How's That Resolution Coming?
Three plus weeks into the New Year. A time when the gym isn’t quite so crowded, the sale on Slim Fast gives way to one on huge cinnamon rolls and many folks don’t want to step on the scale anymore. The promises to spend less or listen more or not worry so much are but a distant memory for many…
Keeping a resolution takes DISCIPLINE. I’ve heard it said that it takes about 30 days to build a new habit or routine. Want to floss more regularly? Do it everyday for a month and it will be a habit. Determined to take those vitamins? Put a reminder on the calendar – or refrigerator – or phone - for at least 30 days and it will become part of your daily routine. Even the radio station I listen to is encouraging listeners to listen to only their style of music (hopefully their music station, I’m sure) for 30 days confident that those who do so will be regular customers.
I think perhaps that is why God (and the church) used 40 so much. Face it - some of us are a little slower to catch on than others. At the start of his ministry, Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for 40 days. Ever wonder what Jesus did during that time? We may have a clue by how he responds to the temptations at the end of this time. He quotes scripture. My guess is that Jesus spent those 40 days in study and prayer: practices that established a foundation to help him deal with faulty humans and a broken world.
We’re four weeks from Ash Wednesday – the start of Lent. It is the 40 day period of our liturgical year leading up to Easter. Many people decide to give something up for lent – alcohol, caffeine, chocolate (this one may be a heresy). May I challenge you to add something rather than give something up? Think of it as a chance to start a practice you might like to keep for a lifetime, to become a better DISCIPLE.
I can’t really think of any better things to suggest than how Jesus may have spent his 40 days in the wilderness – reading scripture and in prayer. Reading just one chapter a day will get you through the New Testament by the end of the year. Want to spice up your prayer life? Try the ACTS model – spend time in Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (prayer for others). One way to incorporate both of these is to read a section of scripture and focus on one thing you want to remember about the passage. I often look for what the text tells me about God. Then try to recall that item throughout the day and incorporate it into a prayer. I have not mastered this one yet…
If these are already part of your daily routine, I encourage you to try the practice of journaling. It’s something that can start small – a few lines about your day, a prayer request, or an answered prayer. It is a wonderful tool for reminding us to care for one another in both prayer and action. Looking back at prior months and years is a great reminder that our God is faithful.
Use this season of Lent to exercise your spiritual muscles, remembering that it takes DISCIPLINE to be a better DISCIPLE. Or, better yet, start that new practice today!