The Fourth Week
Our godliness can often be measured by the line between our pride and humility. Scripture tells us that God has placed a spirit of "fierce desires" in us. Pride can ignite these God-given desires into an occasion for doing wrong. Humility, on the other hand, makes room for God, who tempers and directs our desires, and guides us to lasting fulfillment.
Lent is a season well suited to practicing humility. Scripture tells us that Jesus humbled himself and was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (a more humiliating event could not have been imagined). So we practice humility as a way to follow Jesus, and to cast off all our ineffective, prideful attempts at self-promotion, self-salvation, and self-satisfaction.
When we remember that Jesus' death is our only hope, and that all our efforts to save ourselves are at best short-term solutions and doomed to fail, we weep for our condition. But we also need to remember that humiliation and remorse, both appropriate responses to God, are temporary. Because on Easter day, the humble are lifted up, and those who mourn are comforted with an everlasting comfort.
Where do all the fights and quarrels among you come from? They come from your desires for pleasure, which are constantly fighting within you. You want things, but you cannot have them, so you are ready to kill; you strongly desire things, but you cannot get them, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have what you want because you do not ask God for it. And when you ask, you do not receive it, because your motives are bad; you ask for things to use for your own pleasures. ... Don't think that there is no truth in the scripture that says, "The spirit that God placed in us is filled with fierce desires." But the grace that God gives is even stronger. As the scripture says, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
So then, submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will run away from you. Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners! Purify your hearts, you hypocrites! Be sorrowful, cry, and weep; change your laughter into crying, your joy into gloom! Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (TEV)
(Jesus speaks to his disciples before his death)
"Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn ... you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (NRSV)
The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever. (NLT)
God grant me the ability to see myself as you see me. Yet protect me from what I find in my own heart, for surely it is more awful than I can bear. Forgive me, and carry my burden of grief when I see my failings. And God, don't let me take credit for the good things you have given me. In your mercy help me to see the pride in my own heart. Heal and renew my spirit; refine the passion of my heart; and help me to walk in humility.
See the page on fasting for some important considerations before you begin a fast. And remember that these are suggestions: you are encouraged to modify this practice in any way that will lead you more readily into God's presence.
Pick a day or two this week to fast from a meal or more. If you haven't already, eliminate desserts and sweets (including refined sugar) this week. Also, eliminate red meat and poultry, alcohol and strong caffeine drinks (substitute tea or some other milder drink if you get headaches when you quit coffee).
If you watch video, take two to three nights off this week. If you listen to the radio in the car or while cooking, leave it off. If you spend a lot of time looking around on the Internet, cut back each day wherever you can. Leave the computer off at lunchtime or at night. And finally, whenever you have free time because of these practices, say a prayer and offer the time up to God. Ask God to draw near to you and to direct the time.
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