Lent Challenge


Lent is coming up; it’s right around the corner (February 26th).  Have you decided what you’re giving up for Lent?  Should you even give something up for Lent?  Normally, I don’t.  The first time I even honored Lent was a few years ago as a challenge issued by my pastor.  His explanation of Lent was that we sacrifice something to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice for us. 

It wasn’t easy for me to choose what to give up that Lent, but this Lent the choice presented itself to me.  Quite honestly, I had no intention of participating until it was thrust into my lap.  And, as a fellow stone in the wall, I intend to do the same to you. 

Today, I want to challenge you to give up something for Lent that will bring good to others.  God wants us to be good to others. 
  1. Do to others as you would have them do to you.  Luke 6:31
  2. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  Matthew 5:45
  3. Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Romans 12:10
  4. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  John 15:12
  5. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" Matthew 25:40
Bible verses supporting this is God's desire


Why is this hard for us?  Why does the Bible have verse after verse about being kind to one another?  I have some ideas.  Let’s have some fun.  Take a moment.  Jot down a few reasons why you think we have a difficult time being GOOD to one another.  Then, come back when you’re ready to compare notes.  If yours are different than mine, I would love to hear about them.  Leave me a comment, drop me an email, send me a message on social media.  Okay, seriously, go on.  Get that piece of paper and pencil.  Why do we have a hard time being GOOD to each other?  Write down your thoughts.

Some of our best thoughts appear when pen and paper connect.

Let’s compare.  Here are a few reasons why I think we have a hard time being GOOD to each other:
  1. We're selfish.  We make decisions based solely on personal gain.  We spend a lot of time managing the way others perceive us so run out of time (and thoughtfulness) for others.  We think highly of ourselves, pride wins out over humility, and we fail to see varying perspectives.
  2. We judge others and the verdict is: they don't deserve our good.  They are mean; they wouldn't appreciate it anyway; they chose their situation; they are never good to me; they really hurt me.  

So did you come up with other reasons why we have a hard time being good to each other?  If so, please consider leaving a comment.  

Some of these validations, honestly, are really good ones.  I came up with the list, so obviously I’ve used some of them myself.  Likely even several times a day.  So, why should we even try to do GOOD for others? 

Because it’s the right thing.  It’s the golden rule.  It’s living life outwardly instead of inwardly.  It’s being a good human.  It’s about living a life bigger than yourself.  And, from a Christian standpoint, because God asks us to:

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.

As I read this verse, two questions arise that I attempt to answer here:  
  1.  “To whom is good due?”  My answer to this – everyone.  Jesus showed goodness to people who “didn’t deserve it,” by the social standards of His time.  Indeed, we’re urged to even show good to those who hate us (Romans 12:14).  In short, good is due to everyone.
  2. “When is it in my power to act?”  This question requires more introspection and is not as clear-cut as the first.  We must ask ourselves: 
    1. Am I capable of performing this action?
    2. Will it cause harm to me or someone else?
    3. Is it spiritually sound? 
    4. If you still are having difficulty answering this question, may I offer up my Two-Step Decision-Making post?  Ultimately, remember, God’s got this.  He’s in control.  He’s directing your path and your walls are continually before him regardless of the decision you make here.
As you’re considering what to give up for Lent, think of it in the framework of the verse above.  Will it bring good to others?  Is it in my power to do it?

You’re with me on this.  You’re ready to surrender some part of you that’s withholding good from others.  But how do you choose what that part of you is?  My guess: you already know.  You’re thinking of it right now.  You know exactly what part of you needs surrendering so others can benefit.  Don’t worry though, I’m not asking you to choose it right now.  If you have something whispering to you though, hold on to it.  Maybe even make note of it.  Because first, I’m going to walk you through what I am choosing to give up for Lent.

Honestly, it was not my original idea.  It came to me unexpectedly, as many of the best ideas do.  It was in an email from Proverbs 31 Ministries in their weekly devotional round-up.  Confession time: I do not read every devotional; I probably only read 10% of them.  But I read this one (link), and it punched me in the gut.  Immediately, I knew I had to take action. 

In the devotional, “When You Need a Recall Button for Your Mouth,” Karen Ehman challenges you to give up speaking harshly about others for Lent.

This, friends, has always been my weakness.  Maybe you have one too.  It’s that trait that keeps popping up whenever there’s a sermon or discussion on refinement.  My answer often is talking badly about others.

See, what I say comes from what’s in my heart (Luke 6:45).  And that means, whether I want to believe it or not, there’s darkness in my heart when it comes to others.  I want to be free of it.  I want to be cleansed of it.  And I’ve tried.  Over and over again.  It’s been my resolution so many times.  But I keep justifying that it’s really okay:
  1. I’m just expressing my frustrations.
  2. I’m venting.
  3. Everybody does it.
  4. I just need to get it off my chest.
  5. People around me are speaking badly about others and I just got caught up in the flow.

But, when I’m honest, I recognize my words are painful.  They cause harm, even when not directly heard by the subject.  This is what I really want from my words:

  1. I want my words to be like honey (Proverbs 16:24).
  2. I want to edify others. (Ephesians 4:29)
  3. I want to speak life. (Proverbs 15:4)

How do I start?  It came to me at breakfast time this morning.  While reading “How Deep is the Deep,” from Indescribable by Louie Giglio with my nephew, it hit me (p. 17).   You see, the devotional connected God’s knowledge of the depths of the oceans to His knowledge of the depths of our thoughts.  He knows what we’re going to think before we even think it (Psalm 139:1-2).  Then, Giglio suggests that whenever we think a bad thought we:
  1. Capture any bad thoughts that wander in.
  2. Fill [our] minds with thoughts of [God] instead.
These reflective words, spoken by my nephew, remain in my mind, “That’s a good idea.  I think I’ll do that.”

That is a good idea!  I think I will do that!

Putting my Lent goal in the framework of the Proverbs 3:27 verse, I know speaking life-giving words:
  1. Will bring good to whom it is due.
  2. Is in my power to do it.

So, I’m going to do it!  Altering the framework given above to my unique situation, my battle plan is as follows:

When I think (or say) a negative thought about someone, I will:
  1. Hold it captive.
  2. Pray.
  3. Turn it into a positive, truthful thought.
  4. Speak words of life and truth to that person.

Is it going to be difficult?  Yes!  Am I going to need God power?  Absolutely!  Will there be times I fail?  Without a doubt.  But I’ll keep trying anyway!  It’s my hope that by continuing this challenge throughout Lent, it becomes habitual to speak life-giving words on a regular basis; that it becomes my first thought instead of an afterthought. 

I’m giving up negative words for Lent!  Won’t you consider unleashing good on others by choosing to withhold a part of yourself this Lent season?  We’re holding on to a winning formula:

It happens when we tap into that GOD POWER!

Let’s put it into action.  If you’re in it with me:
1.) Thank you for joining me!  
2.) Choose something to withhold that is unique to you.  Something that:
              a. Will bring good to others.
              b. Is within your power to do.
3.) Write out an action plan.
              a. When (chosen behavior) happens, I will:
              b. Seek to find a way to bring it to good for another person.
4.) Know that I am praying for you.
5.) And, remember, with God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)

Here’s to a forty-day journey of actively working to bring good to others by withholding something from ourselves.

With Love and Prayers from the Kitchen,
Offering Samplings of Life by a Husband and Wife


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Resources

  1. Bible Hub https://biblehub.com/
  2. Ehman, Karen. "When You Need a Recall Button for Your Mouth." Proverbs 31 Ministries, Feb. 2020, https://www.proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2020/02/10/when-you-need-a-recall-button-for-your-mouth
  3. Giglio, Louie, et al. Indescribable: 100 Devotions for Kids about God and Science. Passion Publishing/Tommy Nelson, a Division of Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2017.





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