Each year for Lent, I am always thankful for my pastor, Mike Castelli, who comes up with a new way to think about the season. This year, we have just begun a study of Revelation, and are in the midst of the Seven Churches. With six and a half weeks until Easter, he suggested that we apply what each church was lacking, or for the two churches of which Jesus had no rebuke, what they were commended for, to our lives: Let each week focus on a different trait, and expend ourselves on each of these. I love this because, rather than trying to decide, “What am I going to give up this year” and “What purpose does this serve,” there is an immediate application to the Scriptures we’re studying, and still a focus on the sufferings of Christ and how I can participate with Him in His sufferings (Phil 3:10; 2 Cor 4:7-16; Col 1:24), by an intensive focus on the inner workings of my heart.
In order to give teeth to these, I need to ask myself a specific question each week, and write them into my calendar so I don’t just frivol the weeks away. I’ve listed his suggestions below with the question I plan to ask myself each week. I post these here in an effort to encourage others to challenge themselves in this way, and for a measure of accountability for myself.
Feb 15-18: The Suffering of Love (Ephesus): How will I expend myself in love for another for the rest of the week?
Feb 19-25: The Suffering of Pain (Smyrna): How will I reach into someone’s pain this week?
Feb 26-Mar 4: The Suffering of Purity (Pergamum): What will I sacrifice for greater purity in my life this week?
Mar 5-11: The Suffering of Humility (Thyatira): How will I sacrifice my own pride for someone else (agenda, benefit, profit, credit) this week?
Mar 12-18: The Suffering of Work (Sardis): How will I expend myself in work, for the Lord’s glory, this week?
Mar 19-25: The Suffering of Witness (Philadelphia): How will I suffer to witness of Christ this week?
Mar 26-31: The Suffering of Giving (Laodicea): How will I give this week in a way that requires sacrifice on my part?