We are now about two weeks into the Lenten season, a season during which Christians think about giving up something. I think we usually try and give something up that we really should be cutting back on anyway, and it's like a step toward better health or self-improvement. Perhaps we are drinking too much pop, eating too much chocolate or watching too much TV. So we decide to stop doing something for several weeks, or perhaps we decide to give up something we really enjoy, simply as a form of sacrifice and discipline.
We need to lighten the load we are bearing. How can we help others, if we are carrying too much ourselves? How can we share grace if we are weighted down with guilt? How can we comfort others if we are overloaded with heartache? How can we help lift someone else's load if we are totally struggling under our own? Psalm 23 begins with, "The Lord is my Shepherd." Why did God have David write this beautiful psalm? Perhaps it was to help build up our trust in God and remind us of who God is and who He is not. When David wrote, "The Lord is my Shepherd," he used the Hebrew word, Yahweh. "Yahweh is my Shepherd." He used Yahweh because it is God's name, and God's name is who God is. "He is," and He is the One who causes things to happen. And though He creates, Yahweh was never created. And though He changes things, He is unchanging. and though God controls, He is controlled by no one. We need a Shepherd who is the Creator, who never changes and who is in control. We need a Shepherd who we can count on and who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Relationships change. Our health changes. The weather changes, but not Yahweh our shepherd, who was in control when He created the universe and who is in charge today. We can always count on God to be God.
Colossians 3:17 instructs us with these life-giving words. "Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." I'd like to suggest that if we give something up, that we give it up for Jesus, in His name and for His glory. The Bible lists numerous things that would be very right and good for us to give up for Jesus' sake. Colossians 3 gives us a list of some of them. It is a list that has a lot to do with choices we make and who we are. Colossians 3:5-10 admonishes, "Put to death." That's sort of a stronger way of saying, "Give it up." "Put to death therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly (sinful) nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves (another way of saying give it up) of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." In Galatians 5 there is another list of things for us to give up. It's Galatians 5:19-21a. "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like." These are things that we are to give up for His glory. They are things that don't help anyone and only hurt. They are certainly not things we can do in Jesus' name.
In Matthew 6:25, Jesus tells us, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear." In Philippians 4:6-7 we are instructed. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Worry and anxiety are also good things for us to give up for His glory.
So it is great for us to give up negative things for His glory, but the Word of God doesn't stop with giving up stuff. It moves to taking up. Give this up and take this up. Take this off and put this on. In Colossians 3:12-14, we read, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. and over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." We are to give up all the old sinful nature stuff and take up and replace it with all the new nature stuff. It's like changing clothes, by taking off an old filthy, smelly set and putting on a brand-new clean and fresh-smelling set.
Then in Galatians 5:22-23 we have a list of the fruit of the Holy Spirit that is to replace the fruit of the sinful nature. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." That is the kind of character that glorified Jesus.
When it comes to giving up worry and anxiety, we give them up, exchanging worry for seeking first God's kingdom and anxiety for God's peace. It is God's peace that protects our minds and hearts for His glory.
During the rest of this Lenten season, may we give it up for Jesus and take it up for Jesus, for His glory. Also, it's important for us to remember that we give it up not in our own strength, but in His. Philippians 4:13 states, "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."
Usually when we hear someone like an emcee say, "Let's give it up for so and so," they are asking for our applause, an honoring of someone. When we give it up for Jesus, we honor Him and glorify His name.