What Does God Want From You This Lent?
Lent is a fabulous season when we can tune into God in a unique way. God has got a plan for each one of us and has got something that He wants us to be or do with our life. God wants to be in our lives and our job during the various stages of our life is to tune into that plan.
God gives each of us free will. Free will is the ability to be able to choose God or reject God. God gives us the ability to think, determine, and decide, about how we will go in our life. God gives us that creative ability, but God has an overarching plan that we would love Him and that we would know Him and that we would be drawn into life with Him both now and in the life to come. That is God’s big plan.
Then God has a specific plan which is the intimate thing that’s different for each of us. Not everybody has been called to do what I do. I haven’t been called to do what many of you do. In summary, we have an overarching plan of God calling us to Him and then we have the specifics of that plan for us individually as well.
We have choice so we must choose Him. The problem is that often life is so busy that we cannot discover what God’s plan is.
Lent is the season where we get to stop and reassess our life and that can be dramatic. Some people look at Lent as a little bit like New Year’s Eve, where you make a resolution, and you decide to change some things in your life. I would want to counsel you that I’m not sure that’s the best image as to what Lent is because the whole New Year’s resolution thing is about what I can do by myself, my effort, my ability, my talent and my thought process. I look at my life and think what things I need to change but Lent is not that. Lent is tuning into what God wants for us.
In the Bible and particularly in the Old Testament of the Bible, in the time before Jesus came, we read the story of God and His people. God chooses the people, and He says to them, ‘I’m going to be your God. You’re going to be my people and through you, we’re going to win the whole world.’ What we see here is that God has a plan, and it is very clear.
Now people have their individual free choice within that plan and what we read through the whole Bible is that when the people of God tune into that plan, life goes well. However, what often happens is that the busyness of life, distractions, other voices, other cultures and other ways of doing things distract people away from what God is calling them to be and from the love of God.
When we move away from what God potentially has for us, there is a diminishing, or a lessening of who we are. It is so easy to fall away from knowing the love of God. The truth is that it is purely God’s mercy and grace that gives us the ability to reach out to Him.
We know that humanity is separated from God, that we’re not perfect, but God is perfect. The events of Easter, the death of Jesus, and then the rising of Jesus is about making it possible for us to have unfettered access to God in our life and so transform our future and all human history.
The truth is that we come face to face with perfection itself, that is God. Lent is this time when we prepare ourselves to meet God in our life. In that meeting, when we’re coming before God, and we’re coming to that place of being with God and what He’s asking of our us, we stop and we say, ‘where are areas of my life where I have not been who God is calling me to be? Where are areas that I need to change? How do I prepare myself for the coming of God into my life? It is no wonder that Lent is such a dramatic, transformative time in people’s lives when they understand what Lent is.
And as you come close to God who is perfect, you see yourself in the light of that perfection and so you stop and begin to make some changes in your life.
Lent is about preparing ourselves to meet God at Easter. It says in Mark chapter 12, verse 29, when Jesus was asked a question:
“Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’
In other words, love God with the totality of everything that is you. If we stopped right now and asked ourselves, ‘Are you loving God with the totality of you, your heart, soul, mind, strength?’ Many of us would say, “well, no, I kind of go to church or I don’t go to church. I’m not necessarily the best of people even though in some things I think I do well.’
Jesus comes along and says if you are going to love God and prepare yourself for God, it means to love God with the totality of you. That is what Lent is about. Lent is about loving God with everything that is us. It is living in that pure plan of God for us, that we would be in communion and that we would know God, and that it would transform everything. So Lent is about this readjustment and preparing for God, but Lent is also about growing in devotion to God.
What do I mean by devotion? Our commitment! I’ve been married for 38 years and when I first got married in those early years, to be honest with you, I loved being married and all of that, but I’ve come to understand over the long journey, what being devoted is. That being devoted is not the externals, but it’s the internals. Being devoted is not just my actions, but it is my heart given, and so, Lent is this time when we give and devote ourselves more closely to God.
Lent is about the holiness of God. When we think about holiness, none of us would describe ourselves as holy. Most people don’t walk around saying, I’m holy. It’s just not a term we use for ourselves.
Holiness means to be set apart. Holiness means to be completely dedicated to a particular given way, to be like God, to be pure, to be committed, to be living in a way that’s acceptable to God being all that we can be.
Most people don’t describe themselves like that because we describe religious figures as holy. Each one of us is called to be holy and holiness is doing what God asks you to do.
If God’s called you to be an accountant, being the best accountant you can is what holiness is.
If God’s called you to be a mother, then being the best mother, you can. That’s what holiness is.
If God has called you to be someone in politics and you’re the best politician you can be, that’s what holiness is.
Holiness is responding to God in our life and as we come closer to God amid the circumstances, we continually experience this conversion of seeing the world, seeing what we do, seeing the purpose of God with greater clarity as we use our gifts, our talents, and our calling.
Many of us don’t describe ourselves as holy because we know ourselves. We see the wrongdoing within us. We see the internals within us. We see and understand our fears. We know our insecurities. We know our worries. We know those areas of our life where we are judgmental, and we fall short. We know what we do when no one else is looking and so we don’t call ourselves holy. But holiness is a commitment. It’s a desire. It’s a walking towards God in our life.
There are two to aspects of holiness. Holiness involves conversion, and conversion is all about the changing of our will. The other aspect of holiness is transformation. Transformation is the changing of us internally and our actions because of the decisions of our will.
Lent is this time when we come before God and we grow because we say, ‘God, I want to give you my will and so therefore, that will affect my actions and that will change me.’
As I’ve traveled and spoken to thousands of people, and I have stood and looked out into large crowds. I’ve seen people far holier than me who are dedicated of mind and of action, who are being transformed and are saying consistently, ‘God, what are you saying to me as I’m an accountant, as I’m a mother, as I’m a father, as I’m a teacher, as I’m a carpenter, whatever it is, we begin to see God through this bigger picture than just the specifics of ourselves.
It says in Romans chapter 3, verse 23-24:
Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
What this passage of Scripture is saying is that all of us have fallen short. If you feel like you don’t measure up, the truth is you don’t, but Jesus, by his action, makes us measure up so that we can be with God.
We have all fallen short, but Jesus makes us holy and acceptable to God. I want to encourage you as you walk through this Lent journey to focus upon God, constantly asking”
“God, what are you saying to me? I desire to be devoted to you. I want to come to you and recognize who you are in my life. I want to make sure that I have the big picture that you are calling me to know you and to love you and to live with you in eternity forever, but you’re also calling me to live that way now, here on planet earth.”
At this point in time, I’ve been involved in ministry and sharing the gospel with people for many years, all over the world. This is one of those seasons that I have rarely seen, where there so much fear. The war in Ukraine, which is just so incredibly tragic for so many people, has got people wondering where is God and what does the future hold?
There is a palpable fear among people during Lent, this special time when we specifically turn to God. This time when we need to rely upon God and right now our ministry is engaged in preaching and bringing a message of hope to the world that Jesus is the savior, that Jesus is in control, and that we can hold our heads up in peace.
Jesus said, ‘I will be with you.’ He never said all our problems will go away. He said, ‘I will be with you.’ When we discover the fact that Jesus is with us, we discover a peace that is beyond understanding and we need to bring that message to people so that they don’t live in fear, but they live in hope and peace.