By Joel A. Hess –
Well, here it comes again. Lent. I used to say that this was my favorite time of year. It should be for a pastor, right? It’s time to get serious about the faith. Get back to basics. Restore the Roar. Those are just a some of our eye-popping, life-changing Lenten themes you have probably seen at various churches as if the perfect theme name will get people excited about coming to church. And of course, there are the Rs: Repent, renew, reflect, rediscover, rejuvenate, rehearse, rehash, regurgitate, blah blah blah.
This New Year’s resolution sort of Christianity doesn’t work for me anymore. I’m tired of pulling ears to get people to be more committed, more faithful, more knowledgeable, more strong. I’m tired of waving my hands and jumping up and down about how important it is to get fit as a Christian! Frankly, I hate to say it, but I’m tired of encouraging people to pray more, read Scripture more, etc. More, More, More!
This year, I have discovered that whether I mean to or not, Lent often seems focused on us! The Church looks more like a spiritual Planet Fitness. Do these things and you will be happier, stronger, more confident in everyday life.
Indeed, good Christian habits are good, right, and salutary. But at the end of each season, I feel more defeated than accomplished.
I suppose that’s right where my Lord wants me, and you. At the end of my rope, or on the ropes. The three Ds of Lent: defeated, deflated, destroyed.
Yet, there at the bottom of the barrel, my focus finally becomes crystal clear: I see Jesus. Helpless, He helps me. Dead, He awakens me. Empty, He fills me up. The more I see my weakness, the more I rejoice in His strength.
That is the point of Lent, after all, or really any season of the Church. Her focus is always Jesus. The work of Christ’s Church is never to make us stronger, but to reveal God’s more than sufficient strength. I actually pray the members of my church don’t find themselves stronger Christians on Easter at all! But instead they discover the might of Jesus’ mercy, the strength of His steadfastness, and the peace of His righteousness.
Before my Judge, the growth of my good deeds and good habits counts for nothing.
Before Satan, the power of my spiritual discipline is powerless.
Before death, the might of my faith is of absolutely no comfort.
Yet before all these, I have refuge in the Lord! His cross covers my sins. His Words scatter the darkness. His holy meal heals my shame. His breath fills my eternal lungs and will piece together one day my resurrected face.
But He said to me,
My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. For when I am weak then I am strong!” I Corinthian 12:9-10
So relax this Lent. Sure, give a shot at growing in some healthy disciplines, but don’t despair when you fail. And you will. It ain’t about you. It ain’t up to you. It’s all about Jesus! He’s strong enough, faithful enough, loving enough for us all!
Happy Lent, Hallelujah!