“For this cause, everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found.” Psalm 32:6
We are already in week two of the 40-day Lenten season. It started on Ash Wednesday (which was Valentine’s Day this year), and it ends on Easter Sunday (which is ironically April Fool’s Day). I have a pretty strong belief in practicing Lent even though I’m not Catholic. I was never raised to give up something for God for six weeks every spring. But, as my faith has grown, I’ve come to agree that it’s an important part of honoring Him.
As I hear it, most people usually give up something like potato chips or dessert or alcohol or an entire meal every day for Lent. I guess it’s pretty similar to fasting. Other folks might try to give up a bad habit of some kind. My only problem with both approaches is that they have the potential to end in a struggle. Some of us simply might not have the discipline to make it to Easter.
Why would we struggle? Because we’re trying to do it on our own strength. The focus is all on us and not on God. It’s more akin to trying to meet a New Year’s resolution instead of honoring Jesus and His finished work on the cross.
More importantly, we’re still not giving God what He truly wants. Which begs the question, what is it that God wants and how do we give it to Him?
Time is Love
I recently visited Faithgateway.com, a fantastic Christian ministry website and store. They consistently post terrific articles and devotions by a variety of Christian authors who will truly grow your faith. I highly recommend it.
While I was there, I found a great article written by John Eldredge, a pastor in Colorado. He talked about how he had a difficult time finding out what to give up for Lent one particular year. He eventually decided that it wasn’t up to him to figure out what to do, it was God. So, he prayed and asked God what to do, and after several days of prayer and listening, God gave him the answer.
God’s answer for Mr. Eldredge was unique for him and his life, but I believe it’s the same answer for all us in some way or another. The answer He essentially gave was “time.”
Now, some people can argue that giving up French fries and beer are important for Lent. It helps us refine our bodies to be more holy and healthy. There’s solid merit to that. Our bodies are temples for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us (1 Corinthians 6:19; Daniel 1:8–17), so it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and make good diet choices. I can get behind that. But, that’s not the point of Lent I don’t think, and I don’t believe that’s what God is after.
God simply wants to build a relationship with us. We can only do that when we give up perhaps the most valuable thing we have ̶ our time.
The Joys of Being Still
Purposely stopping our day to get still before God, to be daily in His presence (and not just at Lent), is a necessary step toward becoming a mature Christian for many reasons. Here’s how.
1. We are Putting God First.
Whenever we block out time for someone- our kids, our spouse, our friends, our parents- we are showing how important they are to us. It’s the same with God. Setting everything aside in our busy schedules to get on our knees and talk with the Lord gives Him the honor He deserves. God should always come first.
We have a rule of thumb in our house to help us keep our priorities straight. It’s called JOY, which is an acronym meaning “Jesus, Others, You.” Jesus comes first, others are second, and you are last. It’s a helpful reminder to always give God the first part of everything in our lives including our time.
2. We are Growing a Relationship with Him.
Naturally, when we spend time with someone we get to know them better. In the beginning, it might be difficult to find the words to say, but after a while, we feel more comfortable opening up and sharing our thoughts and feelings.
God wants this openness with you. He wants you to feel comfortable enough to talk to Him about anything. There’s no reason not to since He already knows your thoughts (Psalm 94:11) and what you’re going to say (or not say). He just wants to hear it from your perspective with your own voice.
3. We are Learning to Listen.
Step one in giving up time for God is learning to pray and talk with Him. Step two is learning to listen. That’s a little harder to do. Our minds are so full of what’s on our to-do lists. Plus, the phone is ringing, the kids are fighting over the television, the boss is throwing more work at you, and you just feel run down.
How can we listen to God with so much going on?
There’s no magic trick here. Learning to listen to God takes time and practice. We have to be purposeful and active in our listening, which means shutting out the world and focusing on Him.
You don’t have to spend an hour or any huge amount of time. Just turn off your phone, give the kids a snack, then head to a quiet place (I like the bathroom or laundry room) and close the door. Take 60 seconds, if that’s all you have, to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and just sit with God. After a while, it will get easier and before you know it you will hear the voice of the Lord more and more clearly.
Learning to both talk with and listen to God is incredibly important to growing your relationship. Take whatever moments you can to be still with Him.
4. We are Learning the Truth of His Word.
There is only one reason why we know anything about history or science or even Shakespeare. We read the books, whether we wanted to or not. Either way, we learned about these subjects because we spent time studying them. Learning God’s instruction manual for our lives is just as important.
God’s holy Word gives us just the facts. There’s no fluff. God said none of His words return void (Isaiah 55:11), which means He means every word He says. And, because He can’t betray His own character, we can trust that He’s telling us the truth. We can never know God’s promises, what He’s capable of doing, why He loves us so much, how to handle the situations we get ourselves into, where we’re going or where we’ve been without reading the Bible.
Giving up our time to dig into the Word and discover God’s truth is a critical part of defending our faith and going deeper with Him.
5. We are Creating Balance in Our Lives.
One of the greatest challenges we have is finding balance in our lives. We’re always searching for ways to keep our spiritual, mental, and emotional plates simultaneously spinning while tending to the needs of our spouse, kids, friends, and even ourselves.
Spending daily quiet time with the Lord creates the balance we all need. Through time spent in prayer and reading His word, we can finally find the joy and peace we’re missing so we can have a clear head to keep the plates spinning in a more purposeful, and hopefully slower, way.
What Will You Give Him?
You may already be practicing Lent this year and have your plans all set. And that’s great. But if you don’t, I encourage you to consider God’s heart. He just wants to be with you. Will you give up your time and focus on the One who loves you most every day?
This Easter, let’s give God what He really wants. The gift of you.