Denison Forum – A revival of ancient air conditioning offers a lesson in working with the Holy Spirit

If you’re from the south (or have ever visited during the summer), you’ve probably asked yourself how people survived in a time before air conditioning. 

Turns out, people didn’t wait until the first air conditioner was invented in the early 1900s to decide that question needed an answer. Evidence suggests that humans have been finding ways to beat the heat for the better part of three thousand years. 

The ancient Egyptians appear to be the first to find a solid solution, though they mostly relied on harnessing the wind rather than creating their own. As is often the case, later generations would continue to improve upon the technology, and you can still see some of the best efforts today in places like the Iranian city of Yazd. There, the ancient Persians perfected structures, called bâdgirs, that sat high atop their buildings and funneled the passing winds down to the rooms below. 

And while the structures have largely fallen out of favor in recent centuries, given that the wind was often accompanied by dirt and pests, they’ve started to make a comeback in recent decades. 

In the UK, for example, roughly seven thousand versions of the wind catchers were installed on buildings constructed between 1979 and 1994, including the Royal Chelsea Hospital in London and various supermarkets in Manchester. Closer to home, the visitor center at Zion National Park in southern Utah also employs a wind catcher to help regulate the summer heat. Scientists have recorded a temperature difference of roughly 29 degrees Fahrenheit between inside and outside of the building. And that’s with people regularly passing through. 

While not every location will allow the wind catchers to work well, the fact that conventional air conditioning currently accounts for roughly a fifth of all electricity consumption worldwide means that we’re likely to see more wind catchers dotting the skies in the coming years. 

Are you working with or against the Spirit? 

Wind is a powerful force, and learning how to work with it rather than against it has often proven to make a profound difference in the degree to which a culture prospers. 

The same is true, from a spiritual point of view, for us as well. 

There’s a reason that Scripture frequently references the Holy Spirit as akin to a gust of wind. In fact, early believers used the same Greek word (pneuma) for spirit and wind because the latter concept so aptly describes the former. 

As Christians, learning to work with the Holy Spirit’s presence and power in our lives instead of against it is one of the most important factors in our maturation as believers. And the key to working with the Spirit is embracing the kind of lifestyle God can bless. 

In Galatians 5, Paul famously writes that the fruit of the spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). However, to experience that fruit in our lives, we must first heed the instruction that comes a few verses earlier: “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:16–18). 

Just as the ancient cultures relied upon working with the wind to harness its power and improve their lives thousands of years ago, we too must learn to work with the Spirit by living in accordance with God’s desires as revealed throughout Scripture and through his daily guidance if we want to experience his power and fruit in our lives today. 

So take a moment to step back and ask God to help you use this Spirit-focused perspective to evaluate your walk with him. Does it feel like that relationship is pushing against the wind or moving with it? 

But note that the latter does not necessarily mean everything has gone smoothly or that your days have been problem-free. In fact, it’s often when the tough times arise that we can gain the greatest clarity into the state of our spiritual life. 

The degree to which it seems like we are able to face our problems without being robbed of the fruit described above is perhaps the best way to gauge whether we are working with or against the Spirit’s presence in our lives. 

Which best describes your relationship with him today? 

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