“Search me, oh God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24
One of the joys in pastoring is pouring care and training into others. To ‘spend and be spent’ (2 Cor. 12: 15) for gospel transformation in others is a superb way to serve the Savior. In taking care of everyone else though, Pastors often fail to take care of themselves. But Paul tells us, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16).
We go to the doctor on a routine basis to preserve health. We have our cars inspected and maintained throughout the year. Retail stores take inventory to determine how sales are trending. Some of us go through annual job reviews to evaluate work performance. We do all these things; so doesn’t it make sense that we stop at least once a year to take spiritual inventory?
The Best of this Year
Self-examination is essential for a fruitful life. How are you doing physically, spiritually and emotionally? We cannot just hope for a better future; we must plan a better future. So as this year comes to a close, let me encourage you to take some time and reflect on the year that has just past, and the one that is immediately upon us.
My friend Jason Kovacs recommends that we do three things before the New Year: Remember, Reflect and Resolve.
Remember – What Did God Do Last Year?
Reflect – Where is Your Heart? What Do You Need to Repent of?
Resolve – What is God Calling You to Do This Coming Year?
I think that’s helpful. What I like about those questions is the balance they display. They are designed to challenge, encourage and inspire. Reflecting on the past is often challenging, as we are met with personal failure. Remembering what God has done for us is encouraging, as we are reminded of his kindness. And dreaming about what God may do through us is inspiring, as we consider his willingness to use us.
The Marks To Measure
There are a number of items you could take into account when doing a spiritual inventory, but it’s wise to give special attention to your life and character. As you begin this process, here are 4 categories to consider.
- Relationship to Brother
- Relationship to Neighbor
- Relationship to Self
- Relationship to God
Your Relationship to Brother
What is your relationship to the local church? Consider your interaction with other believers in life-on-life community. Can you name two people with whom you have meaningful accountability? Did you grow at encouraging others over the past year?
Your Relationship to Neighbor
What is your relationship with the lost? Consider your engagement with unbelievers. Do you have ongoing, deepening gospel relationships with your neighbors? Are there non-Christians who greet you by your first name and appear happy to see you? Have you been inviting anyone to church?
Your Relationship to Self
How is your health? Pay attention to your physical, emotional, and mental condition. If you are unhealthy in any of those areas, you will be unhealthy everywhere. A weak body can influence the soul. The opposite is true also. Now’s a great time for an inventory.
Life is like a garden. If we don’t take care of the weeds, they will eventually spoil the garden. We must take care of ourselves physically, spiritually and emotionally if we want to be healthy. Be sure to take some time to prayerfully work through these categories. The areas you fail to address will almost certainly become problematic in 2017. Some of them have the potential to be deadly.
Your Relationship to God
How is your walk with God? Consider your spiritual communion, spiritual disciplines, and overall spiritual condition. Does Jesus seem bigger to you at the end of this year? If not, how come?
A word of caution. When taking spiritual inventory, it’s paramount that we do this in light of the Gospel and not from a performance mentality. Moralism is not our goal. It’s easy to check off lists. But God wants our heart. Our glorious goal is a closer walk with God, not mere compliance to a set of standards.
How Do I Know When I Need Spiritual Revival?
Just as our blood pressure can indicate physical vitality, there are indicators to measure how I’m doing spiritually. When I was in college, James MacDonald spoke to our student body on personal revival. In one of his messages, he mentioned several evidences that spiritual revival is needed. I jotted those down. Over the years I have added to his list, and used the following diagnostic to help me assess my spiritual health.
Here are ten criteria I use in order to get a more accurate read-out on my spiritual health. Let me encourage you to interact with them honestly. Wherever you fail the test, humbly make note of it and resolve with God’s help to find the path from that weakness to gospel life and growth.
Revival is needed…
1. When prayer ceases to be a vital part of my life, I need revival.
2. When my quest for biblical truth ceases and I am content with the present level to which I have attained, I need revival.
3. When earnest thoughts about the reality of eternity and the perilous condition of my loved ones ceases to move me. When I have family, friends and co-workers headed for a Christ-less eternity, and that fact ceases to move me to prayer or action, I need revival.
4. When attending church and community groups have become a mechanical process divorced from affection and desire, I need revival.
5. When I do not rejoice in the blessings of God upon others, but struggle with secret envy, resentment and discontent, I need revival.
6. When aspirations for Christ-like holiness such as “I want to fight sin. I want to live blamelessly before God and men” cease to motivate me, I need revival.
7. When I can hear God’s name used in vain or can listen to spiritual things mocked, and eternal glories flippantly dismissed and yet find myself unmoved and void of righteous anger, I need revival.
8. When I can watch degrading media, listen to raunchy music or read morally inappropriate and soul-strangling material and not be deeply grieved in my heart, I need revival.
9.When I find more delight in the promotion of discord than in working for unity and harmony among God’s people, I need revival.
10.When injustice and human misery exist all around me and I do little or nothing to relieve it, I need revival.
Do you need spiritual revival? I know I do.
So friends, let’s take inventory and pray for one another that God would bring us closer to him in the coming year.
Happy New Year!