We began our study of the Apostles Creed in Sunday school today and had a great discussion. I am excited about this study and believe it will challenge all of us to deeper faith and understanding of the Word. (By the way, if you ever wondered what “the quick and the dead” means, it is “the living and the dead.” Good question, Barbara!)
Many years ago, at his trial for challenging the accepted beliefs of the time, Socrates insisted, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This is true, as well, of our spiritual lives. When talking about celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Paul told the Corinthians, “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:28,29). This is Paul’s version of Socrates’ statement. We need to examine ourselves so that we don’t fall into a rut that is less faith and more religious practice. He wrote to them again, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
After church today our session (church board) met with representatives from our presbytery’s Committee on Ministry. This was a triennial visit to touch base with our church and to see how things are going. The letter we received from them provided many questions to help us gauge our mission at Ebenezer. These questions are applicable to each of us as Christians, as well, so I thought I would adapt and share some of those in this week’s article so you could use them to examine your own life and faith, prayerfully and with the Holy Spirit’s help.
A healthy Christian focuses on strengths. What are some of your strengths? Ephesians tells us that God has given gifts to everyone. The gifts differ, but they are all given that the body of Christ might be strengthened. What gifts have you received from God? Consider your strengths and talents, then ask if you are using those gifts as God would want. Pray about what you can do in the kingdom of God to help further the gospel and strengthen the body.
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us” (Romans 12:6).
Paul identifies the gifts of prophecy, service, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and mercy, wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in different tongues and interpreting the same (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12). Are you good at encouraging others? Do you have a ministry of praying for those in need? Are you able to speak a word to help someone who has questions about his or her faith? Determine your strengths and dedicate them to the use of God, your spiritual service.
A healthy Christian responds rather than reacts. What are some things that you have had to respond to recently in your Christian life? How many relationships have been ruined, or damaged greatly, because of reaction or over-reaction? The Bible calls us to be thoughtful and considerate, not only of those we like, but also of those for whom we hold contempt. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons [and daughters] of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:33,34). James told his readers, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” Take time to understand others instead of jumping at the chance to be right. Think and pray about your response to a situation instead of reacting without thought.
Healthy Christians develop caring relationships. What are some ways you care for others? Throughout the Bible, God’s people are called to be an extension of God’s compassion. Some of the most caring actions are the simplest: a card for someone you haven’t seen lately, a visit to the nursing home, helping someone in need, donating food to the OACAC food bank. When we give of ourselves, not just from our excess, we show God’s care for others. These relationships extend further in our lives to co-workers, neighbors, and others in the community. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).
Healthy Christians challenge one another. What are some ways you challenge your friends and family to faith? Despite what some believe, the Christian life is not a marathon we run alone. God has placed us in a family, and part of that family relationship calls us to challenge each other in faith and spiritual growth. Hebrews commands, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (3:13), and Paul told the Thessalonians, “He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:10,11).
Are you a believer in Christ? Examine your life, strengths, responses, relationships, and how you care for and challenge others. You might be surprised by what you find, and you will definitely receive guidance when you invite the Holy Spirit to accompany you in this journey.
Pastor Mary Kay Glunt