Spiritual Health Checkup

The word the Lord gave me for 2020 was tenacity. I posted about it on Instagram on January 2, 2020, and included a picture of the definition of the word. Little did I know at that time how much this word would mean for this past year. 2020 has been a year full of things we’ve never seen before, health challenges for many, loss for many, change for many, and unknowns for many. It’s been a year filled with hate, anger, violence, greed, division, uncertainty, sadness, death, life, marriage for some, and divorce for others. It has highlighted for the people of the world that life can change in the blink of a minute.
Tenacity means both to grip tightly and firmly to something and to continue to exist; persist. In a world of unknowns, I needed to cling to the One who is known so I could persist in the tumultuous year that has been 2020. So, what now? 2021 doesn’t look like it is going to start any better than 2020 is ending. For this reason, and many other reasons, the best gift we can give to ourselves this year is a spiritual health checkup.

Most people get a physical health checkup every year; even those who may be feeling generally healthy. Physical checkups can confirm if something is not right, as well as confirm things that are right. For instance, a blood panel may show that you’ve been doing a great job of keeping your cholesterol levels down through diet and exercise, but it can also reveal if there are issues with your immune system or organ functions. Lots of run-of-the-mill health checkups catch things people didn’t know are going on with their bodies, and for the ones who catch it early, this is a good thing.

If we are good about getting physical checkups, maybe we should also be good about conducting spiritual health checkups. There is such a huge correlation between what is going on with us spiritually that affects how we are doing physically.

What does a spiritual health checkup look like? Let’s turn to Scripture.

1. Salvation: The first, and most important aspect of your spiritual health is your salvation. In whom or in what have you put your faith and trust? Jesus spoke to a rich young man in Matthew 19:16–28. The young man asked Jesus about what good deeds he needed to do in order to gain eternal life. Jesus spoke to him about six of the ten commandments—the ones specifically dealing with relationships with others—and the rich, young man responded he had kept those commandments. He then asked Jesus, “What do I still lack?” (Matthew 19:20).

Jesus responded by telling the young man to sell all of his possessions and give to the poor. He also said it was then that he would have treasure in heaven and follow Him (Matthew 19:21). How did the young man respond? The Bible says, “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Matthew 19:22).

I don’t know how much money, land, or possessions this guy had, but whatever it was, he didn’t want to part with it. It’s not that rich people can’t get into heaven, it’s just that any person holding on tightly to anything other than God first (love God—the first commandment not only mentioned to Moses on the mountain but also reiterated by Jesus) can’t make it into heaven. Even if this guy sold everything he had but did it with a grumbling heart, it didn’t mean he would have eternal salvation. It’s our faith that helps us receive God’s free gift; our soft, humble, and willing hearts. Works, including selling everything we have and giving to the poor, don’t get a person into heaven. Ephesians 2:8–9 says it is by His grace—a gift— that people are saved through their faith, not their works so that no one person can boast.

So, if works don’t get you into heaven and faith does, have you put your faith in Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior? Faith is an inward and upward act, not an outward act. Our faith is between God and us alone. What happens in this place of interaction of faith and grace? Surrender. God wants our hearts—even broken, messed up hearts willing to put everything aside to follow Him. He wants to completely fill our hearts with the Holy Spirit (another glorious gift He gives us).

We get to choose whether we accept His gift of salvation. While works don’t get us into heaven, it doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t going to ask some things of you. Just as Jesus told the man to sell his possessions to outwardly show the disciples where that young man’s heart was, Jesus may be asking you to surrender some things because He, alone, ultimately knows the condition of your heart and where your faith, trust and eternity lie. It may not be wealth or possessions, but it could be an attitude, a fear, a relationship, a career—anything that is taking the place of God first. And note, God may not be asking you to give up any of the things I listed above but He may be asking you to reorder things and make sure He is at the top of that list without a number placeholder next to His name. He is not the number one item that can be moved around from time to time. He should be at the top of the list always because if He is at the top, everything you do is centered on Him.

You can’t move forward spiritually with Jesus until you have been spiritually reborn. These aren’t my words; they are Jesus’ words. Jesus told Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:3, 5–7).

If you aren’t sure about your salvation or maybe you’ve never actually accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I would challenge you to read through Matthew 19, John 3, and Acts 16, and see where your heart is and maybe what the Holy Spirit is saying to you.

2. Attitude: Loving God and surrendering to Jesus assures you of your salvation, but even the saved can stray from God. One good indicator of what your relationship with Jesus is like is to look at your attitude toward others. If you are loving God (first), then we are to love others (second). However, let’s be clear at the outset: love does not mean approval or affirmation of all things (I’ve done a radio show on this topic and if you are interested in hearing that message, click HERE). Loving others means how we treat people and how we speak to people. Words are so powerful and now, in our highly digitalized society, words can be forever. A screenshot, a screengrab, a forgotten about comment or post made years ago (or yesterday) can come back to bite you. In frustration, anger, sadness, or anxiety, we can speak words that perhaps if we had taken some time to process and think about, we might not say.

Harsh words ruin our witness. Mean attitudes ruin our witness. Bad actions, well they speak louder than words. However, there is a way to say and do things properly and in Truth, if we allow time for the Holy Spirit to prepare those acts and words in us before we take it into our own hands and let it out of us. We all know people who claim to be Christians but just aren’t that nice. If you and I don’t want to be around them, just think about people who see Jesus through their actions and words.

We’ve all said some things, and probably done some things, that just aren’t kind or loving toward others. Even one or two incidences can take some time to regain someone’s trust. It’s why we must be aware of our weaknesses and cling to the Holy Spirit for help. King Solomon said, “The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” (Ecclesiastes 6:11).

How is your attitude toward God? Are you distant from Him right now because of the things going on? Are you afraid because you don’t think He is doing enough? Are you mad at Him? Are you clinging to Him more now than ever?

How is your attitude toward others? Are you generally concerned with their well-being, both physically and spiritually? Are you choosing your words wisely when speaking to others knowing that there is both life and death in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21)? Are you holding on to any anger toward anyone or unforgiveness? Are you expecting someone else to change when maybe it is you that needs to do some changing?

How is your attitude toward yourself? Are you one who speaks life into yourself instead of words that tear you down? Do you see yourself in the way that God sees you—wonderfully and perfectly made with a purpose to serve and glorify God? Are you asking for help when you need it; whether that be from God or others?

Simply because a new year is starting in just a few weeks does not mean new things will automatically take place. A new year brings hope, but today can also be filled with that same hope, and the day after, and the day after. Don’t wait until someday. If the Holy Spirit is prompting you to conduct an attitude check, fully participate. Like a physical checkup, it might be a little uncomfortable and come with a little pain but it is the only way to know what is going on under the surface.

3. Timing: Have you ever had to wait for results from a physical checkup? Somehow my children can get their blood test results back while we wait in the office during their annual well-checks. My blood tests, however, can take a week or two to come back. How many of you have logged on to your healthcare website clicking away trying to see if maybe the results are there and no one has bothered to tell you? Sometimes we get impatient and anxious in the waiting. Crazy thoughts transpire like, Maybe the news is bad and the doctor hasn’t had a few moments to spend time with me on the phone. Or the whole, No news is good news thing swirls around but then you are still thinking the worst even as you try and calm your fears.

Timing and patience are incredibly difficult for people, and yet, we are people who need to patiently wait on the Lord all the time. I’ve been reading through the Old Testament a lot lately because there is so much of Jesus in there. I’m a big fan of the prophets who answered the call from God to be His spokespeople to the broken nation of Israel. Most weren’t listened to yet they patiently delivered message after message. They were given vague timelines by God. Many gave prophecies that were not fulfilled, or only partially fulfilled, in their lifetimes.

And then, four hundred years of silence occurred between the last recorded word in Malachi and the first word in Matthew. That period of time was not marked by peace and prosperity; it was marked by chaos and the chosen people of Israel slipping further and further into sin. A few people rose up and fought against the spiral. However, the Israelites were being oppressed by people and governments God had allowed to have authority over them because of their sins against God. There were a few who were patiently waiting on the Messiah (people like Simeon (Luke 2:25–35) and the prophetess Anna (Luke 2:36–40) who both got up daily and went to the Temple because they were faith-filled people who had faith and hope).

Being faithful in the waiting is what God asks us to do. Zechariah was faithfully fulfilling his duties when he got word that his wife, Elizabeth, would bear a child in her old age (Luke 1:5–25). David had to wait years before he became the king God said he would become. Jesus lived for thirty-three years before God’s plan of salvation for all unfolded. His timing is perfect; “the Lord is not slow in keeping His promise as some understand slowness” (2 Peter 3:9). We don’t stop living in the waiting. Instead, we live while we patiently await the faithful fulfillment of His promises.

We don’t know what the rest of 2020 is going to bring, and we certainly have no idea what 2021 will bring or the year after that. How we wait in the timing, however, says a lot about our character and who we belong to. Are you waiting anxiously or are you waiting patiently doing what it is the Lord has asked you to do day in and day out because you know no matter what happens in the world around you, your faithfulness to Him will be rewarded because He is faithful?
In Ecclesiastes 6, Solomon said some things about what a man gains, earns, does, etc. while he is alive. He also mentioned how we tend to focus on things and people more than we focus on God. We do a lot to maintain our physical health, our comfort, and our possessions, but we often neglect our spiritual health. Solomon argued that a lot more good would come out of us if we focused more on our spiritual health. As we do that, other things in our lives would fall into the right place from there. I couldn’t agree more.

Spiritual checkups aren’t always easy or pain-free, but they are necessary and they are worth it. When was the last time you S.A.T. (an acronym I made up for Salvation, Attitude, Timing.) with the Great Physician and had a chat about your spiritual health? Be honest with God and with yourself as you evaluate where you are spiritually and if necessary, make any changes the Spirit brings to your mind. Doing life God’s way is always the right way.

Wondering what my word for 2021 is looking like it is going to be? I’ll give you a hint: it’s something a sponge does. More to come on that soon!

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