This spring we opened our pond to find fish missing. We have had a beautiful pond in our backyard for several years now. The number of fish had grown each year until it had held about 18 fish, a variety of beautiful koi and multicolored goldfish, when we closed our pond last fall. In order to prepare for winter, we had put a small pump in to keep the pond from freezing and covered it with a net to keep the leaves and corn shocks out. But instead of finding all of our fish this spring, we were so disappointed to find only seven of them swimming in the pond when we opened it last week. Seven out of 18! We lost over half of our fish this winter. What happened to them?
We still don’t know. We are assuming a mink or raccoon came in and stole them. Because we live on the edge of a field most of the wild animals can find enough to eat without coming on to our property, but some brave creature must have risked our dogs and my son’s shotgun and decided it was worth the trip. We are guessing it was a creature that prowls about at night. Now we have to figure out how to keep the rest of our fish safe.
We had made an assumption that our fish would be okay over the winter. We had not gone to the pond to count them nor done anything to ensure their safety. We had gone about our lives all winter long, assuming the fish would be there when it was time to re-open the pond. We had nonchalantly made a wrong assumption and it had cost the fish their lives.
Many of us treat our spiritual health like we treated our pond over the winter. We throw a pump in (we go to church every Sunday) and we cast a net over it (turn on Christian music radio) and then we go live our life. But is that enough to keep us spiritually healthy?
I Peter 5:8 says: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Most of us do not want to think about the devil at work trying to devour us. We prefer not to think about the spiritual battle we are in and instead rest easy assuming we will be just fine. But if I Peter 5:8 is true (and, as it is God’s Word, we know it is) then we have an enemy in the devil. We cannot ever let our guard down. We can never make the assumption that we (or our families) are safe spiritually. We must approach life with open eyes, wisdom, and discernment.
How can this be accomplished? How do we keep our eyes open so that we can make sure we aren’t devoured or even deceived by our enemy?
1) Read God’s Word and pray faithfully. This is tougher than it sounds. I will have a couple of weeks where I read every morning and then I will get busy and find myself having gone a week without opening my Bible. But we have a responsibility to keep our schedules free enough that we have time to include time with God. I am still working on this one!
2) Be sure any resources we read (or listen to) for spiritual growth are biblical. This is a tricky one, because the Christian market today is flooded with books and preachers that claim to be “Christian” but are filled with deceptive, anti-Christian words. We need to constantly be comparing all spiritual material against the words of the Holy scriptures.
3) Use discernment in our entertainment choices. Many people will tell you that it doesn’t matter what you fill your mind with but scripture tells us differently (Philippians 4:8). We cannot expect to fill our minds with all of the things God hates and then be spiritually healthy. Again, this is hard, because we live in a world where entertainment in almost like an idol. But we have a responsibility to guard our spiritual health and bad choices in entertainment may be the number one thing that weakens believers.
4) Confess our sins. This is one I have been thinking about recently. We do not hear much on confession anymore, do we? But in order to confess our sins, we have to ask God to show us our sin. And that leads to awareness. Lots of times I will just go about my life not even realizing the sins I commit against my Heavenly Father every day – even every hour. But if I sit down and take the time to pray and confess, I will realize that I probably didn’t handle the situation with my child correctly or I wasn’t the wife I should have been when we had that argument. Confession leads to a sensitivity of sin.
5) And, finally, we need to always be thinking. We can NEVER let our guard down. In this current age, there are so many attacks on true, biblical Christianity that it is downright frightening. As believers who desire to be spiritually healthy, we never have the luxury to simply just live our lives. Instead, we are in a constant battle with our flesh and with worldly philosophies. We have a responsibility to think about this and to approach all of life with wisdom instead of blind acceptance.
Ephesians 6:10-20 describes the armor we are to wear as believers. Armor is worn for battles. We can safely assume that if Paul gave us a detailed description of the spiritual armor we are to wear, then we are in a spiritual battle. How is your battle looking? Are you winning? Or is the devil winning? Do you even care?
We lost over half of our fish before we became aware that there was even a problem. We nonchalantly and naively assumed they were fine. This same nonchalance, if used to approach our spiritual health, will lead to the loss of more than a few fish, if we don’t pay close attention.