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Lent for Leaders

In our effort to help others observe the season, we can fail to consider what we need.

Many leaders have mixed feelings about Lent. Perhaps you’ve noticed that some of your congregants use Lent as a way to gain God’s favor rather than repenting of sin and consecrating themselves to God. Such misguided theology can make Lent a burden rather than a tool to make us more Christ-like. What about you? Have you lost sight of what Lent is all about?

For years, I practiced Lent the way most people do. I thought of something I really liked or was dependent on and gave it up. I didn’t spend much time deciding what that sacrifice was going to be. Instead, I often chose something that seemed obvious, such as chocolate or TV.

However, I’m a pretty disciplined eater and not terribly dependent on entertainment. So while giving up chocolate or TV may be hugely important for someone else, it didn’t impact me much. That all changed, though, one Lenten season when I felt compelled to take time to pray about what I should give up. The thing that came through loud and clear was that I needed to give up fear and worry.

I have to admit this goes against the idea of giving up something you love, because I certainly have no affection for my sins of fear and worry. But if Lent is truly a time to repent of sin and walk closer with God, then it makes perfect sense.

I didn’t talk much about my decision to give up fear and worry because I wasn’t at all sure how it was going to go or if I was truly going to be able to give it up. So, I kept it mostly between God and me and asked him to give me the Holy Spirit’s power to recognize and conquer my fear and worry.

The results were truly life-changing. During the 40 days of Lent, I conquered a lifetime of fear that had plagued and harassed me for decades. I feel utterly and completely delivered.

As we head into Lent this year, I urge you to do three things to make the most of the season:

Take time to ask yourself hard questions.

Many leaders, especially women, are so wrapped up in others’ needs, we don’t recognize our own until we hit the point of exhaustion. Lent provides a perfect time to evaluate your relationship with God and to discover what you truly need.

Perhaps, you’re battling an addiction of some kind that you haven’t admitted, even to yourself. Or maybe you have deep-seated anger toward others or yourself. Maybe you want to please others so much that you can never say no to anything.

To help you figure out any weak areas in your life, ask yourself the following series of questions:

  • Am I involved in leadership for the right reasons? Do I long for affirmation? Am I trying to validate my worth?
  • What kind of leader am I? Do I try to control those under me, or do I give them freedom to minister as they chose? Do I coerce others to fall in with my agenda? Do I respect other’s opinions and seek to learn from them? Am I humble?
  • What is my weakest area? Do I lack self-control? If so, in what area?
  • What characteristic do I hate about myself? What would I most like to change about myself if I could?
  • Is there some area of my life that feels out of control? If so, what is it and why?
  • Do I believe God loves me—truly loves me—regardless of my behavior? Do I need to be reminded of how much he loves me?
Listen to God as you plan your 40 days.

After you’ve asked yourself those questions, narrow down your weaknesses to what you consider to be the biggest hindrance in your life. Take that issue before God and look up any Scriptures you can find that address the subject. What does God say about this issue? Then pray over those passages and ask God to give you insight into what’s really going on in your heart and mind.

What would it look like to give up this issue for 40 days? When we give up chocolate for Lent, it’s fairly simple to know how to give it up, but when we give up a character quality, it can be much more difficult. For example, if you’ve determined to give up anger because it’s been a lifelong problem, you’ll need the Holy Spirit’s help. Write down the passages of Scripture you looked up on anger and keep them handy so you can read them repeatedly over the course of the 40 days.

When we confront deep-seated issues like anger, we often find that it’s such a part of the fabric of our being that we didn’t realize how much it had been controlling us. So ask God to make you aware of every time that anger (or fear or worry) begins to build in you. When you’re aware of it, immediately confess it and ask for God’s help to give the situation to him. Then think, I gave up anger. I don’t get to go there. Take it God and change my heart. After doing this for 40 days, it will become a habit.

Focus on what you’re gaining.

The Lenten and Easter season is a particularly busy time, so it’s easy to neglect yourself or become so focused on what you’re giving up that you miss out on what you’re gaining. So, as you work at giving up whatever God wants you to give up, remember why you’re doing it: to experience the power and joy of the Resurrection in your life. If you keep that at the center of your thoughts, Lent can be turned from a time of sorrow and drudgery to anticipation and peace.

JoHannah Reardon was so impacted by giving up fear for Lent that she is writing a book on how to conquer fear in 40 days. Find her family devotional, Proverbs for Kids, and her many novels at www.johannahreardon.com.

February04, 2016 at 8:00 AM

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