Our church just hosted our annual youth Disciple Now weekend. D-Now is a weekend retreat spent away from home. We feed, entertain, train, teach, serve, and love on all of the youth that attend, as well as the college students that come to help lead the students through Bible Studies. Our theme for the weekend was Exchange. It focused on the idea of Gaining Through Giving Up. We don’t often think about exchanges causing us to sacrifice, but when you begin to contemplate how exchanges work, there is always something that you have to give up.
When I was a kid, I was a swindler. I would make the craziest exchanges and always end up with the better end. When I was in 3rd grade we had a class fundraiser that made us sell wrapping paper and depending on how much you sold decided what prizes you would win. I, of course, didn’t sell very much because it wasn’t fun or exciting enough. But, another boy in my class sold a lot of wrapping paper. I ended up receiving a bookmark for my lack of effort, while he got an entire pack of cool little toys. Of course, being so charming and cunning, I was able to get him to trade his awesome flashlight for my lame bookmark.
I saw nothing wrong with this exchange, until his dad dropped him off at school the next day. His dad approached me and explained to me how his son made a mistake and regretted his exchange and wanted his flashlight back. I, of course, wasn’t fazed by this because I knew I had cheated him.
I deserved to have my little worthless bookmark back. I had intentionally deceived this boy. I deserved what I had earned, not the spoils of his hard work. But still, we tend to want more. We strive to get more for every exchange. We want to come out on the positive end, not the negative.
The best part of any exchanges we have with God is that we always end up better. God doesn’t shortchange us or try and mess us over. He has always been a fair, loving, gracious God. The interesting part is how we interpret the exchanges with God. We often exaggerate our contribution and downplay His sacrifice. I have noticed this during the Lent season more than anything. Traditionally, most Baptist churches don’t partake in Lent, but it is a time that people give something up in order to reflect on all that Christ sacrificed.
Most females around this time begin to think about what they can give up for Lent and it typically deals with food. I think the thought is, “Might as well lose a little weight, while I am giving up something.” Well, the problem with this type of exchange is the fact that it takes the focus away from the true sacrifice and purpose of the Lent season. It can often take Jesus out of the equation, and the focus becomes more self-centered.
What is the exchange rate for Lent? What do you give up and what do you gain? Lent is not meant for weight management or self-modification, but rather for Christ-centered reflection, prayer, and time spent in God’s Word while thinking about Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
It isn’t meant to just trade our dessert for His desert.
Let me explain… we aren’t giving up much in comparison to all that Christ gave up. While we give up cookies, brownies and chocolate, Christ was in preparation to give up His life for the sins of man. This sounds harsh, but honestly He got the worst end of the deal. Don’t get me wrong, if you gave something up for Lent, I think that’s great! I think it is extremely important for us to recognize what Jesus went through. The 40 days in the desert was one of the most grueling times in Jesus’ earthly life, but it was all-necessary for Him if He was going to live out the full extent of God’s love.
But again I ask, what is the exchange rate for Lent? What are we giving up and what are we gaining? Like I said, in all exchanges, we are giving up something. But more often than not, we gain more than what we give up, especially when it comes to God. He gave His son, and all we had to do in exchange is give Him our life; give Him the one thing that we can. He wants us to let go of the things of this world and cling to the cross. As we continue through this season of Lent, don’t focus so much on what you are giving up but what He gave up in order to prove His love.
The only catch to God’s exchange is that we have to give up in order to gain. We have to give up our earthly, flawed life and grab hold of the life that God has planned for us.