"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." – Matthew 6:13 (NIV). Most Americans, most notably those living in the South, are aware of Mardi Gras and Carnival. But not many are aware of how these two “feast” events are connected to the season of Lent.
And since Lent involves fasting, which is the opposite of feasting, it is significant to know that the early observers of Lent would eat all they could the day before on Mardi Gras which means “Fat Tuesday” or have Carnival, which means “Flesh be gone,” to prepare to refrain from eating meat and then living a life of controlled religious sobriety beginning Wednesday, the next day.
nd here we are right in the middle of the Lenten season. It’s that period in the Christian traditions of 40 days leading up to Easter. Lent is a time of sacrifice for Jesus the Christ.
The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the Christian believer – through prayer, praise, purifying, penitence and patience – for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But the days of Lent can be challenging, just as the days leading up to his death were challenging for Jesus Christ.
The days leading up to his death were not his best days. He did not receive more praise in his last term of office. During his last year in office, he received more rebuke, more rebuttal, more rejection than any other time in his earthly ministry. As a matter of fact, the last year of Jesus’ ministry in formal circles is called “The year of opposition.”
And one would think that his last year would be for him a year of opportunity. After all, during his last year, he performed many miracles. And yet when he should have been praised, and appreciated and congratulated, he was, rather, humiliated, marginalized and criticized.
And so Jesus was tempted. Tempted to get even. Tempted to get back. Tempted to have the last word. But he tamed his temptations. He did not yield to his tempters.
And so in a society plagued by moral failure, where ethical misconduct is commonplace, we are all tempted. Just like food is available during Lent, and we see the food, smell the food, and we are tempted to break our fast. Opportunities to do the right things are not as prevalent as temptations for us to do wrong. Opportunity may knock only once but temptation leans on the doorbell.
But if you can endure and withstand, resist and counteract temptations, you receive a tremendous blessing. For the Bible says, in James 1:12, “Blessed is the person that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.”
Temptation is the desire to perform an action which one may enjoy for the short term but will later probably cause regret for various reasons. It’s the desire to get excited about those things that bring pleasure, pride and prosperity that are off-limits. It’s fascination with the forbidden. It’s the lust for the delicious. It’s the lust for, the itch for, the “hots” for that which is off-limits.
Temptations are not always sexual. Temptations can affect your temporal, spiritual, physical, psychological, as well as, moral self. Temptation is knowing you need to walk away, but you stay.
Temptation is knowing you need to say something, but you remain silent. Temptations come most often when you are weak, wounded or willing. And Jesus was tempted. The Bible teaches, in Hebrews 4:15, “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
So we are taught in the Model Prayer to ask the Lord to not lead us into temptation. We first recognize the possibility that we can and will be tempted, we request help through prayer, we resist the devil, retreat from obvious strongholds, remove issues and items associated with temptations, replace bad behavior with good and resolve to always do what is best for the glory of God.
When we ask fervently for the Lord’s intervention when temptations knock, we will better be able to tame them.
*Pictured above is Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net. Website: WTRMinistries.com