Most medical people will tell you one of the secrets of good health is early detection. This is why it is a good policy to have regular physical checkups. When you go for your checkup, the first thing the doctor does is check your vital signs. He weighs you, listens to your heart and lungs, and takes your blood pressure. He orders a variety of blood test to make sure there are no danger signs. By checking these vital signs, he is able to get a good feel for your physical condition. If one of these vital signs is abnormal, he knows to look deeper to the cause for the abnormality. By identifying a problem early, he can often treat it and prevent it from becoming a major problem.
As surely as there are vital signs that identify a physical problem, there are vital signs that help a disciple of Jesus Christ recognize that he/she is having spiritual problems. Paul recognized this truth. In his second letter to the church at Corinth, He reminded them that it was wise for them to check on their spiritual health. He wrote, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (II Corinthians 13:5a NASB)
Let me suggest four crucial spiritual vital signs that disciples and churches can check to measure how healthy their spiritual life is. First, a healthy disciple will have a deep appreciation and hunger for God’s Word. When there is no interest in God’s Word, it is impossible for someone to grow up strong in the Lord. A steady balanced diet of God’s Word is as important to the spirit as a balanced diet of food is to the body. If it is missing, the spirit becomes weak and is open to a wide variety of attacks by the enemy.
Second, a healthy disciple will recognize that prayer is an essential element in ones spiritual development. Just as our nervous system transmits commands from our brain throughout our body, prayer keeps us in touch with our Head, Jesus Christ. You show me someone who has done great things for God and I will show you someone who has a powerful prayer life.
Third, a healthy disciple understands the importance of fellowship with other believers. The Christian faith was never meant to be a private faith. It was meant to be shared. Paul uses the analogy of the physical body to describe the church. He emphasizes that the body is effective only when it works in harmony with all the part. It makes no sense for the eye to tell the ear that it doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. Each part is important. Working together all the parts can do great things. A healthy disciple understands that he needs others. He understands that it is a two way street. The church needs all of its parts and the individual parts need the church
Fourth, a healthy disciple has the right attitude toward stewardship. He understands that all of his time, talents and treasures belong to God. They are not his to own but they are his to be a steward over. Ultimately, it is God who should determine how he should use these gifts that He has bestowed on him. When someone hoards their time, talents and treasure, it is a sure sign that there is a problem with their spiritual health.
The good news is that we do not have to go to the doctor’s office to check on these spiritual vital signs. We need to get in a quiet place and allow the light of God’s Spirit shine into our lives. His light will reveal the areas upon which we need to improve. However, just as a doctor can prescribe medication for our physical problems but can not force us to take the medications he has prescribed, God’s Spirit can reveal our spiritual needs but He will not force us to follow His cure. Each one of us must decide, if we are going to do what is needed to become spiritually strong. When faced with this choice, it seems to me that our most sensible response is clear. We should follow God’s direction.