Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

April 5, 2014

What are you giving up for Lent?

Chuck Tabor Times-Gazette
Greensburg Daily News

---- — Normally, as a pastor in a non-liturgical tradition, I have not ever made too much of the season of the church year in which we find ourselves presently – Lent. But at its core, Lent is the holiday season of preparation for the sacrifice and ultimate victory of Christ over sin and over death. It is the season where we as followers of Christ attempt to draw closer to Christ by sacrificing the indulging in those things which may stand between us and Christ. It is a time for us to consider what we should give up for a season, since Christ gave up his whole life for us.

For the past four years, Stephen Smith has been tracking Twitter to get a picture of what people say they are giving up for Lent. It’s a fascinating glimpse into American spirituality. Here’s the top ten list (in order) of things Americans say they gave up for Lent: Twitter, chocolate, swearing, alcohol, soda, Facebook, fast food, sex, sweets, and meat. The top 100 list also included some interesting items which got votes on this list. People also said that for Lent they would give up school, you, religion, stuff, breathing, Starbucks, sarcasm, men, being mean, being nice, and yes, even Lent.

You know, in reality, Lent should not be remembered as a time of giving up anything. Our thoughts at this time of the year should not be about giving up things in order to draw closer to Christ, but to draw closer to Christ in order to be more like Christ. Now you may say that I am just talking semantics, but there is a great difference in what we prioritize here. God calls you and me to become more and more like Jesus Christ every day we are on earth. Our number one desire should be to become more intimate with Him with each passing moment.

Driving down the road the other day, I saw a farmer out in his field on his tractor, plowing the ground in eager anticipation for what the future would bring. Having spent much of my life in rural or semi-rural areas, even though I am not a farmer nor the son of a farmer, I know that this excitement over the arrival of spring is not unusual. Having spent the long winter cooped up and only able to prepare for spring, farmers all around the area are chomping at the bit to get their fields in order for spring planting. They can hardly wait. The land has been dormant for so long and the time to get going and growing is upon us.

One writer refers to the season of Lent as the thaw between winter and spring, a time of preparation. The long cold winter is past; the fresh new excitement of spring is upon us. This is the season where we are invited to prepare the soil of our lives for growth.

Asa was the king of Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, at a time in their history when things in the nation were particularly bad. The people had abandoned God, and the climate of the culture was one of moral perversity and depravity. But Asa wanted to lead his nation down the right path, and sought the direction of the Lord in doing so. At just the right moment, in the thaw between the winter and springtime of their souls, the prophet Azariah came to Asa with a message from God Himself: “The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” (2 Chronicles 15:2).

Now one of the main thoughts here is that Azariah was challenging his people to directly and intentionally pursue a relationship with God. He was pointing them to the way to prosperity and success in life and his message was clear: “You cannot expect to live your life in your own strength and somehow come to the end of it and think that you will perhaps, maybe even because you have lived a ‘good’ life, be found acceptable in the sight of God. There is no such thing as stumbling and bumbling your way through life and accidentally finding God in the process.” No, Azariah was pointing out tha God is there for the finding, if we will make it our purpose and intent in life to find Him.

We see this throughout scripture. The challenge for us is to consistently seek the Lord and we are then promised that we will find Him. Jesus chose 12 “disciples” to intentionally follow and learn from Him. That is exactly what James meant when he wrote “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you!” (James 4:8).

If we seek Him, we will find Him.

As you and I thaw out from the long cold winter, let us also not neglect to prepare the soil of our hearts for the growth and intimacy of becoming more like Christ, by first of all, seeking Him with eagerness and anticipation for being found by Him.

God bless…

Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette, Hillsboro, Ohio