The Slow Work of God
First Sunday of Lent
SUNDAY, February 26
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
“The fruit of the tree was desirable to acquire wisdom, then their eyes were opened, and they became aware of their nakedness” (v. 5). Becoming aware of the nakedness of the soul is difficult—even more so when it comes to admitting our sin. It is easy to acknowledge the sin of others but tempting to ignore our own. That temptation can come disguised as knowledge, success, financial prosperity, or an improper relationship.
Trying to accelerate the promise of God, Abraham bears offspring with his servant Hagar. French Jesuit priest and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin asserted, “Above all, have faith in the slow work of God.” Too often we are like Abraham, the father of our faith, striving to reach the end without delay. We skip the intermediate stages, sometimes sinning in our impatience.
Lord, teach us to trust in your patient and silent work, without rush, without shortcuts. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: GOD’S ABIDING LOVE
MONDAY, February 27
“Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people” (v. 18, NIV).
Today’s passage contrasts Adam with Christ. A theological anthropology to understand fallen and redeemed humanity—Adam, a disobedient creature, who succumbed to the tempter in Eden, without measuring the consequences for humanity of his disobedience. On the other hand, Christ is faithful, self-sacrificing, obedient, without fault, by whom we obtain freedom from all our miseries.
In my pastoral and counseling class at Stateville Correctional Center through North Park Theological Seminary, I observe in my students the constant expectation of possible punishment reduction from an endless and prolonged sentence. They have taught me that in Christ we are free, beyond the bars. In Christ we receive a second chance—free and unconditional.
Lord, thank you for making us free from any condemnation. You offered us unconditional freedom in Christ alone. AMEN.
Pleasure and Comfort
TUESDAY, February 28
Jesus was tempted in the wilderness to place three values above the love of God: food, power, and money (or comfort). Most of us fall into one or two of those traps repeatedly.
After 40 days of fasting, Jesus was hungry. “The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread’” (v. 3). He tempted Jesus in his very identity, in his mission call. Show me your power, your capacity to perform deeds to satisfy hunger.
We may not be tempted by loaves of bread, but perhaps we struggle with identity issues, based on consumption, performance, and possessions. What are my temptations, the indulgences that separate me from God and neighbor?
Father, help us to satisfy our real and deepest hunger—our appetite for your righteousness and justice and our insatiable love for your Word. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WHO DO NOT HAVE A VOICE
Do Not Put the Lord to the Test
WEDNESDAY, March 1
Matthew 4: 5-7
The pandemic has revealed the same manipulative game to us; we may also be tempted to make this same demands of the Lord: “God, if it exists, show me, prove it, perform a miracle!”
In times of extreme suffering, pain, fear, loss, and grief, this temptation can be magnified.
In this text Satan demands that Jesus exhibit some of his power to perform a messianic sign in the temple to be seen by the religious authorities. Do I want to be influential to others instead of serving them? We often act as if God had to submit to our caprices and demands. The excess of power is dangerous.
Lord, teach me to be generous, and help me to seek your glory instead of mine. AMEN.
Strategy of the Devil
THURSDAY, March 2
Seeing that the first two temptations do not achieve their objective,
the devil attacks with a stronger, attractive, and convincing temptation. This one summed up the first two: the love of riches, delights, delicacies, and luxuries; the desire to possess; then vanity and finally pride and arrogance.
While the world is always seeking more, God became poor in Christ, paying for all the priceless ransom of our sins. “God the Father…rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 8:9). What really makes us rich is not goods, food, or possessions, but love.
Lord, I am a slave to what I have and possess, ignoring the needs of others. Forgive my selfishness, wanting more than I really need. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: REPENTANCE
God Is Eager to Forgive
FRIDAY, March 3
“My body wasted away…my strength was dried up” (3a, 4b).
The psalmist reaches a point of utter exhaustion from traumatic restlessness as he recognizes that his thoughts, actions, and behaviors have hurt others. We struggle to recognize when something is wrong with us and we are the main protagonists. We feel shame in not living
up to the standards of the Christian life.
Sin sucks the life out of the psalmist. Silence about our sin can be deadly. We need to resist that sin and not let it metastasize in our faith, or devotion to God, which impacts our relationships with others. It is like a cancer that penetrates the most intimate parts of our whole beings.
The psalmist presents us with the antidote: confess our sins. Don’t cover it up, don’t ignore it.
Lord, allow me to admit that I need to confess my sin. Forgive me today! AMEN.
SATURDAY, March 4
Psalm 32: 8-11
“Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding” (v. 9a).
The psalmist exhorts his audience not to be obstinate. Do not think that you can be pleased without God. A friend invited me to visit his farm near Bogota. He invited me to ride his mule through trails and streams in 95-degree heat. I had no experience with beasts, and the animal stopped in the middle of a low river. I tried everything but had no luck in getting it to move. My friend came to my aid—when he talked to the mule, it started to walk.
Sometimes we don’t move until the voice of God shakes us and makes us walk in the right direction.
Lord, make me docile, attentive to your voice, obedient in my stubbornness, to receive your counsel and walk in the right path. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: THOSE WE HAVE HURT