We take cars for annual MOTs. Some of us get regular physical health-checks. When was the last time you took a spiritual health-check?
On Ash Wednesday, we gave the opportunity to take part in one. For those who weren't able to make it, here's some of what we covered:
Spiritual health is closely tied to spiritual growth. Sadly, for many Christians, a spiritual growth chart looks something like this:
In other words, after we become a Christian, we grow spiritually quite rapidly - but then we plateau for the rest of our lives until we die. At that point, Jesus completes our spiritual transformation (we are renewed in body, soul and spirit) and we get to live in his presence. That spiritual growth chart is similar to a physical growth chart for humans - growth through childhood and adolescence, but then no more growth for the rest of our lives.
But the Bible pictures spiritual growth as being more like this:
In other words, we should be on an overall trend of spiritual growth throughout our lives. Yes, there are ups and downs along the way. But by the time we die, we should be considerably more spiritually mature / healthy than in the immediate years after we become a Christian.
The apostle Paul was a great evangelist - but he wasn't just interested in people becoming Christians. He was passionate about Christians becoming more spiritually mature: "We proclaim him [Christ], admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect [mature] in Christ" (Colossians 1.28).
Similarly, when talking about why Jesus gave certain gifts to the church, Paul explained that it was "so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity ... and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." And the effect of this maturity? "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching ..." (Ephesians 4.11.16).
Spiritual maturity means becoming more and more like Jesus. Here’s Paul writing to the Corinthians: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory" (2 Corinthians 3.18). John Ortberg describes the effect of spiritual transformation like this: "When transformation happens, I don’t just do the things Jesus would have done; I find myself wanting to do them. They make sense. I don’t just go around trying to do the right things; I become the right sort of person."
So ... being a spiritually healthy Christian means growing to spiritual maturity - becoming more and more like Jesus. And that's a lifelong process - not one that stops after spiritual adolescence!
We developed some questions (actually, we borrowed bits from various different sources) to help each of us diagnose the state of our own spiritual health. Click here to take this 'spiritual health-check' yourself.
Go on - give it a go! You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. As you fill it in, be honest - this is just between you and God. If you score low in a section, it doesn't mean you're a bad Christian - it's just flagging up areas where you can grow.
A physical health-check is only beneficial if we begin to put into practice the GP's recommendations. It's the same with this spiritual health-check. If you just leave it there, it's been a waste of time. To get the most out of this health-check, once you've done it, choose one (or maybe two) areas which have been highlighted as needing some attention, and begin to work on it, prayerfully.
And don't work at it alone! Spiritual growth comes as we allow God's Spirit to work in us, and it happens in the context of Christian fellowship. Learn from the wisdom of others who are stronger in that area than you are.
And if you want some more ideas on how to work on these areas, specifically on 'spiritual disciplines', here's the 'growing spiritually' handout we used to help people follow-up.
Have fun - and let us know how you get on!
"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy ... being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1.4-6).