Written by Peter Blanch
In the bleak coldness of winter we can often feel bleak and cold within our hearts and minds, particularly when sickness seems rife! How do we avoid feeling miserable and down during these winter months? Here are some general reflections of mine.
God has made us as physical beings. To be “warmed” and to thrive in life we need to be wise in how we maintain our bodies. As I am heading into the mid-life years I have become more aware of watching what I eat and maintaining a regular exercise pattern. One of the things I have noticed is that when I am disciplined in this area of my life, I am a much better pastor, father, husband and friend. The benefits are not just a stronger body but also a stronger, more resilient and more alert mind that is less prone to stress and more willing to serve.
As a physical being, if I work hard I also need to rest well. I am usually good at resting one day in seven, which for me happens to be a Thursday, but good discipline with sleep patterns everyday of the week is important to managing life with all it’s busy times.
Not only are we physical beings but God also made us spiritual beings. If you are going to be refreshed in the spiritual part of your life you need to pay attention to your spirituality in detail. This begins with a constant reminder of the gospel. In the words of Paul, “… the life I live in this body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20b.
Just as the physical side of life benefits greatly with a disciplined approach to exercise and diet – so too being spiritually disciplined matters greatly. There are a number of godly disciplines that we need to build self controlled in if we are to thrive spiritually.
Firstly, Prayer: The apostle Paul calls on us to be “devoted to prayer” in Colossians 4:2. This involves being regular, steady and thorough in talking to God. It’s not just praying “on the run” but making time each day to stop, be still and talk with your Heavenly Father. A key to your prayer life is being emotionally honest with God and casting you cares before Him. It is also critical not just to ask God for things – but as you pray to Him to thank Him, say sorry to Him and express your love for Him. This prayer aspect of your spiritual health is so important that at our annual Winter Warm-up (this coming Tuesday night, 14th July, 6pm here at the Christian College) our Maturity Team will be focussing on warming up your prayer life. Can I encourage you to get along – we look forward to a great time of fellowship together over dinner and then time together praising God, thanking God, saying sorry for our sin and asking God for good things.
Secondly, alongside Prayer comes Bible reading: All Christians who have remained refreshed and thriving in their spiritual life long term have fed themselves regularly on God’s word in the Bible. Many have benefitted from a systematic plan of reading God’s word. A haphazard approach to reading God’s word [say, just reading the Bible where it happens to open up] can yield fruit, but the deliberate careful reading of all of God’s word is food for the soul.
Another beneficial discipline is being committed to God’s people (through our Sunday gatherings, growth groups and one to one Bible reading and prayer): I always make sure my family goes to church even when we’re on holidays because it’s my way of saying to my family that we don’t just go to church when we are home. We go, wherever we are, to meet with God’s people wherever we are, to love and serve the very people that Christ died for.
Being refreshed and thriving also involves relationships: God made us as relational beings and so having healthy relationships is key. I treasure my wife Sarah and my children. They must get good time from me but not all my time. I also treasure my wider extended family. I treasure my long term Christian friendships that reach back to when I first became a Christian. I treasure my monthly regular prayer catch-ups with Chris Little [a pastor in Albury who is part of our church’s Board of Reference]. And I treasure my relationships with each of you in our church family. God has given us relationships to help us to grow, but in order to keep your relationships healthy, please understand the universal rule of all relationships: Any relationship left to itself will break down sooner or later. Without commitment, effort and grace relationships will die (like food which has been left out of the fridge). Don’t assume upon your relationships with others – graciously continue to make the effort to grow healthy relationships in love, and in turn you will be refreshed and encouraged.
Of course, we cannot know real refreshment without the peace that comes from a clean conscience before God. Knowing our own sinfulness, we must continually come before God in repentance and faith, confessing our sins and appreciating the full and free forgiveness that comes through Jesus. God grants us peace with him and a deep and growing relationship that promises to sustain us and refresh us throughout any difficulty in life.
God himself has promised to be our refreshment. He has given us his Holy Spirit to enable us to thrive. In even the bleakest and coldest heart God can work through His Word, through prayer and through people to warm us and draw us nearer to Him.