To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1
As some of you may know, the season of Lent has begun. Lent is a 40-day period (not including Sundays) beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending the day before Easter Sunday. During this season, Christians from all over the world will be devoting themselves to a time of focused spiritual preparation. In a loud and busy world, many Christians find themselves becoming regularly distracted and spiritually complacent. However, Lent is meant to draw believers into a closer relationship with the Lord as they prepare to celebrate His victory over the grave. Though the Bible does not command us to observe Lent, I find this time to be a wonderful opportunity for spiritual growth and renewal. Not only can Lent help us get into the right mindset as we approach Easter Sunday, but it also allows us to better enjoy and appreciate its significance. So then, how can one begin to spiritually prepare during this Lenten season? Though there are numerous ways in which Christians can observe Lent, I would like to encourage you to commit to the spiritual disciplines of repentance and fasting.
One of the healthiest things you can do for your soul is commit to regular self-reflection and repentance. What is repentance? The word repentance comes from the Greek word metanoia which means to change one’s mind, and the Hebrew word shuv which means to change one’s course or to return. Thus, biblical repentance is the act of recognizing and relinquishing sin from your life so that you can receive God’s grace. However, repentance is more than just a feeling of remorse. For one to demonstrate true repentance, they must have godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10) and bear fruits worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:8). We mustn’t separate the two. Our hearts should break for the things that break God’s heart and our hearts should be evidenced through our actions. Though most Christians would rightly affirm the need for repentance for the unsaved, many fail to recognize the ongoing need in their own life. Many have come to the false misconception that repentance is a one time act performed at the moment of conversion. On the contrary, repentance should be the lifestyle of every believer. Your spiritual health depends on regular reflection (2 Corinthians 13:5). The most dangerous thing any man or woman could ever do is think they no longer need to repent. If a Christian stops repenting, they cease to be Christian. Take advantage of this season of self-reflection not only to become more aware of your own sinfulness, but to become more aware of the grace and goodness of God. As I have reflected on my own shortcomings and spiritual failures, I cannot help but boast in the mercy of our Lord. The cross is an invitation for repentant sinners to obtain a new and better life. Where in your life do you need to repent?
Additionally, fasting is another great discipline to focus on during this Lenten season. Though fasting is most commonly associated with denying oneself of food for an extended period of time, it can be broadened to other aspects of life. For example, many during Lent fast from things like soda, alcohol, caffeine, or other unhealthy eating or drinking habits. Or some have even given up things like television, social media, or some other form of entertainment as a way to commit more time to the Lord. This can also be helpful for those who may be unable to fast from food due to certain health conditions. However, what you fast from is not near as important as what you fast for. The purpose of fasting is to enable us to trust God more intimately as we rely on His provision through His Word and by His Spirit. God is our portion and our lives should be presented to Him as a willing and living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). When one commits themselves to a season of fasting, they obtain a greater understanding of what it means to find spiritual fulfillment in God. When Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days, He trusted that His Father would supply His needs. Likewise, when we fast, we follow Christ’s example and learn to depend on God. However, fasting is also a way in which God strengthens us and enables us to resist the temptation of sin. When we participate in a fast, we are also practicing the discipline of self-denial. Luke 9:23 states, “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’ ” Therefore, fasting is a practical way in which we can regularly adhere to Christ’s command to deny the lusts of the flesh and follow Him. Unfortunately, fasting is one of the most neglected spiritual disciplines in the church today. Despite it being vitally important and expected by Jesus (Matthew 6:16-18), many fail to do so. If you are one of these individuals, I would like to call you in love to repent and to fast.
Whether it is through self-reflection and repentance, fasting, personal Bible study, allowing for more quiet prayer time, or integrating a family devotional, my challenge to you is to draw closer to God this Lenten season. I pray that you would grow in your love and affection for Christ and that the Spirit would fall afresh on you. Do not let this season go to waste. Let this be the season where you experience and serve God like never before!