Matt Chandler is challenging Christians all across the country to give up food for Lent. In a recent sermon, the megachurch pastor encouraged his body to take up the challenge of giving up the gift that food is to “orient their hearts around the betterness of Jesus above earthly pleasures.”
In his sermon, Chandler pointed out that Lent historically and traditionally involves believers fasting from food for the six week period that leads up to Easter.
Chandler clarified that he didn’t mean that every member should give up food in entirety.
“Not all food but, but maybe that’s breakfast, or maybe that’s lunch or something like that.”
“We want to set aside a good gift from God in the gift of food, the provision of that food, the gift of the taste of that food, the joy that comes from that food.”
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Chandler added that abstaining from food was an external display that they believe there is a “greater pleasure to be known and a greater joy to be had” and a “provision available to me as a son or daughter of God that I want to lean into in this season.”
“In this week of Lent…maybe one of the ways that you exercise this is by refraining from a breakfast or a lunch,” the pastor concluded.
Chandler encouraged believers to spend that time in which you would have prepared food or eaten food to pray or spend time with the Lord.
“And then, using that time, that hour or that 30 minutes, however long you’re given, either at work or at home, depending on how you do it, to pray, to consider, to read the text and the seasons guide, and to orient your heart around the betterness of Jesus above and over all earthly pleasures.”
In the seasons of Lent guide that Chandler mentioned, readers can find multiple references for learning more about Lent and the greater purpose that comes with it. The guide includes weekly fasting instructions, as well as specific prayers and scripture to read throughout the six-week season.
“Lent is about identifying with the temptation and suffering of Jesus Christ before we celebrate the resurrection on Easter,” Chandler explained in a video for the Lent guide. “The forty days leading up to Easter, the church has historically entered into a season of self-denial, of fasting, and of focusing on Jesus bearing the weight of sin and death for those of us who are in Christ.”
“The season of Lent is about self-denial,” he added. “It’s about orienting our hearts around the temptation and suffering of Jesus Christ, and it’s about preparing our hearts to rejoice more fully at the resurrection.”
“So, we don’t practice self-denial for denial’s sake; we don’t fast for fasting’s sake,” he continued. “We’re trying to, with our bodies and with our minds and hearts, enter into the story of Christ’s redeeming work for us and feel things and sense things and wire ourselves and our communities in such a way that when Easter Sunday morning rolls around, there’s a celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and death forever.”
Erin Brindley, who wrote “Giving Up My Own Way for Lent,” part of the Season of Lent guide, pointed out that giving up self-protection against suffering is a large part of Lent.
“Jesus’ confession in the garden gives permission to those on a Lenten journey to say, ‘I don’t want to, but I want to want to,'” she stated. “The first thing we should give up for Lent is our desire to self-protect against suffering that sanctifies.”
She pointed out that too many Christians have the mentality of: “I want to eat what I want, sleep when I want and do what I want to the glory of God but without restraints on my personal freedoms to enjoy the good gifts God has given.”
She added that it’s not always easy to give things up for Lent. We are comfortable with our lives, and the ideas of riding ourselves of any of our normal comforts can seem too hard. Brindley pointed out that in order for her to work through the season of Lent, she needed God to “change the very root of my desires.”
Brindley encouraged others to be honest with God too, to admit when things get hard, and when you simply don’t feel like keeping up with the season.
“Let’s humble ourselves before our Father in Lent this year with the honest, ‘I don’t want to,'” she wrote.
“Let’s receive God’s invitation to “come” as we are,” she added.
Whether you take Chandler’s suggestion to give up food in some variety, or you follow Brindley’s suggestion to be honest in your professions, in this season of Lent, focus on moving what you rely on from self to God.
When we learn to move from the power of self, which is conditional, to the power of God, will we only see the unconditional power that He is waiting to share with us.