Domingo, 22 de Janeiro de 2017
   
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Getting Through a Spiritual Winter

My dear friend and brother,

I truly understand what you are going through. I know what this winter in spiritual life is like. It becomes mechanical and cold, almost no vigor at all. It is a true thing that the Christian journey has its ups and downs. However, the responsibility of fighting for a vigorous life, aligned to God’s will, remains. So your concern is really valid and shows your conversion was real. And that is a good motive to grant you joy and a quiet heart (1 John 1.4).

The point is that Satan also knows such reality. As a good accuser (Rev. 12:10), he takes advantage on those moments and likes throwing even more snow in our freezing winter. That’s why believing in the heat of a bonfire or a blanket is so hard sometimes. Fear of spiritual neglect eats us up in the face of Satan’s accusations and all effort seems vain.

The true Christian understands that the absence of a firm spiritual life brings extremely severe consequences, harmful to all other areas of life. And one of those effects is a kind of sadness, which, I believe, you are feeling right now. Such sadness is contemplated in Scripture in 2 Corinthians 7.8-11.

Note here that the Corinthians had understood their sins mentioned by Paul in the first letter, and mourned for it. But the apostle warns them about the result that such sorrow should produce: genuine repentance, which is accompanied by fruit as "... what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing [for the state previous to sin], who concern, that readiness to see justice done".

That's the healthy sadness that needs to permeate our hearts when we are unsatisfied with our spiritual life. It engenders practical actions that make us get out of the inertia state.

Paul mentions yet another kind of worldly sorrow that brings death: resultant of the despair for not having God’s forgiveness. The devil wants to produce exactly this in the Lord’s servants. Thus Christians should be aware of it, knowing that Satan does not miss a chance of destroying the joy and certainty of forgiveness God’s children possess (1 John 1.7,9).

Bearing all this in mind, how to fight for a stronger spiritual life then?

To start with, I think we must live one day at a time. This may sound like an MPB (Brazilian Popular Music) jargon but is actually biblical a relevant to us.

Jesus talks about living the present day. Have you ever stopped to wonder about “Each day has enough trouble of its own”? Jesus stated that 1)      evil is going to come 2) we must fight evil in the day set to it.

So live your spiritual battles today (and today only). Do not worry about tomorrow’s manna. It will come. Worry about reading the Bible today. Worry about praying today. Worry about being in communion with God today. In short, to live one day at a time helps us develop natural habits rather than mere impositions of schedules and routines for this and that activity.

It is also important to nurture plain spiritual habits that are also powerful. What I mean by that is many times we glance at grand men in history amazed by how often they read the Bible and how much time they harnessed praying. Daniel is an example himself (Daniel 6:10)

That fact is when set the grand goal of being like Daniel, for example, but eventually fail at some point, everything else fails. Our goal goes down the drain and we feel completely helpless.

I am obviously not saying that we should not have such men as examples nor think big. Our standard is most high: God’s perfection (1 Peter 1.15,16). But I believe we often forget that sanctification is a slow process, “…from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Establishing plain goals is a simple way of always being steady. As an example, daily reading small portions of the Bible keeps our mind watered by the Holy Ghost, even though we often do not realize it. For now, just forget about those goals of reading the whole Bible in X days or thinking that a short reading is not an edifying reading. Do read a smaller portion and pour your mind over it, draw any application from it and take it to the field at each day.

Another habit really related to our hasty routine is prayer. I must agree with you on that: praying is difficult. And not because we do not miss it! We do! Much! But we are always left with the feeling that we do not pray enough. On that, we may even think about the famous verse: “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), but we tend to become complacent as well.

To pray continually may be simpler than it sounds. When you get good news and it fills you with gratitude, say a short prayer in your mind right away. When under tension, little as it may be, say a prayer right away. When someone asks for your prayer, do not wait until you get home. Pray at that very moment. That's what Jesus did (Lk 10:21; Jn 11.41,42) and that's what we must do!

We must be mindful that Scripture is a supernatural book. Also, that prayer is a means of transformation of our own heart. That is so because by praying we recognize God as our father, we show our dependence on him, we expose our agonies and submit to his will, just as Jesus did in Matthew 26.39. Beyond that, when we start nurturing such habits, mainly prayer, we begin to notice God’s action more clearly in each and every detail of our lives, which fills us up with constant gratitude and joy (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18).

Another essential factor for a stronger spiritual life is constant church work. This may be the least of our concerns. Nevertheless, we must struggle not to be negligent.

To work in the church does not mean doing everything they ask us. In fact even Jesus did not do it (Mark 1.35-39). It implies tracking down our communities major needs and priorities and striving to sort them out. And that may involve from sweeping the floor to leading a group, for instance. In fact, when we work in the church we have fellowship with one another. Also, the absence of very prolonged and constant gaps in our agenda prevents us from using our creativity to sinful idleness.

At last, I would like to tell you that our heart must be constantly worked up. Otherwise, we may never have genuine willingness to do any of what I said above “in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).

I do not mean that these truths are unknown to you. Actually, I hold the belief that all I said is already in your mind. However, sin damaged men’s memory, which the Book of Judges illustrates well, along with Deuteronomy – the repetition of the law (why then repeat if we do not forget easily?)

I am sorry for the long text, but many truths came to mind when I thought about everything you wrote to me. I hope these words have been of real value to you and I pray that our spiritual life walks again towards a warm and cozy summer.

Sincerely, buddy!

Nickolas Ramos

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