Lenten Season: a Time to Test Ourselves

The past few weeks, one can’t go to a store and not see the commercial deluge of red hearts and love-themed items to know it’s Valentine’s Day.  But did you know Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, also falls on February 14th this year?  It starts a time period where, traditionally, Christians are called to reflect on their lives and in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 13:5a “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.”  The Greek word for “examine” literally means to “tempt” but in this context, it probably means to “test oneself.” And although “in the faith” could mean one’s salvation, it can also refer to one’s faithfulness and how our lives line up to God’s expectations.  I would encourage us all to take time during this Lenten season and examine our lives in at least three areas:

How do we spend our time?  Although there is a healthy rhythm ordained by God to work and rest (Sabbath), whether it is Jesus (Luke 12:13-21), Paul (Eph. 5:16), or James (James 4:14), we are encouraged to use our time wisely because we do not know how long we have in this life.  What is the ratio on time spent for work, family, hobbies/leisure?  More importantly, what is the mindset or orientation of our hearts during those activities?  Can you use any or all of that time with the goal to win others to Christ or to encourage others in the faith?

How do we spend our money?  This past Sunday, Stan Tyvoll and John Gregory gave a thought-provoking class on the sin of greed, prompting us to see how we view money (or the need for money) and how it can compete with God for our hearts.  Jesus himself reminds us that “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt. 6:24).  Are we tithing at least 10% of our income to God?  Are we being generous?  Let’s examine our use of the financial resource God has delegated to us as stewards.

Arguably, our heart is the most important area to examine ourselves.  Prov. 4:23 says “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  The heart, in a spiritual sense, is the seat from which all your desires and hope come.  If we give our heart away to idols such as power, reputation, self-reliance, lust/pleasure, money, or another person, everything else in our lives will eventually orient itself towards those idols including time and money.  Jesus reminds us again in Matt. 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  How can we devote our hearts to God over all other things?  Spend time with Him.  Read the Word.  Spend time in prayer.  Spend time in personal and corporate worship.  We will not grow in our love for God if we do not spend time, just like we cannot grow in our love for a spouse without spending quality time with them.

As we look ahead towards Holy Week and Easter, let’s take time to examine ourselves in the areas above.  And don’t feel like you are on your own.  Discuss with others in small groups, discipleship groups, family, and friends so we can build each other up on this journey.

John Chung is a member and Ruling Elder at GRC.