This week sees the start of lent (on Wednesday, after Pancake feast Tuesday) and so often in Christian circles Lent is seen at a second attempt at our new year’s Resolutions. Diet not going well? Never fear, just give up sweets for Lent. Not being as productive as you like? Time to say goodbye to Facebook for Lent. And there is nothing wrong with those acts. But I’m sure you know lots of people who make a big deal about what they have given up for Lent. If someone is giving up Facebook for Lent they tend to post a few statuses in advance to warn people, and then they like to drop it into conversations throughout Lent (at least until they fail and log back on…). But Jesus says that when we fast “Don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, who try to look pale and dishevelled so people will admire them for their fasting. I assure you, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will ever suspect you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in secret. And your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18.
Don’t make a big song and dance if you are giving something up for Lent. And remember the purpose of Lent isn’t to give you a second shot at your New Year’s resolution. The point is to have a period of focus on God, setting aside time for Him in remembrance of the time Jesus spent in the desert prior to starting His earthly ministry. To do that it may be helpful for you to give something up for a period of time, but giving something up by itself isn’t enough. Giving up TV shows won’t by itself enable you to draw closer to God. But using that time to read the Bible more will. It’s not so much about what you give up, but what you take up. Or about how you redeem what you are doing – for example using Facebook to share encouraging scripture with friends. Or using twitter as inspiration to pray for the people in your timeline rather than just tweeting your love for celebrities that don’t know you exist.
Here are some ideas of other things you could take up for Lent as we seek to draw closer to God our Father:
- Read an extra devotional – The Purpose Driven Life is conveniently split into 40 chapters. There are also these three good books I’ve heard about Reflections, A Spiritual Kick Up The Backside, and This One Time At Bible Camp… And with Amazon Kindle or iBooks you still have time to get one before Lent starts and have it with you on your phone all through Lent.
- In the car stick on a worship CD rather than the radio and use your journeys for praise time.
- Reverse fast – invite some friends round for a meal, pray and have fellowship over some good food.
- Walk (or run) around your neighbourhood praying for the people you see rather than binging on DVD boxsets.
What ideas do you have? How are you going to strive to grow closer to God this Lent?