Monday, October 17, 2011

Is It Time for a Spiritual Check-Up?

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 parts. 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.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Finishing Strong

In the Book of Acts, during his comments about the Resurrection, the Apostle Paul made the following statement: “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers, and underwent decay” (Acts 13:36 NASB). Later as Paul was approaching the end of his life he wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7 NASB). What a wonderful testimony to the lives of these two men. They served their purpose, fought their fight, finished their course and kept their faith.

While we may admire the faithfulness of these two men, we should have as our life goals the desire to serve God’s purpose for our life and to live faithfully in our generation. In order to fulfill these goals, we need to learn four things from the lives of these men. First, every life has a purpose. In a world that sometimes makes us feel our lives are meaningless, we can know that in God’s economy we have purpose. There is no greater task for us than to discover and pursue the purpose for which God placed us here.

Second, the pursuit of this fulfillment is not always easy. Paul referred to it as a fight, implying that fulfilling our purpose is a struggle. Paul’s life was filled with obstacles both within the church and outside the church. In Ephesians 6:10, 17, he identifies his enemy and depicts his struggle with him in military terms. His enemy was the devil. We have the same enemy. His greatest desire is to hinder us from accomplishing the purposes God has for us.

Third, life is a marathon, not a sprint. Paul speaks of life as if he was running a race. If we read through his letters, we will discover that the course of his race had many mountains and valleys to overcome. He saw the end of his race as something to look forward to, not to dread. He clearly anticipated that in the end all of his efforts would prove to be worthwhile.

Fourth, our number one goal should be to remain faithful throughout our journey. Too often, we let the world define our success and in the process we compromise our principles. We need to remember that we can accomplish all the world requires for success and still be a failure in God’s economy. He measures our success, not in power or possessions, but in faithfulness.

We are involved in the race of life. Each one of us will come to the end of our race someday. Wherever we are in our race, we can make a commitment to run the remainder faithfully and to complete the course with the same assurance Paul had. As he neared the finish line he wrote, “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (II Timothy 4:8 NASB).