What Satan Can Teach Us About Lent

March 7, 2011

Several years ago, I read a dramatic billboard sign that compelled the reader to think about Satan. The billboard read:

Do you believe in Satan? He believes in you.

A striking message, isn’t it? Many of us choose not to think too much about the forces of evil or how Satan plays a part in the Christian story. However, Satan is very much a part of the Christian story, but he is not an inspiring character. Since the beginning of the biblical record, Satan (in Hebrew hasatan means “accuser”) existed in various forms. The presence or mention of the demonic is documented in Genesis, Job, Psalms, Zechariah, the Gospels, and Revelation.

As a way to prepare for the celebration of Easter, Christians all around the world will prepare through the season of Lent. For 40 days (not including Sundays) Christians mark this time through study, prayer, fasting, reflection, worship, service, and meditation on God’s word. Lent provides a way for Christians to change the rhythm of their life by contemplating the less glamorous Christian imperatives such as forgiveness, morality, repentance, suffering, and penitence.

Believe it or not, Satan can teach us about Lent in the Christian life. How? Beginning in the book of Luke, Jesus departs for the wilderness in chapter 4 and confronts Satan, the Accuser:

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.

Jesus then faces three temptations from Satan. Each temptation grows from hunger to power to commanding angels to save Jesus. The connections between this story and the period of Lent are striking. Lent is forty days, and Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days. Jesus fasted in the face of temptation, and many Christians fast in various ways during Lent. Jesus spent time in the wilderness during his testing by Satan (biblically, a place of growth or testing), and we too spend time during Lent contemplating how we are growing in our faith.

Christians often ask, why observe Lent? We do not need forty days to examine our Christian life because we are just fine. Some Christians believe that Lent is outdated. The temptation for Christians is to ignore Lent. Just as Satan tempted Jesus with disbelief in God’s ways, we are tempted into disbelief that Lent is not beneficial to contemporary Christians.

However, we are all yearning for ways to authentically attach ourselves to God. Lent is a way to discover new opportunities to connect with God. Erwin McManus in his book, Soul Cravings, says:

We are all on the same quest. And our soul craving is to find something we can believe in. This thing that haunts you, that never seems satisfied, the cravings in your soul that you are unable to satiate through all the success that the world can bring—this is your soul screaming for God.

Wow, how true! Our souls are craving for God. Satan tempted Jesus with craving for food. Satan tried to end Jesus’ fast prematurely. Satan tried to tempt Jesus for a craving for political power by promising Jesus all the kingdoms of the world by worshiping Satan.

We crave attention. We crave power. We crave status. We crave so much. Sometimes, we mix our cravings by trying to gain attention, power, or status in the church. We are tempted to believe that selfish things will satisfy our selfish cravings.

In reality, Lent brings the focus off selfish cravings and makes us turn on our spiritual cravings. Satan tempted Jesus by trying to trick Jesus into thinking that he craved to show off his Godly power, but Jesus showed Satan what we should really crave:

• Not living on our independence alone, but on the word of God

• Authentic worship that reflects God focused worship

• Crave for God’s commands, not the world’s commands

Throughout Lent, there are several opportunities to satisfy spiritual cravings.  We can begin a pattern in morning prayer, attend a Bible Study, go to an Ash Wednesday service, Maundy Thursday service, a Good Friday worship service, use a Lenten devotional, give something up for Lent, or even add some think for Lent (an extra offering, serve at a food pantry, etc…)

It is my prayer that you will take advantage of the Lenten opportunities in your church or community. I pray that you can learn in new ways of how God is calling you into deeper discipleship. I pray that you will resist worldly cravings and feed your spiritual cravings.

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