'Tis the Season1
With Thanksgiving gone, we are now heading full-speed into this year's Christmas season. Though the rain and cold might be uncomfortable for some, many people equate the Christmas season with images of hot chocolate, warm fireplaces, good food, and ugly sweaters (sometimes).
The coming of a new season should be a reminder to us of God's faithfulness. He promised that "while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease" (Gen 8:22).
But the change of seasons can also be a reminder to us about the various seasons of our individual lives. And like with the Christmas season, different seasons of life bring different temptations to sin.
John Owen (1616-1683) probably wrote more about sin and temptation than any other author. His writings are a valuable resource to any Christian who is willing to learn from a Puritan. In his work Of Temptation: The Nature and Power of It, Owen expands on Jesus' command to, "Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation" (Matt 26:41), and he names four seasons of life during which we must especially guard ourselves from temptation.
1. A season of unusual outward prosperity
Owen says prosperity provides "fuel and food" for many temptations and can be filled with "darts for Satan" if not supplied with "eminent supplies of grace." He points us to Proverbs 1:32; 30:8-9; Hosea 13:6; and Psalm 30:6-7; Job 23:16. Material comfort and prosperity can dull your spiritual sense, says Owen, so be on your guard, even when life is great.
2. A season of slumber
What Owen means by this is a season of life when you are neglecting communion with God and religious duty is marked by formality rather than authenticity. He warns us all: If our light burns dimly, if our zeal is cold, if we're negligent in prayer—wake up and get ready, because the enemy is close. He remind us of Jesus' disciples in the Garden on the night He was arrested. They were not only physically tired; they were spiritually drowsy as well. And they fell away from Christ.
3. A season of great spiritual enjoyments
God and Christ can minister to our hearts in amazing ways. And it's easy to think that in these moments we are safe from temptation. But this is not true. Paul was given a vision of heaven (2 Cor 12:7), but it was also an opportunity for pride to arise in his heart. As soon as he had an amazing experience with God, Satan came to tempt him.
4. A season of self-confidence
The example Owen gives is Peter, who boldly professed he would never deny Jesus (Matt 26:33, 35), but later was proved inadequate by a humble servant-girl. Because of his great sin Peter later warned believers to conduct themselves "in fear" (1 Pet 1:17). Don't ever think you're beyond falling away from Christ or sinning in a great way (1 Cor 10:12).
So as you celebrate this Christmas season, don't forget to think about how each season of life can bring its own unique set of temptations. And don't forget to draw near to the Lord of lords for grace and mercy (Heb 4:16). Christmas is not just a season to talk about Jesus. It's a season to commune with Him.
Blessings in Christ.