Lent | Are we idolizing the “giving-up” or the Giver of Life?

Rick WarrenThe 40-days of Lent began a week ago today. I realize I am late with this post. My calendar has been jammed packed with lots of good things. I was hoping to get this out last Wednesday, and was disappointed I had missed my personal goal. However, I believe there is a reason for everything and this post might be timely after all.

We are a week into trying to follow through on our commitment to “give-up” {fill in the blank}. How is it going? Is it getting harder to commit? Have you been tempted? Have others given you a hard time for your diligence? 

It is usually about a week in when I struggle. I crave the chocolate and can’t stand it anymore thinking a little bite won’t hurt. No one will know.

Facebook was very active last week with my friends stating what they planned to give up. Some warned us that they were not going to be on Facebook for the 40-days, and that if we wanted to reach them, we would have to use actual email instead of Messenger. Oh, how times have changed!

I have prayed in preparation for this Lenten Season asking God to show me how I should observe this time. It often becomes a time of silence and reflection, a drawing in and a drawing closer to Christ.

Up until Ash Wednesday, I had been puzzled as to what I should yield In His Name, an emptying of “me” so that I can more fully be filled with Him. Nothing I have seems right. Nothing I crave seems right. Nothing can possibly be enough. He did so much for me. How can I possibly do enough for Him?

But, then I remember. It isn’t about doing anything. He hasn’t asked me to do anything for Him. He has offered me a Gift of His Love and asks me to take His gift with hands extended, knees bowed, and with a repentant heart, mind and spirit.

According to the Scriptures, the 40-days Jesus spent in the desert preceded his 3 years of ministry on Earth. He spent 40-days fasting, praying and intimately connecting with His Father, all the while being tempted to sin by Satan. Jesus had been led to the desert by the Holy Spirit in order to prepare for what was to come.

Ultimately, Jesus knew that his life would end on a cross – denied by those who professed to love him, humiliated and mocked, beaten and spat on. Jesus knew what was coming. Death. His body on a cross for us. For you. For me.

How can my “giving-up” something even compare?

But, you see, we are being asked to give up something not because it can somehow compare to what he gave for us. We are being asked to give up something as a reminder of how the state our hearts, minds and souls should be when we commit to a life in Christ.

Imagine with me for a second the posture you take when giving up something. I see open hands, a leaning into the other person. a letting go, a yielding and acceptance that this thing, person, idea whatever it is, is no longer your own. You have come to a place of acceptance and humility where you can freely give it away.

Are you there? Are you feeling free in your “giving-up” here in this season of Lent? Or, are you begrudging the practice and dreading that moment when you will crave chocolate?

If you are begrudging this time, or gloating about what you are “giving-up” to your friends, then, folks, you are missing the entire point! We are not to gloat about the “sacrifice” we are making. We dishonor Him and the entire purpose of this season when we do this. These 4o days are between you and Him. And, forgive me for saying this, but I do not agree with using Lent as a time to cut out some tempting food in hopes that you will lose some weight.

Let us not dishonor Christ by misusing this time. Giving up a food item, or TV or FB can be very worthwhile, if, when you feel the temptation, you go to the Lord in prayer with a spirit of humility and repentance. We can use those hunger pains as a reminder to draw close to him.

This step, drawing close to Christ in prayer and communion, is crucial and without it we are dishonoring him and idolizing the “giving-up” and not the Giver of Life.

Ask the Lord to lead you to a place of true repentance. Imagine yourself kneeling at His feet, head bowed, hands open and ask Him, “Lord, what do you want me to give up so that I can draw closer to You?”

You might be surprised by His answer!

You see, just like Jesus in the desert, we can utilize this time of Lent to prepare our hearts, minds and souls for what is to come in our own lives. He is calling us to God-sized dreams. He is calling us to use our time, talents, and gifts to serve Him. In order for His light to shine through us, we must become empty of our “selves” and be filled with His Spirit.

I know many of you are being called to do something for Christ that is totally out of your comfort zone. I know, because I am experiencing it and I am talking to many who are right there with me.

If you need encouragement to follow Him and pursue the “God-sized dream” that He is calling you to, you need to go no further than Jennie Allen’s book “Restless”. I am reading it now.

Why not use this season to idolize the Giver or Life, the Giver of God-sized Dreams? Let us be careful that the efforts we put forth to give up something, whatever it is, not become our idol. I would be very easy to focus our attention on the discipline it takes to give something up rather than on the One who gave up everything for us. The practice of giving-up something is a good one if we are diligent in the using it the way it was intended.

May your Lenten season be filled with peace, silent moments with God the Father, and maybe even a few surprises along the way.

With love,

jana

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8 thoughts on “Lent | Are we idolizing the “giving-up” or the Giver of Life?

  1. I don’t know much about Lent, as I wasn’t raised to practice it. But, I, too, have had some of these same thoughts. After I read your post, I thought…

    “She’s so brave! She’s obedient!! I’m SO proud of her!!!”

    And, I am :-) xoxo.

  2. Jana, so much to reflect on…I feel especially so with this being the first time I’ve ever participated in Lent. And even though it’s only my first time, I don’t see how we can make it only about what we are giving up. I know I could not be even attempting giving up this eating disorder of mine without the “giver of life.” I need Him…more and more of Him.
    Thank you for your beautiful thought-provoking words.
    Much love,
    Beth

  3. I never cease to be amazed by the clarity in which God reveals Himself! Markese and I had been really racking our brains about Lent season…what to give up, how to do it etc. He revealed so clearly that for us, He wanted not for us to give (fill in the blank) up, just to give Him more of ourselves! More time in prayer, in fasting, more of our hearts, more of our service. I read your post and laughed out loud at His confirmation. Thanks Jana, I appreciate your heart.

  4. This ~> “Jesus had been led to the desert by the Holy Spirit in order to prepare for what was to come.” This line just bowled me over. This is such a time of reflection and hope! I’m grateful for your words, Jana, and especially for you. xo

    • Thank you, friend. Jesus was human, just like we are, and needed time to prepare himself just like we do. He sets the example for us. That is what I love most about him. To see his humanness revealed to me in Scripture, makes becoming Christ-like seem possible. xo, jana

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