Lent and the Value of Discipline

So as some of you who follow my blog may know by now I’m not exactly a typical Baptist when it comes to many of the religious traditions I observe. I like to mix a bit of high church tradition in with my simple Baptist beliefs, and Lent is no exception. On the chance you are unfamiliar with Lent, it is a six-week time leading up to Easter that is traditionally observed with forty days of fasting. Some people will give up soda, chocolate, television, or some other material comfort in order to have more time to spend in prayer and meditation and as a means to turn cravings into reminders of the reason for the season.

Unfortunately many denominations do not openly advocate or recognize Lent, which is a real shame in my opinion. If there is one thing I think people today need to work on their self-discipline. We who are in the developed world are really lacking in self-discipline because instant gratification is so readily available to us. We have youtube, netflix, online shopping, fast food, instant coffee, texting, automobiles, and advertisements galore just to name a few. We have to go on “retreats” into nature just to escape the fast pace world we live in. There is very little that is not readily available to us in a matter of minutes and as a result we tend to be very impatient and unappreciative people.

With the beginning of the year I undertook the goal of becoming more disciplined in the way I eat and in staying more physically active. It was difficult and required me to withhold may pleasures and comforts, but so far I have lost seventeen pounds and I look better and feel healthier. So much so that I wonder why I ever could have been so content with lounging around and eating so unhealthy. The point I’m making is discipline and self-control are the tools we need to develop if we ever want to truly live life to its full potential rather than settling for instant gratification.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

– Hebrews 12:11

Now I started my Lent a little early (since most people don’t start until Wednesday) but I want to encourage you to really participate this year and go for something difficult. This year I have given up “time-wasting” which is a very difficult thing to give up. By this I mean that for the past week and for the next forty days I have committed not to do anything that I would consider time-wasting. What does that mean for me? It means I have given up:

  • Television
  • Movies
  • Time Wasting Websites (Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc…)
  • Being Bored and Doing Nothing

Now I really do want to emphasize that Lent isn’t simply about learning to resist, but also learning to achieve and work towards something. In the time I have open from eliminating the above things I have filled with:

  • Prayer
  • Scripture Reading
  • Finishing All Those Books I Never Get Around To
  • Exercising
  • Meditating
  • Spending Time With Loved Ones
  • Writing That Book I Always Wanted To Write

And, that’s not all you can do with the time and energy you save during Lent. You could use your time to create art, or finish that product you started a long time ago, learn a skill, or to do what ever you have always wanted to do. Maybe you have a bad habit or unhealthy area of your life you need to get rid of, well this is the perfect time to break it and fill the hole with something you are passionate about. Most importantly though, this is a great time to seek the Lord and prepare your heart for the Easter season.

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

– Proverbs 13:4

If you are not one who gets into scripture regularly I encourage you to do so. If you are not one who prays easily or one who can meditate on the Lord without fidgeting or mentally wandering I encourage you to work on that. This is a great time to grow spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally if you only seize the opportunity. Like me, you don’t have to wait for Ash Wednesday to start. I’m already a week in and I’ve accomplished so much in the this short time.

Take this time and use it to become a more centered person and to grow spiritually in your Christian walk. Giving up chocolate is fine and dandy, but I’d really love to see more people really take up the heart of Lent and actually push themselves to make some big changes. Discipline is not something to feared, it is merely a tool which a person uses to reach the full potential that God has given them.