Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? – 2 Corinthians 13:5 (RSV)
Ever notice how the number 40 occurs at critical moments in Scripture? It rained on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights. It was the number of days required to properly embalm a body for burial in ancient Egypt.
Moses, especially, is linked to the number. Not only did he lead the stubborn Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years, but his life is divided into three 40-year periods: his Egyptian years, his shepherd years, and his wilderness years. He spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai being personally tutored by God Himself in the law.
The Israelite spies cased the Promised Land for 40 days. Goliath defied God for 40 days. Elijah fasted in the desert for 40 days. Jonah told the Ninevites they had 40 days to get their act together before God would judge them.
Prior to beginning his earthly ministry, Jesus fasted and prayed in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. And His final 40 days on earth between His resurrection and ascension were spent giving last-minute instructions to His disciples.
Notice how the number is associated with judgment and preparation. Lent, the 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday commemorating Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness, is a time of self-examination and spiritual preparation. We give up things, such as eating candy and pop or watching television, to practice self-denial and self-discipline.
But the most important part of this time should be examining our hearts, minds and spirits, asking God to show us anything we harbor that hinders us in our spiritual growth.
First, examine your heart, the seat of our emotions and true character: Are your motives right? Do you choose love over hate, forgiveness over resentment, self-control over anger, contentment over envy, generosity over selfishness, faith over fear, humility over pride, hope over discouragement, trust over doubt, patience over impatience, thankfulness over complaining?
Next examine your mind: Are you allowing God to transform and renew your mind? Or are you still hanging onto control of your thoughts, especially the bad ones? Are you capturing every thought and giving it to God? Are you filling your mind with the positive or the negative? Use Philippians 4:8 as your report card.
Now for the soul and spirit. According to the Children’s Ministry Resource Bible, my soul is the part of me that responds to the world, while my spirit is the part of me that responds to God. I am not to love the world or the things of the world (1 John 2:15). Instead I am to fix my eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and use Him as my model. Am I still running from Him, a rebel with my own agenda, and making myself miserable? Or am I running to Him, needing His love, forgiveness, strength and wisdom as desperately as I need air? Do I allow Him to guide my footsteps, day by day, moment by moment, or do I insist that I do it my way?
Some pretty hard questions, but ones that God will help us with if only we ask.
Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts; and see it there be any wicked way in me. And lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-34). Amen.
Extra tea: Read and meditate on Matthew 4:1–11
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