Forty days is a long time.
Almost 6 weeks.
But they could be forty of the most significant days of your life.
There are some days in life that you really wouldn't write home about. But then there are seasons like these:
- "And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights." (Genesis 7:12) - Noah
- "When I went up on the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord had made with you, I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water." (Deuteronomy 9:9) - Moses
- "For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand." (1 Samuel 17:16) - right before David showed up with his slingshot
- "....he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God." (1 Kings 19:8) - Elijah
- "Jonah began by going a day's journey into the city, proclaiming, 'Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.'" - (Jonah 3:4) - but all in the city of Nineveh repented during that time instead
And then there was Jesus:
"...for forty days He was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them He was hungry." (Luke 4:2)
"After His suffering, He presented Himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God." (Acts 1:3)
Forty days can be amazingly significant.
For centuries, the Church has celebrated (yes, celebrated! ) a season called Lent. Lent is the 40 (actually 47) days before Easter, beginning today, Ash Wednesday. It is a season of repentance, a season of wilderness wandering, a season of remembering that without Christ we would still be completely lost and dead in our sin - and celebrating (on those seven extra days especially!) the reality that our sin has been forgiven, our debt has been paid, and we have - if we've proclaimed Jesus as our Lord and Saviour - been made right with God.
6 days of repentance. 1 day of celebrating. 6 days of repentance. 1 day of celebrating. (etc.) - until Good Friday - the darkest day of the Christian year - gives way to the glorious light of Easter Sunday.
The idea of fasting during Lent might be totally new to some of us, but many of us have either come from or heard of traditions that encourage "giving up" something for Lent. If you're tempted to do it just because you think you "ought" to - I'd challenge you to go ahead and give up something anyway - but re-evaluate why you're doing it. Fasting is a very appropriate form of worship and repentance - but God makes it clear in Isaiah 58 that the state of our hearts when we fast is what matters to Him.
Fasting alone isn't enough. It's just a ritual, empty of meaning, if we're not bringing our hearts into our activity. But if we give up something we love - be it television, social media, or some sort of food - for Lent, and we do it as an act of worship, and seek Him instead... Well. Just imagine what could happen. (Read Isaiah 58!)
The next 47 days of your life are packed with promise.
Are you willing to journey with Him through them? Are you willing to take a good hard look at your own sin and repent for it? And are you ready to receive a new revelation of the depth, height, breadth, and length of His grace? Because this is what we celebrate, as we willingly enter a season of wilderness, fasting from things we could have but choose not to, because we know there's something so much better on the other side of this season, if we will wait on Him for it...
If you'd like to explore this season of Lent a little more intentionally, or even just add a little more structure to your quiet times, we would love for you to join us in a daily online devotional study from now until Easter Sunday. We'll send you an email every day with a list of suggested Scripture readings and a devotional thought for the day. To sign up, just email me at happy (at) torchchurch (dot) tv.
(cross-posted on the pastor's blog at www.torchchurch.tv)