dare to say it, that all this is not Scriptural. Sinners do feel these things before they come, but they do not come on the ground of having felt it; they come on the ground of being sinners, and on no other ground whatever.” The gate of Mercy is opened, and over the door it is written, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Between that word “save” and the next word “sinners,” there is no adjective. It does not say, “penitent sinners,” “awakened sinners,” “sensible sinners,” “grieving sinners,” or “alarmed sinners.” No, it only says, “sinners” and I know this, that when I come, I come to Christ today, for I feel it as much a necessity of my life to come to the cross of Christ today as it was to come ten years ago,—when I come to him, I dare not come as a conscious sinner or an awakened sinner, but I have to come still as a sinner with nothing in my hands.
For meditation: We have no more right to complicate the Gospel than we have to water it down. Feelings are good and proper, but Satan can use them not only to give false assurance of salvation, but also to make sinners feel too bad to obey the Gospel and come to Christ.
“We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 ESV
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Traditionally, this was the time each year when Christians set aside the forty days (not including Sundays) that lead up to Easter for prayer, reflection, and spiritual renewal. Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of putting ashes on the forehead to remind Christians of the importance of humility, that we are but dust.
Forty days symbolizes the time Jesus spent fasting and seeking God in the wilderness. Following His example, Christians were to dedicate this time to search their hearts, purify themselves, and seek God in a fresh way. Instead of focusing on spiritual renewal, many use this as an excuse for hedonistic revelry through events like Mardi Gras.
How much more important to remember all that Jesus did for us and reflect on our lives. We need to humble ourselves, be forgiven, and be reconciled to God.
We can rejoice that He remembers that “we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Allow God to search your heart and reveal any sin. If you have confessed your sins, you can be confident that you have been forgiven. How wonderful to be able to approach Him with a clean heart, freed from the burdens of sin and reconciled to Him!