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Why We Should Observe The Full Season of Lent

Dear COA Family,

Just this past week, we observed Ash Wednesday, which was the start of a period of forty days we call Lent. It is a season of deliberate self-denial, repentance from sins and fasting in order to make space to focus our heart’s attention on God.

Why do we observe a 40-day period for Lent?

Firstly, it is because 40 is not a random number but a biblically ordained period of time to seek the Lord.

• In Genesis 7:12, we read that God sent the flood on earth for 40 days and 40 nights. It symbolised a time of judgment, mourning and cleansing of all that is evil on the earth. It also symbolised a time of deliverance for God’s people from the destruction that the world faced. Noah and his family had to endure that tumultuous time to enter into the new covenant that God would subsequently make with him and all

• In Numbers 14:20-35, we read of God’s judgment on the Israelites as a result of their unbelief. They had to spend 40 years wandering in the desert until the entire generation who rebelled against God had died in the wilderness. Yet the 40 years also saw God’s marvellous provision of food, water, clothing and protection from harm for the entire nation. The younger generation had to endure and realise that they were not to live on
bread alone but by God’s spoken word of promise to them.

• In 1 Samuel 7-8-16, we read of how Israel’s enemy, the Philistines, opposed them for 40 days through their champion Goliath. Each day, they endured his taunts and insults. God wonderfully delivered them through His servant David after that period of fear and trepidation.

• Finally, in Matthew 4, we read of how Jesus was tested by the devil for 40 days in the wilderness. He did not consume a morsel of food for that entire period, yet by God’s word was able to resist the devil’s temptations. It was a necessary period of time for him to endure in order to be perfected in faith.

Secondly, it is because it takes time for patience and endurance to be developed in our lives.

Faith does not come about instantaneously but only through a period of testing and refining. We cannot and must not cut short the process of growth or it will all be in vain. The Apostle James wrote: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4).

So why am I sharing this with all of us?

During this season of Lent, we may face the temptation to cut short the time of fasting as it is long and tedious. We may be enticed to end our fasts early because we think that we have achieved the outcomes of our fast. May we refrain from such actions!

Instead, let us remember that this season of 40 days is ordained by the Lord for the perfecting of our faith and trust in the Spirit to complete his work in our lives. Let us instead encourage and journey with one another as one family to go through this season together. We will then be able to fully celebrate God’s deliverance in the season of Easter.

God bless,
Revd Ian