Lent: What Is It Good For?
The days of Lent are marked as a time of faith-filled meditation, fasting, and repentance from Ash Wednesday (today) until Easter. With Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection in full view, observers, in a sense, put a real focus on waging war against their human desires that may be contrary to God’s Word.
For 40 days and nights (not counting Sundays), Christians around the world take on a mantle of spiritual discipline as a way of deepening their faith in God. Observing Lent looks different for every believer, though fasting is usually a major factor. Some choose to fast in the traditional way, giving up a meal or certain types of foods. Others, after evaluating their lifestyle, determine to give up luxuries in order to focus more on their walk with our Heavenly Father, such as turning off the television or radio for Lent or cutting back on their sleep to devote the early morning hours to prayer and Scripture reading.
The options are endless. The important thing is to be obedient to the moving of the Holy Spirit and follow through on exercising self-control in the area God is touching His finger on in your life. Whatever you decide to give up make sure you are in line with what the Bible says about fasting. In the book of Matthew, we are encouraged to fast in “secret”.
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18ESV)
Be careful that your motivation for fasting, and observing Lent for that matter, is to honor God and not to stoke your self-righteousness.
Just as the Son of Man resisted sin in the wilderness, purpose in your heart to remain steadfast during this time of consecration to God. Temptations come each day and will continue through this season, as it did during Christ’s wilderness testing, as recorded in the New Testament book of Mark.
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the Good News of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the Good News.” (Mark 1:12-15 NRSV)
The Bible records many times when Jesus went away by himself and focused his attention on His Father, in Heaven. Lent is a set aside time for us to do the same. As we fast and meditate on God’s Word, take hold of Joel 2.
Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. (Joel 2:12-13 NRSV)
Fasting is an integral part of observing Lent. For us, our self-pleasing nature will wage against our desire to deny ourselves. Stay strong to the calling you have in this season. God’s blessings are greater than the momentary pleasures we are giving up.
Mourning is part of the process as we remember Jesus’ death on the Cross, but it’s also a joyous time as we reflect on His resurrection. Our joy is found in Him. Let that be the lesson we all learn during this time of consecration.
Lent, what is it good for? Absolutely everything… that matters.
God’s goodness is better than what our human minds and hearts could ever imagine.