Today is the beginning of Lent, a giving up, a setting aside of things for a time of seeking God more.
For 40 days, we set aside temporary desires.
I didn’t grow up in the tradition of Lent but I have grown to love this discipline of losing to gain.
I’m not losing to manipulate God but instead curbing my own appetites; setting aside my own stuff to hear more from Him and His desire for me.
This is a noisy culture with information coming at us from all directions. Our minds can be so overloaded with information and processing the day that we miss His still, quiet voice whispering to come away and hear from Him.
Dave shared a message on Sunday, “The Unlikely Way” and how the path of loss leads to the ways of life.
We don’t like to lose. We like to gain. Gain more wealth, prosperity, popularity and influence. We like to be heard, understood and have our way be the right way.
We like to have our plans and strategize how things should work out.
In Matthew 16: 22-26, Peter lets Jesus in on what he thinks is the right way.
Have you ever done that with Jesus? I have… I’ve had my brilliant plan of how things should go to benefit me and my desires. That is surely what God would want, right?
Yet Jesus says in response to Peter, “You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:23)
Our desires can be a stumbling block to what God wants to do in our lives.
God’s way for us is denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following the direction He lays out for us. At times that’s not pretty, easy or pleasant but it is the way He leads.
- Are we willing to deny ourselves?
- Are we willing to discipline our desires?
- Are we willing to lose in order to gain?
Lent isn’t about giving up to get what we want but giving up to gain more of Him.
- What am I willing to lose in order to gain?
- What area am I willing to discipline to follow in the direction He is leading?
Some might say, “If God wants you to give something up that keeps you from hearing Him, why not make it permanent?”
And maybe that will happen. God may use this time of giving up to instill a discipline that will last a lifetime. Maybe this will be a season of temporary giving up to make room for something God is speaking right now. He can use this time for stretching you in an area you can’t imagine right now but it will prepare you for what He has next.
God can call us to a season of giving up for a certain period of time. Even Jesus went into a time of giving up for 40 days… in fact the Spirit led Him there.
This period of giving up is an opportunity for stretching, growth and discipline.
And maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “I don’t know what to give up!”
There’s no real wrong answer to this. I find it to be very individualized and unique to each person. Here are some examples of what others have given up and why.
- Coffee/Sugar/Food – They were finding in moments of stress, they were finding solace and comfort in coffee/sugar/food instead of leaning into God’s promise and His word.
- Social media – Time was being eaten up in simply scrolling and reading the news of others instead of using that time on God’s purpose and plan for their moments.
- Sleep – For the period of 40 days, an extra hour of sleep was given up in order to spend that time in His word and prayer.
There are many individual examples of what people have given up in order to gain. There’s no set rule in this giving up. It’s more an examination of our own time, energy and processing methods. How do we spend our lives? Where can we give up and discipline desires to find more of Him?
For these next 40 days, let this be a challenge to us.
Set aside something of this life to gain more of the life God has for us.
This is an opportunity to step out of the comfortable, let Him stretch us in new ways and see where He takes us through this experience.
A prayer for us: Lord, for this time of giving up and being stretched, help us to discipline our desires. Let us not be a stumbling block to Your purpose and plan but may we get out of Your way, let You move in and change our lives. Help us find You in the quiet time we are setting aside and may we find that this path of loss, this path of giving up, leads us to Your way of life. In Jesus name, Amen.
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