Sunday, April 11, 2004

Lenten Devotion

My friend Brian Lee asked me to write a devotion for Lent, which appeared on April 6th at Journey Into the Wilderness. Here's what I wrote:

I think that for a lot of us, the hardest of Christ’s commandments is not loving our neighbor or loving God. I mean, we all fail in those to some extent. No one really tries to shirk those, though, since they’re non-threatening, especially in America. If you help someone pick up their dropped books, pray before eating, go to church, or give money to charity, no one will think that you’re weird or make fun of you. In fact, the odds are that you’ll actually be held in higher esteem by those who see you. It’s a win-win situation.

No, I think the commandment hardest for us to follow is the one given in Matthew 28:19-20a, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” (NLT). The reason this is so hard is because the world stands ready to mock us as soon as we start talking about God or being “Jesus Freaks.” Satan cannot stand to be mocked, and so he’ll try and stir up whatever fears we have inside ourselves so that we’ll do whatever is necessary to avoid having them realized. We’re terrified that someone will see our true self and reject it. Any fears we have of loneliness and ostracism are taken advantage of, and we only consider how others perceive us, while forgetting the second half of Matthew 28:20, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

When we look at how things get done, there’s rarely much of a pattern, except that utter faith in God’s providence is required. Abraham was ready to sacrifice Isaac. Joshua took Jericho by marching around it and blowing trumpets. Gideon defeated the Midianites by sending most of his army home and equipping the remnant with torches and clay pots. Mary bore Christ. Peter walked on water. Christ never even healed blind men the same way in any recorded instance. Everyone has heard the saying “God works in mysterious ways,” and hardly anyone would disagree, but do we really accept it as being true, or just as a platitude? Thankfully, I haven’t been called to behave as the prophet Ezekiel was commanded, but I still constantly battle with the temptation to hide my light. I lack discipline and trust. What if they make fun of me? What if she says no? What if, what if, what if?

What if my fears are all based on attaching too much importance to a transitory world, and not simply trusting in God to provide what I need? He provided food, mates, and shelter for animals. He provided these things even for men and women who rejected Him. Why should I be afraid of what he will provide for his loyal servants? That’s why Lent is such a blessing: by reflecting on the Passion and possibly giving up some desire or practice, we are able to more fully recognize where we truly stand. We fear because we’re lost, and by seeing clearly that we’re not lost but are actually able to see the path we need to follow, we can then live as fearlessly as the Apostles and Saints did, preaching the Gospel and training others in living according to God’s will.

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