‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you do not grow weary and lose heart’ (Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV).
Lent is wonderful, but Lent is also hard work.
Tonight at the Ash Wednesday service I will invite the congregation (and myself) ‘to observe a holy Lent by self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and by reading and meditating on the word of God’. Self-examination is not easy – I don’t always like what I see. Penitence – turning from hatred and selfishness toward love and service – is not easy either. Fasting – turning away from distractions so that I can concentrate on the things that really matter – is not easy in a world where we’re encouraged to develop addictions to these things.
What’s the motivation? Jesus did it ‘for the joy set before him’. He kept his eyes on the prize. Like him, we know that God’s goal for us is fulness of joy. It’s worth all the effort we put into it.
But it will require perseverance – one of my favourite Bible words. There will be many times when we are tempted to ‘grow weary and lose heart’. We need to encourage each other to persevere, to stick to it, to be steady, to not give up.
So let me start this Lent by reaching out to all my brothers and sisters who are observing this holy season. No matter what you’re doing this year – great or small – to draw closer to God and follow Jesus more closely – God bless you in it, brothers and sisters! May you find joy in it, and when it’s hard (and sometimes it will be – that’s normal) – DON’T GIVE UP!