Self-Discipline is Always a Stretch

Entertainment often trumps self-discipline.  Lent allows us to re-focus and choose the less popular but more life-giving option.

Entertainment often trumps self-discipline.  Lent allows us to re-focus and choose the less popular but more life-giving option.

It seems that self-discipline is getting more difficult.  If you don’t have to be accountable to anyone for the discipline, it is even worse.  If I am the only person who cares if I actually achieve any of my desired outcomes, it is too easy to throw in the towel.

Wednesday will begin the Lenten season.  This will be forty days of reflection not including Sundays counting down to Easter.  Much of the time, people seek to give up something for Lent.  A lot of the time, people give up some type of less healthy food choice.  This has the added benefit of serving as a diet for many.

While losing weight is not the focal point for Easter, it might be a nice addition to the consequences of your actions.

The main objective for any Lenten discipline should be growing closer to God.  This takes discipline and reflection, both of which may be difficult for people to achieve.  I’ve known Christians who avoided looking at their own spiritual lives because it was too painful.  For others, it may be intimidating, especially if the person has guilt over a lack of spiritual activity such as prayer or Bible reading.

As a Wesleyan, I always start with grace.  When we embrace the grace of God for our lives, it allows us to move forward rather than being stuck in a past incident.  Following our embracing the grace in Christ, we then seek to respond with faithfulness of our own.

Lent can be a time when we pick up a spiritual practice rather than simply giving something up.  One of my disciplines has been writing during Lent.  This year, I will be posting daily devotions featuring the Gospel of John.  We will start tomorrow and move forward each day, finishing the gospel on Easter Sunday.

Since I am finishing my sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount at the 7 pm Ash Wednesday service, I will look at our journey with Jesus to the cross on Sunday mornings.  We’ll be looking at the lectionary gospel readings which feature various people that encounter Jesus.  We’ll begin with the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness in Matthew 4:1-11.

Our congregation will also be collecting food and money during Lent for Skyline Urban Ministry which helps people in poverty with their basic needs.  The money we are collecting will go for a freezer which will allow Skyline to purchase and offer frozen foods for pennies on the dollar.

Even though disciplines are difficult, it does feel good when you not only set a goal but accomplish it.  I would encourage our Sunday school classes to share their Lenten disciplines because accountability makes them much more likely to be achieved.

Check back with this blog tomorrow for the beginning of John’s Gospel.  It will be posted very early so that those who rise before the sun should be able to engage.

In Christ,
Sam

To read more from Sam, visit http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com.

Photo by JohnPaulRichards via Flickr.com.  Used under the Creative Commons license.