I find it interesting; the different responses people have to winter, especially since we live in North Dakota. Some folks dread it—the cold, the snow and ice, the hazardous driving conditions and bitter winds. Others like Stella and I look forward to winter with the beauty of snow-covered fields,wearing sweaters and sweats, the break from the heat of summer and the slower pace it brings to our lives. No matter how you feel about it,winter brings with it joys and challenges.
One of the challenges is a condition of heart and mind called “spiritual winter.” This is a coldness of spirit, but it has nothing to do with the temperature or climatic conditions. Spiritual winter in our life occurs when we engage in life choices that allow the fire of the spirit to go out. In I Thessalonians: 5, we are told to be joyful always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances and “do not put out the Spirit’s fire.”
Satan fills us with his lies about our spiritual condition and our relationship with God. If Satan can get you to believe a lie, then he can begin to work in your life to lead you into sin. This is why he attacks the mind, and this is why we must protect our minds from the attacks of the wicked one. Spiritual winter can set in when Satan convinces us to fall away from the spiritual disciplines we use to keep the fire glowing: It’s OK to miss church just this once; it’s really cold outside.
I’ve really worked hard today and I’m tired. I’ll do my devotions tomorrow.
I’m so busy; I just don’t have time to read my Bible today.
Consider what Paul writes in Phil: 4, when he says:
“Finally brothers, whatever is true,whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” Paul knew centuries earlier what noted sales trainer, Napoleon Hill wrote in the 1950’s; “You become what you think about.” When we focus on the good and the excellent and those things worthy of praise, we avoid the traps of Satan. When we focus on the excuses and the lies, we become lax and lazy and spiritually flabby, and we will soon fall into spiritual winter.
John Ortberg, in one of his sermons, described this condition as “entropy.” This is a condition of apathy, the lack of ambition, the ignoring of today’s duties and responsibilities. The Book of Proverbs deals with this in Proverb 24: 30-34:
“I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had grown up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins.
I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw:
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and the poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.”
Entropy, then, starts with the failure to comprehend that this is my one chance at existence on this planet. Everybody gets a vineyard. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime and I don’t even have to care for it by myself. God will partner with me. Ortberg perfectly describes “spiritual winter” in a little modern day parable from the L. A. Times.
A guy goes to the house where he grew up and knocks on the door. He hadn’t been there in 20 years and gets a little sentimental. He asks if he can walk through and while in the attic, he finds an old jacket of his and puts it on. In the pocket, he finds a claim ticket from a shoe repair shop and realizes he never picked up his shoes. On a whim he goes to the shoe shop and presents the claim ticket. The owner goes into the back and in a few minutes he returns to the counter and says; “Come back a week from Thursday, they’ll be ready.”
This is the mind of the sluggard and the condition of the heart known as “spiritual winter.” May you be mindful of the sluggard and the man looking for his shoes and avoid “spiritual winter.”