In our 40-day challenge books, we do our best to challenge and help readers develop habits and practices based on the life, words, and habits of Jesus. When we are writing the books, here are some of the questions we think about internally:
- What do people already know?
- What new thing(s) do we want to share with people?
- What habits are going to be formed during this time?
- What is the goal at the end of the book?
During challenges, we provide a goal and focal point that readers will accomplish to finish the forty days. But then what?
Let’s look to Jesus.
Jesus’s 40 Days
The story of Jesus in the desert is a great model of Lent and our forty-day experience. You can read the short story here. There are seasons in our lives when we have to pull away from something. So to look at Jesus’s forty days is worthwhile. But it struck me, nothing is written about Jesus’s actual forty-day experience. Jesus’s temptations didn’t occur DURING His fast. They occurred AFTER His fast.
As fun and testing as our daily challenges are, for some, the hardest thing you will have to face is not the forty days itself, but afterward.
Like Jesus, it’s when the forty days were up that the real battle began.
Jesus’s biggest struggle started at the end of His 40-day challenge.
His seeking of good resulted in a more vicious attack than ever. This is what it meant for Jesus:
- His 40-day experience was assumed to be relatively trouble-free.
- He felt more weakness and persuasion from Satan after His forty days were over.
- He relied on His memory to get Him through the hardest temptations.
The three words that Jesus used most to battle the devil’s temptations were “It is written.” These three words just may be the most powerful words to battle the devil’s temptations. But, you need to know God’s Word in order to use that phrase effectively! Do you know God’s Word?
What Jesus’s experience teaches us is that without a plan for after your challenge, you might end up right where you started.
The Three Rs
The 40-day challenge books are a great way to kickstart a transformation in your life.
It encourages you to take on challenges for 40 days and commit to a daily time of Bible study. It can help you to focus on your spiritual goals or make progress on the ones you already have in your life. However, once the forty days are over, people have found that it can be difficult to know what to do next.
Here are three things you should do after completing a 40-day Challenge book:
1. Reflect: Take some time to reflect on your journey and everything you have achieved. Think about what challenges were easy and which were difficult for you.
Practical Questions to Ask:
- How was your attention? Did you start faithful but get distracted toward the end? Was there a part of the challenge that you did really well but another that you struggled with?
- What did you want to accomplish at the end of the 40-day challenge book?
- Have you made a new relationship as a result of the 40-Day challenge?
- Have you discovered a spot you liked to read or study? Could that be a place you continue to do quiet time?
2. Reassess: After reflecting, reassess how you are doing spiritually. If you’ve achieved some of the life transformations you set out for, then it’s time to set new ones!
Practical Next Steps:
- Read and study some more! Check out our other 40-Day challenge books if you haven’t read all of them. If you have exhausted our library, check out all of the studies by one of our partners RightNow Media.
- Take our FREE Red Letter Challenge Assessment to measure how you are living out your faith according to the 5 Targets of Being, Forgiving, Serving, Giving, and Going.
- Our podcast, Red Letter Disciple, offers a great way to be practical with your faith! We have guests who share the way they practice or teach discipleship in their circles of influence.
3. Recommit: Once you’ve reassessed your goals, it’s time to recommit to them. Make a new plan and stick to it. This will help you to stay motivated and keep on track.
Practical Ways to Recommit:
- Read your Bible. Use YouVersion’s free app to find bible plans, more free devotionals, or specific studies (including some written by us that you can find here.)
- Pray. Continue to maintain an open conversation with God, whether it is sporadic, a scheduled thing, or written out. Research shows that you remember things that are hand-written more than anything else, so try writing down prayer requests!
- Find a church. Also, if you are not already, join a small group at that church. Here’s a great article on how to find a church that’s right for you. If much of the stuff in that article is too difficult for you, I think the key is finding a Christian friend and simply asking where you could fit in.
The 40-day Challenge book is a great way to start a transformation in your life. But it’s not enough just to make a plan and commit to it for forty days.
The hard truth we all face is that no matter how you live or what choices you make, things won’t always go well. You will miss the mark sometimes. Trials and temptations come no matter how you live. Ordinary life is not smooth and not good, even if no one messed up. Even if you didn’t make a mistake, someone messed up and it is affecting your life.
No one leaves unchanged after an encounter with Jesus. Moving from one place to another requires death. The death that was paid for was the one done by Jesus. Jesus will change you from the inside out. He will do that through your baptism, He will do it through the reading of God’s Word, He will do it through a song, or a sermon, or another believer who walks alongside you. He will do it through a Red Letter Challenge book, or your small group. He will do it on your best day, and even on your worst day.
Jesus will never stop pursuing you. It’s a lifelong journey.
In summary, now that you are ready for the next thing, take some time to reflect, reassess, and recommit after your 40-day challenge book is over.
40 days aren’t the start, it’s just the beginning!