The Forty Days of Lent
Forty days is a significant period of time throughout the Bible. Noah spent forty days and nights in the ark while the rain flooded the earth. Moses spent forty days on Mt. Sinai before receiving the Ten Commandments. Twelve spies from Israel spent forty days surveying the Promised Land. David endured the challenge of Goliath for forty days before killing the giant. Elijah spent forty days fasting after his encounter with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. Jonah spent forty days calling for repentance in Ninevah. The disciples were transformed by the forty days Jesus spent with them after His resurrection. And, of particular relevance to Lent, Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness right after his baptism and just before launching His public ministry.
How will you spend the forty days of Lent? May I suggest several dimensions of Lent worth considering.
1) Lent is an invitation to get back to the basics. God issues the invitation to His people to return to Him; to remember His love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
2) Lent is an acknowledgment that all is not well on planet earth, nor in our lives either for that matter. Sin is the problem, and the other problem is that we don’t think sin is a problem. We also affirm that God has done something about this through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.
3) Lent is a gift. We are all given seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years. Lent is a time to make time for Jesus, to give Jesus the time of day. Lent is a time to step out in faith, trusting Him more. Lent is a time to wait on the Lord, seeking Him more. Lent is a time to rest on His promises, experiencing His faithfulness more.
4) Lent is a warning against hypocrisy, focusing on externals rather than on the internal motivations of our lives. We all need a conversion of the heart, not merely a change in external behavior. The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.
5) Lent is a question to consider. Usually the question is what I will give up for Lent with typical answers being such things as chocolate, alcohol, desert, or smoking. On a bit deeper level, we may want/need to give up such things as gossip, lust, gluttony, criticism, or bitterness. It also may be that we need to ask what God wants to do in us this Lent. Am I willing to let God do that work in me? What will I take on during Lent in the spiritual disciplines of worship, study, prayer, fellowship, and service to others?
I’m praying that the forty days of Lent this year might be a significant period of spiritual growth for each of us.