After his baptism, Jesus is (according to Mark’s gospel) literally driven out into the desert. He then fasts for 40 days and nights, Matthew says, “he was hungry”, which is probably an understatement as I consider myself “hungry” when I have had breakfast, lunch, dinner (at 5.30pm as we have two small children!), by 8pm I have the munchies!! I don’t however know what it is to be hungry for food. However, there are other kinds of hunger and longing . . . in this season of Lent, it is good to reflect on that. Jesus answered Satan when he was tempted to turn stones into bread with the words, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Matthew 3 verse 4 is a quote from Deuteronomy 8 verse 3), elsewhere Jesus also says, when asked to eat something by his disciples, “I have food to eat that you do not know about” (John chapter 4 verse 32), He then says this, “My food is to do the work of him who sent me” . . . wow!
What is my food? What is meat and drink to me?
I am asking that question during lent of myself. What feeds my soul, what nourishes my “inner man” (as Watchman Nee would call it in “The Spiritual Man” – a great book on the spiritual life of a disciple, if you have never read it – GET IT!) . . . there are times when I need the spiritual discipline of “watchfulness” and a really helpful tool for dealing with areas of weakness is H.A.L.T.
H.A.L.T. As in, stop and think! H – for Hungry, with the question, what do I do when I am hungry? This is not just about food . . . what are my “hungers”, do I regularly bring those before Christ and lay them down, for Him to be Lord over them? A – is for angry. what do I do when I am angry? Is the desire for revenge or sniping at someone just waiting for an opportunity – or is it the urge to put things right, to bring forgiveness and healing? L is for lonely. And, man, at times ministry is lonely – but what do we do with that? Who do we share our lives with – where is our “community” our “accountability group” our friends in the Lord. Do we “go in” on ourselves or are we happy in our own company? Knowing what we need, and when we need it is a spiritual discipline as much as a practical one. Finally, T – is for tired. Ever felt so tired you just can’t be bothered? Getting up is an achievement! What begins to slip when we are tired?
Mark gives a very sparse account of Jesus’ time in the wilderness – just two short verses. However, it has seven encouraging words, “and the angels were ministering to him”. Jesus is not alone in his desert experience (this does not mean he did not feel – hungry, angry, lonely and tired) – but, in the midst of it He knew the sustaining hand of God. We might “feel” things, whether a physical ache or an emotional pain – but we are never truly “on our own” . . . as we prepare for Easter and reflect during our own Lent journey, maybe we will remember that Our Father will “give us our daily bread”, (when we are hungry); that we might “forgive others as we have been forgiven” (when we are angry); to know that we are playing our part in “the Kingdom story” (when we are lonely) – and when we are tired, and we feel like packing it in, as we pray for “God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven”, let us be thankful that we do not rely on our strength and energy (when we are tired) – but remember, as Paul writes, that “His strength is made perfect in our weakness” (2 Corinthians 12 verse 9)