Check your spiritual health, Missouri Baptists
When was the last time you had a health screening? I am old enough now—and a lot of you are too, whether or not you want to admit it—many of us are old enough that we are supposed to have a thorough health screening once a year. The last time I submitted to a health screening I discovered some very important health information about myself. I have been taking a few pills since that health screening (one in the morning and another one in the evening)—and that is a bit of a hassle, but better than the alternative. I hope you are keeping up with your health. It is important. Your availability to serve the Lord sometimes depends on your physical well-being.
So, when was the last time you had a health screening. It is important.
And yet, there is an even more important question. When was the last time you had a spiritual health screening? Over the next few weeks and months, you will hear much about church health. I want us to begin that discussion by acknowledging that healthy churches are churches that are filled with spiritually healthy Christians. Before we can accurately assess the spiritual health of Missouri Baptist churches, we have to assess the spiritual health of individual Missouri Baptists. If it is true that the Missouri Baptist Convention will never be more healthy than Missouri Baptist churches – it is also true that Missouri Baptist churches will never be more healthy than their members.
So, when was the last time you had a spiritual health screening. It is imperative.
Following are some of the spiritual disciplines of a healthy Christian:
Private Worship/Devotions – Psalm 56:4 is a very special verse of Scripture to me. I learned it as a seven-year-old boy. I woke up afraid from a nightmare. My father came into my bedroom to calm me. He taught me Psalm 56:4. Dad and I repeated together, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” Again, we said it together, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” We quoted that verse together several times. After a few minutes, Dad asked if I was all right. I assured him that I would be. He went back to his bed. And I kept saying the verse. “What time I afraid, I will trust in thee.” “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” I don’t know how many times I repeated the verse. I just know that I went to sleep peacefully, still saying “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” It was a spiritual exercise. And I was made stronger through it. Personal devotions ought to come as naturally to us as breathing. In fact, the combination of personal devotions and prayer has been described as fresh air in the life of the Christian. In the physical sense, when you inhale, you bring in fresh air – fresh life into your lungs. In the spiritual sense, through personal devotions you inhale the fresh breath of God into your Christian life. How is your spiritual breathing?
Prayer – Luke 18:1 indicates that prayer is foundational to a dynamic Christian life. Surely, we can all agree that the word translated “men” in that verse is meant to be generic toward all mankind. Certainly, men and women, boys and girls – all of us ought “… to pray and not lose heart.” Returning to the analogy of breathing, if personal devotions inhale the fresh breath of God into your Christian life, prayer is the exhaling part of that spiritual exercise. Have you spoken today with your heavenly Father?
Discipleship/Bible Study – Psalm 119:11-16 tells us to hide the Word of God in our hearts. But that does not mean that we are to keep the Word of God a secret. Rather, the Psalmist implies that the Word of God is to be permanently placed in our hearts. The Word of God and the benefit of knowing the Word of God is to be protected in our hearts and minds through memorization. These verses, along with hundreds of Bible verses concerning prayer and personal devotions, comprise a prescription for spiritual health. Personal devotions are important for the daily walk of the Christian. Likewise, discipleship/Bible study is imperative for the deeper walk of the Christian. Under the inspiration of God, the Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthian Christians about their spiritual immaturity. He said “I fed you with milk and not with solid food.” The implication is that mature and growing Christians need the meat of the Word. Are you daily digging into the Word of God?
Corporate Worship/Fellowship – Hebrews 10:25 is clear. Healthy Christians are those who regularly gather with other Christians for the experience of worship, including Bible study, Gospel preaching, fellowship, prayer, and giving. The verse further states that we need fellowship and the encouragement of other Christians, especially as the return of Christ approaches. That verse also indicates, and the next verse clarifies that those in the habit of avoiding Christian fellowship are placing themselves outside the fellowship of God and His church, and in spiritual danger. Is the “… assembling together” of God’s people a priority in your life?
Evangelism/Witnessing – Matthew 28:19-20 is known as the Great Commission. Sharing your faith is a commandment given directly to every Christian. Yet, statisticians tell us that fewer than 20 percent of all Christians ever tell another person how to be saved. One of the statistics that we love to count in Missouri Baptist life is the number of baptisms. An important part of our annual church profile is the number of baptisms produced in each of our Missouri Baptist churches and in our Convention of churches. We posit that baptism is a sign of a healthy church and Convention. But, in the last few years those baptismal numbers have been declining. I wonder if one of the reasons for the decline is that we have been asking the wrong questions? Rather than counting the number of baptisms, why not count the number of witnessing encounters in our churches? Doesn’t it make sense that when the number of witnessing encounters increase, the number of baptisms will also increase. When was the last time you shared the Gospel?
Giving – Malachi 3:8-10 is one of the most overlooked passages in the Bible. Church members sometimes overlook it because they do not want to be reminded of Biblical truth about giving. Incredibly, there are also some pastors who avoid the passage because they do not want to face the wrath of church members who fall into the category defined in the previous sentence. Malachi 3:8-10 is overlooked and avoided, but also vital to our spiritual health screening. The fact is there is not a better way to measure your spiritual health or your commitment to the Lord than to look at what you give to the Lord and His church. When Jesus said “… Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” He meant it. God gave His Son. Jesus gave His life. What will you give?
So, how is your personal spiritual health? Healthy churches are filled with healthy Christians. Is your church more healthy or less healthy because you are a member? Healthy churches are filled with healthy Christians.