A Lenten Reflection: Redefining Success

A Lenten Reflection: Redefining Success

20 March 2023

I don’t know how you find Lent, this 40 day period leading up to Easter Sunday - traditionally observed in the church through fasting, prayer and giving - or if you even “find” it at all. Perhaps in all the hullabaloo of the past term it has somewhat passed you by. If so, I’m sure you’re not alone.

The good news is that Jesus’ 40 day fast in the wilderness was so much more than an example for us to imitate. It was a victory that he won for us. In the wilderness Jesus faced trial and temptation, hunger and hardship and yet remained faithful to his heavenly Father and the alternative value system of the Kingdom.

The wilderness was Jesus’ place of formation, his training ground, where he nailed his colours to the mast and revealed through his hungry, exhausted, human body what kind of leader he would be and what “winning” in God’s eyes really looks like.

Jesus would continue to radically redefine “success” throughout his short life and public ministry. This profoundly counter cultural understanding of what it is to be a “success” and live the “good life” is summarised perhaps most beautifully in the beatitudes.

Contrary to the devil’s wilderness offers of worldly comfort, power and security, according to Jesus:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.” (Matthew 5:3-12 MSG translation)

At the end of his 40 days out in the wild, Jesus was hungry, tired and weak. Feelings that perhaps feel familiar as another term draws to a close. If that’s you - then know that Jesus is close to you. Just because things are hard does not mean God has abandoned you. On the contrary, Jesus promises that it is precisely in those places of weakness, need and trial that God’s blessing is found.


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