A full week into Lent, today marks my first Fast Tuesday. Not sure if “pumped” is the right word to use for entering a period of fasting, but I am prepared to enter this season of preparation.
I woke up thinking about this passage:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.”
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:
” ‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. Luke 4
Lent is deeply rooted in the 40 days fast Jesus observed in the desert as he prepared for his earthly ministry. I think it’s amazing how many times I’ve come into Lent and missed the meta-narrative of what Lent was preparing me for. Lent is a 40 day fast of preparation of the observance of Easter… duh, right? Wrong! There was a two-fold point to Jesus’ 40 days of preparation, wasn’t there?
Point one: Pay the penalty of sin with death, making a way for man-kind to have a relationship with God. (Bringing the Gospel message to us individually)
Point two: Open the door for all believers to act as agents of God’s mercy, regardless of earthly decension. Previously, this belonged only to the tribe of Aaron. (Bringing the Gospel message to the whole earth.)
Lent isn’t meant to just prepare me for Easter. It’s also to remind me to continually prepare for my lifelong ministry as a believer. Conversely, my role as someone called to “professional ministry” is to not only call people to the cross, but to prepare and encourage God’s people to act as agents of the Cross wherever they go.
So Jesus went to the desert to fast and prepare for his ministry. And while fasting the devil tempted him along three lines a Messiah would be tempted. I’m a pretty self-reflective guy… and I don’t think the temptations I face are anything like those. But let me share some of the tempatations I wrestle with as a ministry leader.
The temptation to attack. Part of that giftedness is a strong sense of what ought to happen in just about any organization I’m exposed to. (Schools, libraries, sports teams, churches, work, families, game shows, and even organizations I’m not tied to, just curious about.) The temptation is stop trying to gently reform and just nail 95 Theses to the wall and walk away. There is a big difference between pushing something to get better and being rude. And while being a jerk is often times more effective at fixing things it hardly reflects a Gospel-driven approach. So I feel constantly tempted to say things in ways that aren’t helpful, blog about things in an attacking manner, etc.
The temptation to invest in the wrong things. Anyone who knows me knows that I struggle deeply with balance. I tend to fall in love with something to the point where things get out-of-whack… thus messing up the thing because of a lack of balance. For example. There were about 2 years in Romeo where things were very balanced. Home life was great, work life was great, and working with the golf team helped me keep both in check while somehow making both better at the same time. Then, I allowed a pressure from work to push me out of helping with the golf team. That was my centering activity and from that point on life spun further and further out of control. Had I just stood up to that pressure and resisted the temptation to allow myself out of balance, who knows what would have happened? I need to resist that temptation continually as it comes.
The temptation to lead instead of serve. I don’t know if I’m the only one who notices this, but a lot of church leaders have a jacked up view of leadership. They lead with ego, talent, and brute force. Unfortunately for them, Jesus called us to lead by serving others. (see John 13) I have to admit, it’s a huge temptation to try to lead things in the way I see church leaders being successful! I want to ram-rod my will on others all the time. But as we see in the Gospels and the early church in Acts… Jesus’ ministry came to conquer the hearts of mankind. You can’t conquer a persons heart by force… in case you didn’t know, that doesn’t work.