This month we arrive at Lent – already! Traditionally we start by thinking about Jesus and his temptation in the wilderness. I guess we could be forgiven for feeling that the current times are something of an extended “wilderness experience”.
I wonder if you find it strange, at least unexpected, that the wilderness is the first place Jesus ends up having been so powerfully affirmed at his baptism. We know the story and so it is in that sense what we expect, but having been filled with the Holy Spirit and reassured of God’s love for him as his Son, is that really what you would expect to happen next?!
My experience is that quite often after a spiritual high point comes what feels like a bit of a low and temptation begins to gnaw away, raising doubts as to whether that’s what really happened etc. “Could God really be calling me… to do that?” Thankfully, when God does make a significant call then he tends to help make it clear through the discernment of others, through his word, through the situation, by the sense of the Spirit within.
It may be that temptation comes in the form of fear; fear of failure or that God will not follow through having called us to do something we feel is beyond us; fear of being hurt emotionally or physically perhaps; fear of appearing foolish or maybe just plain fear and we don’t really know why. All of these are natural human feelings and reactions, and we can be tempted to do a bit of a Jonah and run in the opposite direction. When God says, “Don’t be afraid”, he doesn’t mean “don’t feel afraid”: what it means is “don’t let your fears stop you from doing what God is calling you to do.” That’s where faith and courage come in, to do it in spite of our fears with the help of God’s Spirit… before He has to resort to storms and giant whales to get us there!
Perhaps temptation comes in the form of our attachment to our earthly “treasures”, those things that give us comfort in life, like the rich young man in Luke 18. He was a religious leader and living a “good life”, a religious life, “not doing anyone any harm”. When Jesus challenged him to sell his possessions, give the proceeds to the poor and come follow… he became sad because he had a lot to give up. “How hard it is for those who are materially comfortable to enter the Kingdom of God!” says Jesus.
This Lent we are following a course called “Finding the Way” which is about personal discipleship and how that affects every part of our lives. It is based on “Our Calling”, the Methodist vision, and offers opportunity for us all to reconsider and renew our commitment to following Jesus. It is quite practical too. Do join in either through one of the ZOOM / phone sessions (Mon 13:00, Wed 11:00, Wed 20:00, or Thurs 19:30) or even just by working through the booklet for yourself – more details available from the office.
This Lent go a bit deeper than “giving up chocolate” (or sprouts as my son tried once!) What earthly comforts are really holding you back from trusting God more fully? Is there a fear that stops you taking the next step? Ask for the help of the Holy Spirit and do it anyway! The more you do, the more you will see God doing good things, exciting things, amazing things as you keep on seeking to follow Jesus calling for you.
May God bless you this Lent, in Jesus name and the power of the Spirit,
Revd. Phil Snelson