The traditional 40 days of Lent commences this year, 2021, on 17th February. It will be observed by various Christian denominations and millions of Christians around the world. Millions of others will ignore it.

So – does Lent hold any relevance in this unstable, Covid world? Is there any real value in Lent? Does Lent matter? I want to show you how an updated ancient approach to Lent might change your life this year.

I grew up in a church-going family; in fact, when just a child we went to a morning service, afternoon Sunday school and evening service every Sunday. That means we walked 6 miles in total; no wonder Sunday lunch and tea seemed so special, even if they were eaten in a hurry. 

Easter was a special time but I never heard about Lent until I was in my teens. When I asked about it, I was told that it was a time when some Christians gave up some food. That didn’t sound a very attractive idea to me, so I quickly forgot about it and as I grew older, I never referred to it again in any way. 

So, I was somewhat surprised in my study of early Celtic Christianity to discover just what a big deal Lent was for those early disciples. 

The early Christian Celts had been genuinely transformed by the good news of Jesus Christ. Philip had preached good news about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, as had Paul (Acts 8:12; 28:31). As those early Christians received the message with joyful and thankful hearts, they found that everything changed for them. Their whole worldview, their understanding of God’s mission on earth and their place within it. Everything became new and wonderful. And of course, at the heart of it all was the coming of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection. They knew that the resurrection of the crucified Lord was the decisive action, triumph and revelation on which everything depended, and they were lost in wonder that Jesus, the Son of God, should have died for them, paying the penalty of their sins and liberating them through the promise of eternal life. 

Understanding how the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness during 40 costly days of fasting immediately before the commencement of his ministry shaped the working out of the Salvation Story, they adopted the idea of spending 40 days before Easter preparing for the celebrations. And wow, did they celebrate. Jesus is alive! Hell could not hold Him, the grave could not keep him, Death’s sting was overcome by resurrection. He who died for you and me is alive for evermore!

Here we are in the 21st Century and as western Christians we seem largely to have forgotten how to celebrate. Instead, we ‘observe’. Easter readings, Easter hymns, The Lord’s Table in quiet reflection, then off we go for Sunday Lunch as usual. Easter done. Woe is us!!!

I suggest that we repent right now, prayerfully recover the real concept of Lent and use it profitably for ourselves and for others and bring joy to God’s heart. But how?

Lent offers an opportunity in every year to reconsider our worked-out lives in view of the love of God towards each one of us, and the amazing sacrifice of the Lord Jesus which sets us free. It can be a life-giving season as we reflect on His love, His sacrifice. 

Here is an alternative framework for Lent

Keep to your regular pattern of daily readings, but take some extra time to slowly read through the gospel accounts of Palm Sunday, Holy Week and the Easter events. Reflect on them. Make it personal. He experienced all this for you.  

Ask yourself some major questions

  • How thankful and joyful am I for the finished work of Jesus Christ? Acts 13:52
  • Is joy a mark of my life?  Not just froth, but genuine, deep joy, wrapped up in thankfulness? If circumstances, pain etc have squashed our joy, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to renew it within us. Romans 15:13
  • How is my life displaying the fruit of new life through Christ? Romans 7:4
  • How do I become the neighbour from heaven to those I encounter, because everyone is my brother? Luke 10:25 – 37
  • To whom can I demonstrate mercy? That is, lifting a weight off their shoulders and carrying it for them. Luke 6:36

Is Jesus Christ the Lord of my time and money?

Lent is a great time to reconsider our stewardship of time and money.

  • Do we have a plan of both regular and occasional giving? If so, at this is time when we are particularly remembering how Jesus gave everything, even His life, for us, let’s check our giving plan and see whether it needs updating.
  • If we have no plan, why not make one now? No condemnation or guilt trips required! Everyone’s financial circumstances are unique to them. You might be extremely generous; for others, even the widow’s mite could be a stretch. Talk to God about it. Make a plan.
  • To what are we committing our time? Could you volunteer and be of service to the needy in any way?

Self Denial

In my opinion, self-denial for the sake of doing it is just plain silly! There needs to be a clear and fruitful purpose.

Jesus’ experience of 40 days self-denial in the wilderness was tough. He was hungry, and Satan offered Him the world on a plate. His self identity and commitment were challenged. Temptation triumphed over the first Adam. The second Adam, Jesus, defeated temptation. Acts 15: 22; 45. He committed himself to the way of the cross, saying NO to the offer by Satan of a much easier route.

There was fruit from His 40 days. You and me. Through the foolishness of the cross we are saved!

True, life-changing Fasting

You and I might pause and make a plan of self-denial for Lent. Like Jesus, we can go into that place by choice – not by force or obligation – and with the Holy Spirit’s help we can deal with some of our issues with our flesh, the world and temptations, all in the light of the self-denial of Jesus. We might choose to fast. Some find that more challenging than others. But does fasting necessarily have to mean less food? 

Well, no. In Isaiah 58 we discover God’s rebuke to pointless religious temporary fasting from food which is disconnected from the way we live our real lives. I suggest you read the whole of chapter 58, but here are some of its words.

“Is this the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?”

“This is the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, to welcome the homeless, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked.” 

You might consider these words of Jesus who illumines Isaiah’s words in a parable. “Then the King will say ‘…Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?

And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Is this the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?”

“This is the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, to welcome the homeless, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked.” 

Matt 25:34ff

Let’s check our attitude to our engagement with the poor and needy, the broken, in the light of Jesus Christ. It might be costly, in time and or money, but what is that compared to the example of Jesus? Denying self for the sake of others, a lifechanging fast. And just maybe we may find ourselves transformed by the renewing of our minds this Lent. The way Jesus lived and died was shaped by the experience in the wilderness. The fruit of such a Lent fast will be revealed in the way we live our lives, our mission, when Lent is over for this year.

And all the while, consider Easter Sunday. Don’t plan to observe Easter. Plan to Celebrate! 

Christ has died,

Christ has risen,

Christ will come again.

A Blessing

I bless you in the name of Jesus that the joy of the finished work of Jesus may burst out afresh in your lives, transforming your mind, healing your heart, confronting circumstances; the weight and darkness, the oppression of lockdown, all the loneliness and restrictions of this covid world; the fears that are surrounding us, the conspiracy theories that are being fed by the media. I bless you in the name of Jesus that you may rise above them all in confidence and in the joy of the Lord. And I bless you in the name of Jesus that the Holy Spirit may be upon you as you look afresh at the Easter events; that you may find your attitudes being transformed and your mind changed. The direction of your life steered towards the lost, the least and the broken in society. That compassion may arise and that you may respond in life giving service towards them. I bless you that you may carry good news for the poor wherever you look and wherever you walk and I bless you that you may know the hand of God upon you and hear the voice of God speaking to you, encouraging you, leading you on day by day, saying well done my good and faithful servant my child in whom I delight.

I bless you in Jesus’ name. Shalom.


Would you bless us by sharing this blog with others? Thank you. Has this blog encouraged you? If so, would you drop us a note: mail@roygodwin.org and encourage us? 

Roy’s books are available from roygodwin.org 

© Roy Godwin 2021

Original photo: by Cesira Alvarado on Unsplash

Born to Bless
Death and Judgement
Foundations of Prayer
Houses of Prayer

The God Who Is Love