Time for a Check-up

Blind Faith (No. 17, 2016)
Weekly Devotional for April 28, 2016
Time for a Check-up

Spring brings all kinds of check-ups. A walk around the yard to
check for plants that need attention and renewal can pay dividends later in
lush vegetation and flowers. Many people schedule annual physical exams
during the springtime attention to renewal. Tax preparation season often
invites comprehensive financial evaluation. Multiple offers for air
conditioning system checks and ductwork cleaning have lately littered my
e-mail in-box. Stereotypically dreaded spring cleaning turns up plenty of
handyman and “Honey-do” projects, some of them lasting well into Fall.

We submit to check-ups in many areas of our lives at times other
than Spring. Most jobs involve an annual formal or informal job performance
review, a generally uncomfortable time of discussing with your boss how well
you have done your work. Job evaluations can be useful for clarifying goals,
identifying skills and gifts to develop, and improving the overall work
environment. Most people, however, just dread the process! We are subjected
to quality reviews regarding countless facets of life almost daily: meal
preparation; clothing choices; hairstyles; entertainment choices;
gift-giving; driving habits; parenting; and you-name-it.

What about a check-up for your spiritual life? Many other
check-ups require you to schedule time, pay attention to the process, and
perhaps endure physical or financial discomfort, yet the potential benefits
make the investment worthwhile. A careful examination of your relationship
with God might take some dedicated quiet time alone with God, or an honest
conversation with a trusted spiritual partner, but a check-up of your faith
life can produce benefits, as well.

Check-ups are recommended by several counselors in the Bible.
The earliest believers exchanged letters with the apostle Paul because they
were troubled by some practices they felt must be incompatible with
following Jesus faithfully. Paul wrote back, ” Make sure you are solid in
the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves
regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus
Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.”
(2 Corinthians 13:5, MSG) Centuries before, David had learned that he was
capable of all kinds of ungodly acts, from conspiracy to murder to adultery.
He also learned that he could let himself off the hook far too easily
through solely self-evaluation. His prayer for God to guide a thorough and
truly helpful spiritual check-up is memorable: “God, examine me and know my
heart; test me and know my nervous thoughts. {24} See if there is any bad
thing in me. Lead me on the road to everlasting life. (Psalm 139:23-24 NCV)
David presents a vital example for follow-up from our own check-ups in his
recognition of the benefit of following God’s prescription for ongoing
action – God’s gift of everlasting life.

Some check-ups are scheduled appointments, while some tests are
run in the unfolding of everyday life. The same is true of spiritual
check-ups. Attempting to follow Jesus as you go about your job, or drive the
carpool, or visit with neighbors, or do the shopping, or pursue hosts of
other actions can put you into situations in which the genuine level of your
commitment to Christ is revealed. Just as a dental check-up or a job
performance review can raise your anxiety, testing of your faith can be
distressing. But similarly to the other exams’ benefits of better health,
increased productivity in your job, proactive remediation of discovered
deficits, etc., paying attention to spiritual testing can produce benefits
that are eternal. In addition, God is always with you as you face the test.
One of the most pragmatic books of the New Testament, James, spells out the
positive value of checking out your faith: “When your faith is tested, your
endurance has a chance to grow. {4} So let it grow, for when your endurance
is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.
{5} If you need wisdom–if you want to know what God wants you to do–ask
him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking…. {12}
God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will
receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
(James 1:3-5, 12 NLT)

Spring is a marvelous time for a spiritual check-up. Take a walk
with God in God’s blossoming creation. Focus your attention on what has
happened in your relationship with Jesus in the past year. Are you closer,
or have you drifted apart? What are the metrics for your evaluation:

– daily prayer life?
– personal Bible reading (other than in a worship service or Sunday
School class)?
– loving other people the way Jesus loves them?
– participation in worship of God?
– direct, hands-on involvement in ministry?
– letting people know – both verbally and in action – what being a
follower of Jesus means to you (otherwise known as Christian witnessing)?

You and God can determine your metrics and set the scale for your check-up.

A spiritual check-up may or may not be a daunting exercise. It
certainly will reveal characteristics that can be more disciplined to
conform to God’s love and grace. But it also may offer encouraging testimony
of living faithfully with God and others. Why not talk with God about a
personal check-up today? Don’t put off scheduling one with God like you
might with your doctor or dentist..

– J. Edward Culpepper