Recently, we have been talking about Lent at church. Growing up in Ireland, it is a word or practice that is not uncommon to me. I must admit I have never gone 40 days with out anything! But as the days build up to Easter, I have been thinking about what it might mean for us. What is the first thing that we think of when we think about Lent? Usually, it means to go without something…but for what exactly? What is our motive or aim in doing this? Is it to draw closer to God, it is to try and understand more about Him and ourselves? Is it for a personal accomplishment? Is it to lose weight? (Don’t tell me that that never crossed your mind as the days before lent you stuffed your face with every junk food imaginable!) Does God call us to participate in it? We do read a lot about fasting in the Bible and I encourage you to seek them out too, as I do believe it is something that helps us to be intentional in knowing and seeking the Lord.
So this whole going without thing? Is it just food? Is it from certain past times? Watching Netflix? Reading a good mystery book? God forbid, don’t say it…. Social Media!!!! I guess that is up to you to decide and if the whole point of going without is to be intentional in using that time to be more mindful of God, it is probably going to be the thing that has the most strong hold on you or takes up most of your time (or thought life!). I suppose it isn’t suppose to be easy. In fact, its going to be really tough and we are going to have some weak moments. For this post, I want us to have a little think about what happens to us during that time of going without and to also take a look at Jesus’ example to us in this.
Last week I showed a clip to the church called Becoming Weaker. In it, we hear of this man share his thoughts on our own weakness and powerlessness. We hear about how life comes from surrender and that we cannot do it on our own, we need a Saviour in fact. We are reminded that our powerlessness, our fragility is not an evil but can be used to connect with God and with others around us too. It is an experience of vulnerability and how being vulnerable requires that honesty to say I need help! This clip might makes us question if brokenness or weakness is really a bad thing, or is it something good, if it draws us closer to a very powerful God. This video clip also reminds me of the verses of 2 Cor 12.9 and 10 where it says:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore (Paul says) I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Indeed the Bible is filled with passages about brokenness and I encourage you to seek them out too! However, as I was thinking about the subject of weakness, I began to think of Jesus’ example to us in this. Jesus was fully God and man, and in his humanity, we see a glimpse into his physical weakness, such as when He was forty days in the desert. As we were saying before lent can be a time where we go without, so that we aren’t distracted by some of the things around us or in our lives. And this is a little of what we see here as Jesus removes himself to be alone, and He goes for forty days without food. (I can barely go half a day without food, and thinking that I’m going to die of hunger!) In Matthew 4.1-11, we read about this time in the wilderness and it gives us a picture of what Jesus faced and did during that time of physical weakness.
Here we are told that Jesus was fasting for 40 days and nights. He was hungry and there was certainly not the distraction of the crowds like he might have been used to. You can imagine the physical weakness one might have felt without food to give them energy. During this time, we hear of Jesus being tempted several times. First to make the stones turn to bread to satisfy that hunger. Second to throw Himself off and see if God would save Him. And lastly, He was tempted with power and wealth if He was to worship Satan and not God. Even as Jesus was fasting, there was still the temptation to distract himself from God. In that weakness, we could be tempted to satisfy that hunger, to test God or even to worship something else other than God. But as we look to Jesus’ perfect example, what did He do in his physical weakness? Two things especially stood out to me. He responded by getting past the physical needs that Satan was concerned with and as Jesus usually did he got to the point- the things that really are important. He tells Satan that ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ That food may satisfy our needs momentarily but it is God’s words of truth that satisfy us! And to live by them! It is nourishing and it sustains us in our walk with the Lord.
The second thing that stood out to me, was when He was tempted to worship Satan who promised him temporary things of this world-power, wealth being some of them. But Jesus saw beyond the lies of those deceitful promises. He said ” You shall worship the Lord our God and him you shall only serve.” Jesus pointed to the one who was worthy of our worship. He knew that worshipping another would not lead to being filled or satisfied. He knew it wouldn’t be lasting. But He knew what was everlasting. And as we see here, even in a physical weakness, it drew Him to God. He knew of what was really important in life, despite the distraction or the temptation to get caught up in other things. In this, we can learn that in our weakness, we can go to the source of truth, power and meaning and be fulfilled through the one who is worthy of our worship! That in our powerlessness and fragility, we need God, we need a Saviour!
So with that in mind, what is lent? It is going without, trying to get away from the things that distract us from what’s most important- spending time with God. So whether, its an hour, a day, a week or even forty days that you have put aside, go to that place where you can find nourishment and fulfilment in Him. What will happen to you during that time? You will probably become weaker… you will face the temptations to satisfy that temporary need or to give your time to another. But in your weakness, you can rely on the Lord’s strength to help you! What do you do in this time? You worship the one who is worthy of your time, energy, mind and strength!
And what would be some of the things that would be difficult for me to give up…. Coffee and Chocolate. This is probably what I would look like on like Day2 of 40!