Welcome to the 40 holiest days of the year!During this time of the Church year, liturgies work their way toward Easter, looking at the last few days of Jesus’ earthly life, culminating in the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
This is also the time of the year when many people, Catholic, Protestant, and non-affiliated, give something up. It is time for the annual Lenten fast.
Now, most people give up something that is a vice: chocolate, drinking, smoking, soda. Small habits and choices that will have a significant impact on their physical lives.
Others give up things like television, movies, gaming, Facebook, Twitter. Major distractions from the world around us and the God we serve.
And that is all great. I love that idea. I have done it a few times myself. And, like many, I have failed. Just like my New Year’s Resolution, I have failed, time and again, to fast from the things that distract me from God.
So, I got to thinking: how can we make this work? How can we make Lent an even more positive and life-changing experience for those of us who participate? And I think I may have found something to help all of us out and create a more spiritual experience.
Instead of asking, “What am I going to give up for Lent?”, we should be asking, “What do I want to increase in my life?”.
Hear me out: let’s say that you want to pray more, or spend more time in your prayer room or prayer closet or whatever you have. Set that as your Lenten goal. Then, take a look at the things that you are doing that prevents you from spending more time in prayer.
Instead of focusing on the things we have to give up, focus on the things we want to increase. Whether it is something we want to do more of or a habit that we want to start. And then look at what needs to decrease.
For all of my doubters, let’s look at this from a biblical perspective.
At the beginning of his ministry, John the Baptist had crowds of followers. He would teach about the Messiah, preach about sin and repentance, and baptize people in the Jordan River and various bodies of water throughout Israel. Then came along his cousin, Jesus of Nazareth.
As we see from the Scriptures, Jesus’ ministry began to grow and exceed that of John the Baptist (which honestly should be expected from the Messiah). John’s disciples brought this to John’s attention, possibly complaining or even trying to antagonize John. However, John’s response is humble and full of discernment.
He tells his disciples, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven” (John 3:27; NLT). He then goes on to state that he is simply happy to hear the voice of the bridegroom, in this case Jesus, the bridegroom of the Church. And he tells them that he is very happy at the success Jesus is seeing.
Then comes the best phrase any Christian should know and live out in their lives: “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (John 3:30). The best translation for this verse, though, is, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (HCSB).
It is this idea I want us to carry into the Lenten season. Where do we want to see God increase in our lives? And what must decrease in order to make that happen?
Enjoy this Lent. Allow God to increase in your life. And may you be blessed this season.