The Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday every year and marks forty days leading up to Easter—the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus. Lent is usually a time when we fast, pray, reflect, and exercise discipline. Lent is also usually a time when we give up something for the forty days leading up to Easter. Some people may give up chocolate; some people may give up meat; others may give up television; and, still there are some who may go even further and decide to give up some bad habit for the forty days leading up to Easter. What have you decided to give up during the Lenten season?
I think it is a good idea to give up certain things during the Lenten season; however, I think it is even better to take the discipline even further after Lent. If giving up something (i.e., sweets, alcohol, meat, smoking, etc.) will make your life better, why not continue the discipline even after Lent? In the first century, when Jesus was in Capernaum, he spoke to his disciples and said, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. If your foot causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. And, if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell…” (Mark 9:43-48).
Now, let me say this, the passage that I quoted from above is full of metaphorical language; so, please make sure that you don’t cut off any limbs. However, what Jesus is saying is that sometimes things have to be removed from our lives in order for us to walk (live) into the fullness of God’s peace, love, and joy. Whenever we are making major changes, it is always hard in the beginning; but there is an abundance of benefits in the end. Therefore, let me ask you again: What have you decided to give up during the Lenten season? And, let me encourage you to move beyond just giving something (i.e., some bad habit) up for Lent; and, give it up for a lifetime—if it will make your life better.
Finally, as you contemplate what changes you need to make in your life for Lent and beyond, remember that ancient proverb in the Hebrew Bible that says, “For a just person falls seven times, and rises up again.” In the words of the late singer Aaliyah, “If at first you don’t succeed; dust yourself off and try again.”
In Christ Our Lord,
Pastor Michael L. Sloan