Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. [2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT)]
Having frequently been told by her elders, “If you get your reward on earth, you won’t get it in heaven!” a friend said it still remains difficult for her to accept praise or compliments. Her experience reminded me of my college roommate Marilyn who, like my friend, received large doses of guilt, shame, hellfire, and brimstone in her strict Christian upbringing. She reminded me of The Nun’s Story and Sister Luke who tried so hard to be a perfect nun who flawlessly kept her vows. But, even when Luke succeeded at following a rule of cloistered life, she repented of the pride she felt at her success. So afraid of inadvertently sinning, the nun even felt guilty when she caught a glimpse of her face reflected in a window! Like her, Marilyn kept taking her spiritual temperature and searching for some hidden transgression for which she should repent. If something was fun or entertaining, Marilyn was sure a hidden sin lurked in it. Both the fictional nun and coed became so focused on their real and imagined spiritual faults that they missed out on the joy of the Lord.
Most of us have regular check-ups at the doctor and routinely check for lumps or suspicious moles but, unless we’re hypochondriacs, we don’t do that every day nor do we take our temperature or check our blood pressure hourly. As Christians, we should look into our hearts and acknowledge the errors of our ways but we should be cautious of excessive self-analysis and soul searching. Hypochondriacs, whether medical or spiritual, focus on themselves which leave no room for anyone or anything else. When we brood about our real and imagined spiritual failings, our eyes are focused on ourselves rather than where they belong–on God! And, if our eyes aren’t on God, it’s pretty difficult to experience His joy or serve Him with gladness.
When we wallow in self-condemnation, we’re choosing the enemy’s gifts of shame and blame rather than God’s gifts of mercy and forgiveness. Rather than dissecting our lives and putting our every thought, word, and action under a microscope, it might be wiser to have a regular check-up of our spiritual health and progress in following Jesus. The following seven questions can help us do just that and it seems they can be asked without our becoming spiritual hypochondriacs. Originally posed by Pastor Colin Smith of the Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Illinois several years ago, they are the following:
Am I praying with faith?
Am I serving with zeal?
Am I believing with confidence?
Am I confessing with humility?
Am I worshipping with joy?
Am I giving with gladness?
Am I reaching out with love?
Great thoughts of your sin alone will drive you to despair; but great thoughts of Christ will pilot you into the haven of peace. [Charles Spurgeon]