During high school, and sometimes during vacations from college, I worked at the local Coast to Coast hardware store. In a previous “WOW,” I mentioned how hectic it was on Christmas Eve as last-minute shoppers became desperate to find a gift and then how busy it was on the day after Christmas, as many of those gifts were returned for various reasons! Next came a rather tedious time at work, often late into the night, as we conducted our annual “inventory” to literally count all our merchandise in stock. Since we carried hardware, housewares and appliances, paint, automotive, sporting goods and gardening supplies, it was quite a job. This was long before the use of a computerized inventory system, so we literally counted every nut and bolt. Not only was it a long tedious task, but also a bit of a dirty job. It also revealed that we probably needed to stop carrying certain items which had been there for some time–collecting dust– without selling.
As we end one year and begin a new one, it is also an appropriate time for us to take a “spiritual inventory,” to evaluate our lives and see where we are spiritually and where we are headed, to see what needs to be added and what needs to be eliminated. In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, he discussed the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper (or communion) and challenged the believers, writing: “Let a man examine himself” (I Cor. 11:28). The Greek word Paul used (dokimazo) for “examine” means “to prove, to test, to evaluate.” Throughout our lives we have to take exams whether in school to evaluate our progress, at the doctor’s office to evaluate our physical condition or at the drivers’ examiner to evaluate our driving skills and knowledge of the rules.
Most of us would rather not think about exams, let alone take them, but they are quite valuable and necessary in revealing where we are and what we need to do to progress in the right direction. Plato said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Well, it is important that we have periodic spiritual exams or check ups to evaluate our condition and progress and to see if we need to change something to stay healthy and on track.
Just as at the Coast to Coast store we had a number of categories that needed to be inventoried, so in our spiritual lives we need to examine a number of areas, such as our thoughts, our tongue, our time, our treasures and our talents.
First of all, what is your thought life like? What does your mind dwell on when it is not actively engaged in an activity? There is a great battle going on to capture your mind and thoughts. It is really where spiritual warfare takes place, as our new, divine nature battles against the world, the flesh and the devil(I Jn. 2:15-17; Gal. 5:17; Jas. 4:7). Paul encourages us to “...take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:5). We need to replace wrong thoughts with those that are edifying and honor God. To the Philippians Paul writes: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things” (Phil. 4:8...a great verse to commit to memory and then to practice, especially in this upside down world in which we live today!)
We should also examine our tongue. Careless use of the tongue is one of the most common sins. James writes: “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well” (Jas. 3:2) He compares it to a bit in a horse’s mouth which directs its whole body, or the little rudder that guides a large ship, or a little flame that can set a whole forest aflame (vv. 3-6). The Bible lists many sins of the tongue: gossiping (Pro. 6:16-19), unclean speech (Eph. 4:29), lying (Eph. 4:25), grumbling (Phil. 2:14a), arguing (Phil. 2:14b; II Tim. 2:24), too talkative (Pr. 10:14a; I Thes. 4:11). Words can be weapons or words can be medicine. Words have the power to lift up or to tear down, to heal or to injure, to change lives, to renew relationships, to build bridges or to tear bridges down. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Pr. 18:21). How does your tongue test out? “Set a watch (guard), O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psa. 141:3).
We should also examine our use of time. Are we spending time each day in His Word? Do we take time to spend communing with Him? Or have we become so busy that we have trouble “squeezing out” time to be with Him? Are we investing time in things that will last for eternity? Paul’s challenge is “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil (amen to that!) (Eph. 5:15,16).
We need to also examine our use of the treasures with which God entrusts us. As with our time, are we using God’s material blessings to build up His kingdom or are we spending them on the desires of our flesh? Our checkbook is a good indicator of the priorities of our life. In His “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal, for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt. 6:19,20). The Apostle Paul wrote, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (I Tim. 6; 17,18).
Finally, we should also examine how we are using our talents, the special natural abilities as well as spiritual gifts that God has given us. God equips us all in unique ways in which to make a living and to contribute to the culture in which we live, but He also equips us with special abilities to minister to the body of Christ. The purpose of these gifts is not for self-edification, but “for the common good” of the body of Christ, the church (I Cor. 12:7). When we give account of our lives at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Ro. 14:10; I Cor. 3:10-15; II Cor. 5:10), we will be held accountable for the use of the “treasures” with which God entrusted us, both natural abilities and spiritual gifts.
So, how did you do on the exam? What areas need some changes to correct your course for the coming year? Maybe you have some “blind spots.” Pray with David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psa. 139:23,24).
Have a joyous year ahead using your thoughts and tongue and time and treasures and talents in service for our Savior, Lord and King, Jesus Christ.