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June-July 2022

Congregation on Call


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Winter Creeper of the Soul: James 1:14-15 | 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

By Steven Simpkins

“There is a silver lining in every cloud.”

Recent circumstances have reminded me of that old saying. When COVID shut businesses down and caused layoffs, I suddenly found myself out of work, with lots of free time. My father had numerous projects he wanted to finish, so I offered to help. While cleaning weeds from fence line, I found an unfamiliar vine, sprawling across the ground, and with heavy growth on the black walnut trees.

I took pictures of the vine and emailed them to a local garden supplier. He soon let me know the plant was named winter creeper. After some research, I learned the plant is an invasive species introduced into the U.S. as a ground covering in the early 1900s because of its aggressive growth and resilience. Left unchecked, it soon overwhelms other vegetation.

In its early stages, thin green vines sprawl across the ground and entangle your feet. The vine grows and attaches to shrubs and trees. When allowed to climb and remain, creeper bonds itself to the tree and grows inches thick with a gray furry exterior. It robs trees of moisture and nutrients, weakening and even smothering them. The vines had a vice grip on dad’s trees. The innocent-appearing vine threatened any plant in its area.

In the weeks that followed, it became my mission to stop winter creeper from destroying Dad’s trees. I declared war on the creeper! I soon learned the best way to get rid of the vines was to pull new tendrils up by the roots and pile them to dry out. I learned it is easier to pull these vines from the ground after a rain when the ground was soft. The heavy, imbedded vines were far more difficult to remove. Using a hand saw, I cut the vine near the ground, taking great care not to cut into the tree itself. I used a crowbar and a hammer to separate the vine from the tree and ripped away the vine to remove any connection to the root. For several hot, sweaty, difficult days, I piled the vines far from the trees.

It occurred to me a strong wind might blow the vines back near the trees. I didn’t want to take a chance they would try to take root if that happened. Thankfully, the gardener who identified the vine also told me winter creeper burns like rocket fuel. True enough, the dried vines burned with a hardy flame.

Once I cleared the area, I maintained the situation by dealing with new vines as they appeared. Yet, they never completely went away, so I am watchful and keep my guard up against new growth.

During this process of trying to conquer winter creeper, I realized the pesky vine provides a picture of the results of sin, and what happens when sin is left unchecked. Romans 6:12 reminds believers not to let sin control our lives. Romans 7-8 remind of us that, even after accepting Christ as Savior, the old nature rebels to war against our redeemed minds. Yet, the Apostle Paul also reminded us we can walk in the Spirit and daily defeat the sin that seeks to bring us into submission.

James 1:14-15 teaches believers about sin’s progression. Like the invasive winter creeper, sin is easier to deal with in its early stages. Unchecked sin grows into a stronghold. Second Corinthians 10:3-5 uses interesting language to describe these strongholds of sin. Paul described warfare, armor, and the weapons used in a military expedition or campaign. As believers, we are not fighting with fleshly means, but with divine power. In verses 4-5, the words for pulling down and casting down are the same Greek word for destroy. When sin has a stronghold, we should work to demolish or tear away those strongholds with deep root in our hearts and minds. We should demolish the arguments and conceit that rebel against God and bring our thoughts into obedience to Christ. This is strong language, but it reminds us, with God’s power, we can conquer those sins with which we struggle.

Being laid off gave me time to see what was happening to my father’s trees. Jesus told Peter (Matthew 26:41) to watch and pray to avoid falling into temptation. Paul told Corinthian believers to watch, stand firm, to be brave and strong in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. We must be on guard against sin—new and old alike.

Believers can be guilty of drifting along without direction, oblivious to developing sin. Unless we are vigilant, negative concepts, values, and sin quietly creep into our lives and take root—the result of taking our relationship with God for granted and not following Him intentionally. If we are not careful, we can drift along with the world until sin takes firm root in our lives.

In contrast, we need to look to God and His Word to find His will for us. We need to be watchful and wary to keep sin from gaining a foothold in our lives. We need to root out strongholds and demolish them with divine power. We should purposely follow God and live out our faith with grace, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion—healthy believers growing in Christ without the entangling vines of sin.

It’s time for Christians to take a closer look at God’s trees and root out the winter creeper of the soul.

About the Author: Steven Simpkins lives in Ashland City, Tennessee. He has served as a volunteer and bi-vocational youth minister for 20 years. He enjoys walking, stargazing, and discovering local places to eat.


©2022 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists