by KayLee Bennett, Director of Youth Ministries
In The WhereHouse Youth Ministry we have The Levels (similar to those in our Children’s ministry)—things you can do on your own to grow closer to God. Levels for the youth include learning and practicing the twelve Spiritual Disciplines. You “Level Up” each time you complete a challenge.
During the forty days of Lent we focus on three of the Spiritual Disciplines; fasting, simplicity, and prayer.
Ash Wednesday is when we publicly gather as a church and receive a cross of ashes on our foreheads. This reminds each of us that, eventually, we are dust in the wind (Ecclesiastes 3:20). It is with this we see the need to lay our junk down at the feet of Jesus and realize we need Him desperately (Job 42:6). It is Ash Wednesday that sets the stage to go out on our own from the group and practice the three Spiritual Disciplines of fasting, striving for life focused on Christ, and prayer.
Now what? It’s the day after Ash Wednesday. There is no church service, no group setting, no pastor leading you. No one is pushing you to remember and checking to see if you’re fasting, praying and striving for a simpler life focused more on Jesus. We gathered as a group to set the scene. Now each of us is on the down low, doing this on our own.
What does this even mean? Maybe this will help. . The Spiritual Disciplines come straight from the life of Jesus. Remember when Jesus went into the wilderness by Himself for forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4:1-11)? He fought an intense battle of continuous temptation. He was tempted with hunger by the pleasure of food. He could handle that and have any food He wanted, but He did not. He leaned into God. He was tempted with all the possessions He could think of. He could have anything in the world He wanted. But, He said no, and leaned into God. He was also tempted with pride to prove exactly who He was. He did not need to. It was here He held on and staked His life in prayer and leaned into God.
Lent is battle time. An intense season to fight our urges or whatever it may be that takes us away from Christ. We can fight this stuff! Jesus overcame these temptations in the wilderness by putting the Spiritual Disciplines into action and we can too. Action is the key word, you gotta move.
Lent is not just about giving up dessert, caffeine or swearing! Two thumbs up for giving up that stuff. Those are great outward things to do to help you remember to work on your insides. He commands us to fast, simplify and pray. Go deeper.
Think about Jesus in the wilderness and ask yourself these questions:
What pleasures in life can you do without or should do without? Fasting is a reminder with every hunger pang to give one of those things up to God and lean in.
What possessions are making your life complicated, keeping you from the fullness of Christ? Let something go; lean into Him.
Pride is sneaky. Ask yourself, where is pride hiding in your life trying to make you bigger than your Lord? Lean in, and pray to replace pride with humility.
I challenge us all to “Level Up” our faith in these next forty days! Be deliberate in our faith and lean into God, even when we want control. I say all this knowing that I could never live up to Jesus in the wilderness. But, remember, every time you lose track or think you’ve failed in the challenge, it is just another opportunity to come back to Him and lean in more. God’s got you!
Lord, help us to come back to You and lean in. Give us a desire to know you more and give you control of our lives and fill us with the hope of Easter. Amen.