Spiritual Health Exam for the New Year: Look Up, Look In, Look Out
An article I wrote for Support Raising Solution's Blog
Wouldn’t it be nice if while getting our annual physical exam we could also get a spiritual exam? We could go to a clinic, step on a scale, get spiritual blood work, and feel the squeeze of the spiritual pressure cup. Then afterwards, we would receive a list of supplements to take and exercises to do to become more spiritually healthy.
When it comes to spiritual health, sometimes I just want to say, “Tell me how I am doing and give me a list of what to do to improve. I will do it!” If only it were that easy.
What are the measurables of spiritual health? With our physical health, doctors can look at our blood work and speculate what is going well and what isn’t. But how do we know if we are spiritually healthy? What are the warning signs that our health is in decline?
Matthew 19 introduces someone searching for what to do to obtain eternal life. Jesus lists the last 6 of the 10 commandments. “All these I have kept; what am I still lacking?” is the man’s reply. When Jesus tells him to sell everything, give it all to the poor, and follow Him, the man goes away sad because he owned much. Was Jesus saying spiritual health comes from giving away our possessions? Or was he saying we can check all the boxes and still not be spiritually healthy?
In the story of the Pharisee and the Sinful Woman found in Luke 7, both the Pharisee and the “sinful woman” were sinners in need of forgiveness, but only the woman saw her need. Did she earn forgiveness because of her act of love? No, her act of love was the grateful expression of one who realized how much she had been forgiven.
Jesus said the greatest commandment is to, “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31)
There is that word again, “love”. In Luke 7, Jesus said those forgiven much love much. Here He says loving Him with all we are is the greatest command. Surely doing this means we are doing well spiritually.
Jesus summed up the first 4 of the 10 commandments when he said to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; the second, to love your neighbor as yourself, summed up in the remaining 6. These are impossible for us unless we have realized our need, been born again, and are living in the reality that HIS Spirit dwells in us. The power to obey comes from Him in His command; we respond in obedience to His love, lordship, and authority. We have been forgiven much and He is worthy.
This is the bizarre goodness of God- the way He commands us to love Him is the way to spiritual health, and is only possible because He loved us first (1 John 4). He is love and gets to define what love is. As we grasp how much we have been forgiven, we love Him. Let this be our starting point.
Recently I heard someone share a way he was taught to pray. This method contained 3 phrases (look up, look in, and look out) based on Isaiah 6:1-8. As I reflected, some thoughts and questions came to mind.
1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim… 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
HIS LORDSHIP. He is Lord. He is worthy. He is good. He is just and right.
Pause and ask God to show you how you see Him.
Is He my Lord/ Authority?
Do I believe He is good?
Do I long for Him?
Am I content with what He has given me?
Praise Him. Think about WHO HE IS. Dwell on His glory, love, and forgiveness. TAKE YOUR TIME! Be with Him. Do the things that stir your affections for Him.
5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
YOUR IDENTITY. In Christ, you are forgiven, a child of the King, and complete in Him. You need Him, and He is with you.
Do I see myself as “capable” or “in need of Him”?
Do I see “my gifts and resources” as mine, or do I see myself as the steward of what God has given me for His glory?
Whose kingdom am I building?
Do I believe what He says about me?
What keeps me from believing Him? (This needs to be thrown off so you can RUN with endurance- Hebrews 12:1-3.)
Take time to ask Him and lay before Him the lies, your pain, your needs, your sin, the things you hold onto because they are familiar to you, but keep you from fully trusting Him.
8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
YOUR COMMUNITY. In Christ, you have the gift and honor to be a vital part of the body of Christ. As new creations, we no longer regard each other according to the flesh, but the Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).
Am I living in community as seen in passages such as Ephesians 4?
Am I sharing the hope and salvation of Jesus with others? If not, why not?
Do I look forward to time with my brothers and sisters in Christ?
Do I have bitterness or unforgiveness toward anyone?
Am I trusting His goodness, His love, and His ways? If not, go back up to the beginning. Look at Him and ask what keeps you from believing He is who He says He is? …believing you are who He says you are?
Because our spiritual health happens in relationship, there is not a checklist. The good news is we have everything we need for life and godliness- no prescription required. Spiritual health is found in Him, and if we are in Christ, the Holy Spirit is the Examiner we need. This year may we continually look up, look in, and look out.