Taking a hard, objective look into our lives is not easy. Actually it is hard. And tricky. We don’t like it because it can be embarrassing. Or it can be eye opening. Even if we grade ourselves on a curve, it can be pretty unsettling.
“Testing” is a normal part of our lives, and something that we often take for granted. We are subjected to all sorts of tests throughout our lifetime: academic, medical, even professional. For instance, if you want to drive a vehicle, you must take a written test, a driving test, and an eye exam to get your driver’s license. If you want to be a lawyer, you have to pass the Bar Exam.
As we grow older, we undergo more frequent checkups to see that we are healthy and to prevent and diagnose health problems before they become a major threat to our lives. Our spiritual lives are susceptible to problems as well and require self-examination in order to diagnose and hopefully eliminate the spiritually unhealthy tendencies we have and replace them with Godly habits.
I don’t like looking under my hood any better than most people. But James 3:1 says , “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” As a pastor, I am called to lead and shepherd the people God sends to Northstar. But that does not make me any better than you. I make mistakes. And I too will give an account to God. So I try to pause amongst all that is happening in our church, and in my life, and remember why I was called to serve an awesome God and lead awesome people.
To be a faithful steward of God’s gifting and calling, I benefit from looking inward periodically. Teaching God’s word is the most important thing that I do. I want it to be real. I want it to be practical. I want my words to move people toward their loving God. So I evaluate my approach. My delivery. My use of scripture. I seek unvarnished responses from the staff and members of Northstar on the effectiveness of the weekly teaching. Now I understand that things are going well at Northstar right now. But I never want to take that for granted. Nor do I ever want to find myself in a teaching or spiritual rut. Besides prayer and spending time in the word, constant introspection and objective analysis is the best way to keep that from happening.
An effective evaluation of our spiritual life is not for pastors only. In 2 Corinthians 13:5-10, we are called to voluntarily test ourselves; to search our own hearts. We are to examine our lives to see if, in Paul’s words, “we are in the faith.” You may recall how Paul, in his first letter to the church in Corinth, invited us to take a spiritual inventory of our lives: “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” (1 Corinthians 11:28 ).
I think I can guess the next question. What do I evaluate Marty, and how? There is no simple answer to that question. Let me give you a few questions to consider and answer as part of a spiritual evaluation.
Am I spending enough energy enjoying God and developing a Christlike nature?
Do I have a driving thirst for God, as well as behavior dictated by God’s standards?
Do I love others?
Am I sensitive to the Holy Spirit?
Do I practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, meditating upon Scripture, taking communion and fellowship with others of like faith?
Am I praying?
Am I serving the way I should?
Do I give with gladness?
There are many others, but I think you get the idea. We are called to be Christlike. God expects His children to grow spiritually and His Word encourages personal examination as an element of growth.
If you wish additional information on this subject I would recommend the book, Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health by Donald S. Whitney.