Surviving Winter

by Josh Sanders

One of the most unique things about living in the Midwest is the extreme difference in weather that comes with each new season. All four seasons are accompanied by their own natural brand of temperatures, scenery, and unpredictability. It’s probably why small talk with strangers around here usually defaults to the weather – I mean, I’ve never lived in Southern California, but I can’t imagine the daily, expected forecast of “75 & sunny” would make for much of a conversation starter. But since we’re comfortably nestled here in the heartland, let me engage with you in some small talk on the weather.

(This is where I warn you that you’re about to be subjected to a paragraph-sized dose of my personal opinion). This week we are quickly approaching the month of April on the calendar, which means we’re also in the middle of the greatest seasonal transition of the year – when winter is barely visible in the rear view mirror, and spring is officially here. Let me clarify: I’m not saying spring is the best season, but that this is the best change of seasons we experience each year – not because springtime weather is so awesome – often it isn’t – but because it simply means winter is over. I hate winter. I’ve hated winter as far back as I can remember. It’s just the worst. Instead of green grass & multi-colored leaves, we witness the slow death of plant life. Instead of rain that (usually) drains harmlessly through the ground, we get snow that piles up & creates all kinds of inconveniences. There’s an evil substance called ice that freezes our car doors shut or causes the pipes in our houses to break. And then there’s the worst part of all: the air itself. Instead of enjoying a warm breeze while sitting out on the deck, we get piercing blasts of cold air that freeze our nose hairs. We use phrases like “below zero” and “wind-chill” – terms created by meteorologists that are just fancy ways of saying, “it’s stupid outside.” I saw a meme this year that perfectly encapsulates a thought I’ve probably had every winter:

cold_outside

And while I’m sitting here making a list about the worst parts of winter, it makes me wonder…how do I make it through that torture every year? How did I survive winter…again? Now, I readily admit I’m being a little over-dramatic, but I think the only reason I can “survive” winter is the knowledge that it doesn’t last forever. It’s not all there is…it will end. Something much better is coming. The hope of spring is what gets me through the winter.

As I go through this thing called life, something I’m learning about our God is that He doesn’t let anything go to waste. Great teachers are able to turn any situation into a “teachable moment” – and Jesus is the greatest Teacher. This year as I caught myself in moments of disdain toward trivial things such as cold temperatures, Jesus directed my mind to a much greater lesson.

Sometimes life finds us in the dead of winter. Instead of days filled with laughter & happiness, we get “snowed in” for weeks of sadness & loneliness. Times of gratitude & rejoicing are sometimes exchanged for seasons of regret & mourning. Life can get hard, and it doesn’t take long to feel stuck & become discouraged by the lie that this is all there is. But how can we get through these times…how do we survive the winters of life? In very much the same way that the hope of spring gets us through the coldest of winters, the hope found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ can bring us through the most desolate seasons of life as well. And that is exactly why the Easter holiday we just celebrated truly has daily implications.

Every type of pain we experience in this life can be linked back to one cause: sin. The entrance of sin into our world caused widespread brokenness (). Both the created world and mankind are broken with sin. Thorns and weeds impede the growth of what was intended to thrive. Pain and sorrow overwhelm lives intended for joy and worship. Death waits to prey on bodies intended for eternal life and fellowship. Everything is broken, and it’s all because of sin. But that’s not the way it was meant to be.

The apostle Paul explains beautifully in that our hope in this life rests first & foremost in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The death of Christ in our place conquered the very sin & death that brings so much pain in this life – but His resurrection secures His promise that He will fix what is broken. The empty tomb guarantees eternal life after death for those who have placed their faith in the finished work of Christ. And the hope of that guarantee is what brings us through the dead of our winter. Knowing that this sin-stained life is not all there is. Something much better is coming.

The curious thing about the arrival of springtime in Iowa is that it doesn’t always mean we’re “in the clear.” Sometimes there’s a surprise snowstorm in the middle of April. But the future we long for as followers of Christ will never see a single snowflake fall from the sky…because on that day, Jesus will make all things new. On that glorious day, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ()

That day will be the full & final realization of the words of Paul in – “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is our “winter survival kit”: HOPE. Hope found solely in the resurrection & life of Jesus Christ.

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— (ESV)

15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (ESV)

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (ESV)

54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (ESV)

My name is Josh Sanders. I grew up in Dike, Iowa - a small town near Cedar Falls. I studied youth ministry at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa & graduated in 2008. I lived in the Quad Cities for 4 years after college, and recently moved back to the Des Moines area in the fall of 2012. I have been attending High Pointe Church since, and currently serve on the worship team. I accepted Christ when I was 4 years old, but have faced many ups & downs along the way. I have learned that the darkest times of life is when the gospel of Christ can shine the brightest because only He can give hope in hopeless situations. My love for writing continues to grow, and my hope is to show how Christ has worked in my life through every day struggles & to encourage others to look to Him during similar situations. Feel free to contact me at josh@highpointealtoona.com.