We have now entered into the season of Lent. Lent is a 40 day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday where believers give up something (such as a meal, a habit, chocolate) or add something (a faith practice such as praying at every meal or reading a scripture two times a day) to remember Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. The passage from Matthew talks about four such practices: giving, praying, fasting, and storing.
As disciples, we are to follow Christ’s example. One of the ways we do that is through our giving. Here in Matthew, Jesus says in verse 3 and 4 to give in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. We are all called to give as Christ gave, but to avoid boasting about our giving. We are so blessed to receive all the financial assistance to help maintain our church building and property and for support of our food pantry. And we encourage you to give to aid these ministries in this season. However, Jesus called us to give from our heart. [Matt. 6:21] How is God calling you to give today?
Prayer is a wonderful practice. It keeps us in communication with God and connection to his vision and plan for our life. I love praying with other believers. There is supernatural power that is present when two or more are gathered in prayer. But we are also to pray alone. Jesus says to pray in secret. Prayer can be a shared thing, but it is also a personal line of communication between you and the Father. When do you pray alone?
Fasting is a challenge for me. I like to graze and snack all day. During Lent, I like to pair giving up food with adding in scripture. Scripture says that man shall not live on bread alone, but on the very word of God [Deuteronomy 8:3]. By giving up some of that “snacking”, I add in more of the spiritual nourishment that comes from reading the Bible.
Giving, praying, and fasting help us to accomplish the final practice of storing. Jesus says in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Our goal is not to obtain wealth and prosperity here on earth, but to store our wealth in heaven. Not so that we may be rich when we get there, but so that our heart is where it should be; worshiping God for eternity. When we choose to give up the things of this world and set our focus on God and his kingdom, through practices such as prayer, giving, reading scripture, and fasting, God pours into us His spirit. So, as we celebrate Lent together I encourage you to give up earthly things and gain spiritual gifts that come from God. Fast earthly desires and gain spiritual nourishment through the word of God. Pray and communicate with a God that loved you so much that he sent his only son to give up his life to die in your place. Store up treasure in heaven not to be rich, but so that your heart is present with God the Father.
Please pray with me: Father God, thank you for sending your son to sacrifice and die for me so that I may have life and have it abundantly. May I honor you with my fasting, prayer, giving, and desire for you. May my heart be on things not of this world, but of your kingdom. Teach me to love and care for the world as you do, so that we may see your kingdom come. In Jesus name, Amen.
Rev. Joel Wise
District Youth Director
Pastor, Trinity UMC and Parkton UMC
firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-723-1071.