These forty days of Lent. In our heavily scheduled lives, it’s easy to overlook these forty days and go straight to Easter. However, you can’t get to Easter without going through Calvary. There is pain in the offering, but the reward is great: salvation!
So what can we do with these forty days to make them meaningful in our spiritual journey? For one thing, we can fast or engage in self-denial. Why? Because Jesus fasted!
Matthew 4:1-3 (The Message):
Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights.
So when we fast, or deny ourselves sweets, snacks, TV, etc., we are actively taking up our cross and following Him. That’s ultimately what our faith journey requires: imitating Jesus. Jesus taught us how to live, taught us how to pray, and paid the price for our sins to give us the gift of salvation.
At The Foot Of The Cross (Ashes To Beauty), by Kathryn Scott
“At the foot of the cross
Where grace and suffering meet
You have shown me your love
Through the judgment you received”
What an incredible gift! But there had to be preparation. There had to be suffering. There had to be sacrifice. We can use these forty days to prepare. Prepare through self-denial. Prepare through giving. Prepare through service. Prepare through prayer. When you prepare for something, do you just keep doing what you normally do? No! If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got. These forty days give us an opportunity to make tangible changes in how we will prepare for Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection.
1. Give up sweets
2. Give up dessert
3. Give up snacks between meals
4. Give up meat on certain days
5. Participate in serve days
6. Do something to help someone else every day, and hold yourself to it
7. Carve time out of each day for quiet time with God, and put it in your calendar
8. On each day, write down one way God has blessed you. By Easter, you will have a list of 40 things you are thankful for.
It will be easy to say, “I don’t have time today, I’ll pick it up tomorrow.” It will be easy to be distracted or tempted. Refuse to allow yourself to be tempted by whatever has a hold on you, just as Jesus did in the wilderness:
From Matthew 4 (The Voice):
Devil: If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.
Jesus (quoting Deuteronomy): 4 It is written, “Man does not live by bread alone. Rather, he lives on every word that comes from the mouth of the Eternal One.”
Devil: 6 If You are the Son of God, jump! And then we will see if You fulfill the Scripture that says,
He will command His heavenly messengers concerning You,
and the messengers will buoy You in their hands
So that You will not crash, or fall, or even graze Your foot on a stone.[b]
Jesus: 7 That is not the only thing Scripture says. It also says, “Do not put the Eternal One, your God, to the test.”
Devil: 9 If You bow down and worship me, I will give You all these kingdoms.
Jesus: 10 Get away from Me, Satan. I will not serve you. I will instead follow Scripture, which tells us to “worship the Eternal One, your God, and serve only Him.”
Lent is difficult. It is difficult to stay the course. It is difficult to know that you have to arrive at Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Once again, you can’t get to Easter, except through Calvary. It would be nice to skip all the pain, suffering, and sacrifice. It would be nice to not have to prepare. But then we wouldn’t be imitating Jesus, would we? We wouldn’t be following Him.
The River, by Garth Brooks:
“There's bound to be rough waters
And I know I'll take some falls
But with the good Lord as my captain
I can make it through them all”
There it is. There is what we need to know. We are not on this journey alone. We are following Jesus. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Yes we have gone astray, and still do, but it is through Christ that we can maintain a relationship with God.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
The victory is won!
Tom Remely grew up in Bethlehem and currently resides in Lower Nazareth. Tom is a member of First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem and plays in the Oasis Band at contemporary services. He is married to Shawn Remely and has two children, Katie Remely and Bryan Remely. Tom is a computer technology teacher and soccer coach at Nazareth Area Middle School.