Living the Lenten Life
by Pastor Dan Palomino
Lent can serve to prepare us to follow Jesus in the same way that Jesus’ 40-day fast in the wilderness—followed by temptation from the devil—prepared him for his earthly ministry (Matthew 4). It’s no mistake that the devil waited until the end of Jesus’ fasting period to tempt him. This is when Jesus would be physically weakest due to lack of food and thus most susceptible to suggestion. But, if Jesus could withstand temptation under these circumstances, then he could overcome temptation under any circumstance. And Jesus certainly faced temptation throughout his earthly ministry.
Scripture highlights key moments in Jesus’ life in which he was tempted. When Jesus tells his disciples that he must suffer, be killed, and then be raised on the third day, Peter rebukes Jesus about the very idea of him dying at the hands of the religious leaders. Jesus recognizes and resists the temptation, responding to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me!” (Matthew 16:21-23) Later, as Jesus agonizes over the thought of going to the Cross, he prays (all the while having to deal with the disciples’ own temptations in the moment): “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:40-42). The temptation is real but the willingness to obey wins out. Jesus was prepared to face such temptations.
The Season of Lent is essentially a smaller version of the Christian Life lived out in this world of darkness. Rather than being a temporary 40-day fast from something, after which we just go back to “business as usual,” our Lenten fast should prepare us for a lifetime of sacrifice and self-denial in which we depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. We have the very same power available to us that Jesus had in his earthly ministry (John 14:12-17). Just as Jesus’ fast prepared him for his earthly ministry, so must we allow our Lenten fast to prepare us for whatever plans God has for us.
God can use any wilderness experience to prepare us for ministry that he has in mind for us in the future. He also works to refine us in some way that will ultimately benefit us, others, and give glory to Jesus. I pastored a church from 2000-2008, after which God led me and my family to FOL. This became a wilderness experience for me as I was now without a ministry. I went through a period of grieving that loss, and with that grief came anger, confusion, fear, emptiness, and even a question of calling. God was faithful as I sought his wisdom and guidance, ultimately leading me to a new ministry in hospice and healthcare chaplaincy. During this time, God provided me with the training I needed. Combined with past preparation, experiences and spiritual giftedness, I am also able to serve in pastoral and premarital counseling, and in worship at FOL. God used my personal wilderness experience to prepare me for further ministry.
The season of Lent can and should further empower us to go deeper in Christ and further in mission for the long haul.
REFLECTION QUESTIONS FOR LENT: How can we allow Lent to prepare us for the ministry God has for us in any given season of our lives? Or, in what ways can we allow this time of Lent to refine us and grow us into godliness and Christlikeness? What can we learn from this time of Lent that can teach us what it really means to be a Jesus follower in this world well beyond the next 40-plus days?