The Spiritual Discipline Least Talked About
Many excellent books have been written about Spiritual Disciplines, and Christians practice and talk much about prayer, fasting, Bible reading, serving, worship, celebration, solitude, silence, sacrifice, giving, and much more. There is one spiritual discipline, however, I see throughout the Bible that I don’t see on any of the lists or in any of the books I’ve read, or ever really talked about by the “spiritual discipline” experts for that matter. Ready for it?
EVALUATION. Self-Assessment. Examining our lives in light of God’s Word and plan for our lives.
It might not be what you thought, but self-evaluation is so very important. It’s not about putting ourselves down and focusing on our shortcomings. On the contrary, it’s a positive, honest, energized commitment to grow, change, step up, and ultimately elevate our lives. Angela Duckworth’s seminal work, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, talks about what makes people successful in life, business, education, sports, etc. “Enthusiasm is common,” she says. “Endurance is rare.” She talks about amazing stories of people who bridle the power of passion and perseverance in many walks of life. I want to challenge us to apply some GRIT to our spiritual lives. To our soul shaping. To our spiritual formation. To our Christ life. After all, there is nothing more important in the entire world than for us to become more like Jesus – and to allow that drive to positively impact our marriages, children, relationships, work associations, and all areas of our lives.
Let’s look at the importance of EVALUATION. I have mined the life of Joseph and have found 8 areas of his life that everyone can – and should – emulate in our own lives.
- VISION: What are the dreams I’m dreaming? What is my vision for my family, my finances, my faith?
- INTEGRITY: Am I cutting corners on character, or am I passionate about truth telling and honest living?
- FAITH: Am I easily derailed and do I allow adversity to detour me from the life God has laid out in front of me? Or do I demonstrate a faith that overcomes and endures?
- FINANCES: Do I rigorously follow biblical financial principles that bring freedom and blessing or do I follow my own plan and experience bondage and a heavy heart?
- GODLINESS: Am I growing in my “followership” of Jesus or am I stuck and stagnant? Am I demonstrating godly characteristics like Jesus and Joseph?
- RELATIONSHIPS: Joseph takes us into the laboratory of real life relationships and shows us how to win at relationships — not just when they’re easy, but when they’re hard and feel impossible.
- COURAGE: Fear destroys dreams, relationships, hope, and even individual lives. It could have for Joseph, but he demonstrated courage in the midst of stifling fear. How?
- LEADERSHIP: Each one of us is a leader in that we are responsible to lead our own lives. Additionally, some of us have the added responsibility of leading our families, leading at work, on a team and more. What does Joseph teach us about true servant leadership and how can we can grow and bless others?
We need to practice three things on a regular basis: EVALUATE > EMULATE > ELEVATE
- Paul said it well: “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Can we say that? No matter how you answer, this is at the crux of why it’s so important to EVALUATE how well we’re following Jesus and where we need to step up.
- After an honest self-assessment, we need to EMULATE godly greats like Jesus, Joseph and Paul. We need to make it our life’s goal to emulate Christ and follow him.
- Honest evaluation and determined emulation will ultimately ELEVATE the level of our living. As we assess our lives and make course corrections where needed, and live our lives to follow Christ more intentionally and completely, we will lift the level of our living and become the people God has called us to be – and it will bless the others around us. But it all starts with evaluation.
Take a moment and think about the importance of EVALUATION:
- A doctor must examine before they operate.
- A mechanic must inspect before they repair.
- A CEO must assess before they can correct.
- A teacher must grade before they can score.
- A student must test before they get admission.
Leo Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
Patrick and his family have attended our church for a couple years. They are involved and serve in a variety of areas. I was inspired about what he had to share recently about the power of evaluation. Take a look:
Scripture talks a lot about the importance of evaluation too:
- “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
- “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
- “Everyone ought to examine themselves.” (I Corinthians 11:28-29)
- “Let us examine our ways and test them.” (Lamentations 3:40)
- “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
- “But he knows the way that I take; when he was tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10-12)
- “I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes. I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.” (Psalm 119: 59-60)
- “Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways.’” (Haggai 1:5-7)
Self-evaluation is the spiritual discipline that nobody talks about. But we cannot grow if we don’t change; and we cannot change if we don’t know where and how to grow. Athletes, doctors, workers and students all know that rigorous evaluation leads to growth because it points out where change and growth must occur. So we pray “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
Do you know the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Mark chapter 10? If not, I invite you to look it up. A successful, good-hearted young man asks Jesus what he must to be saved. I’m paraphrasing here, but Jesus essentially tells him to sell all he owned, give it to the poor and come follow him. Hearing this, the young man went away sad because he was very wealthy and didn’t want to give up his possessions. The young man thought he had it covered. He expected Jesus to say, “You’re the perfect example of man on earth.” What he was looking for was validation, not evaluation. What Jesus was looking for was change. The young man wasn’t willing to evaluate his life because ultimately he wasn’t willing to change it. Because he was not willing to evaluate and emulate, he was not able to elevate his life to become the man God envisioned him to be.
How about us? For this man, possession and riches were “off limits” for Jesus to address. What areas of our lives are “off limits” for Jesus to address?
- Is it MONEY? It’s my money. I will not obey the Lord, help others, serve God, do His work…
- Is it TIME? It’s my time. I’m too busy to serve, too busy to help those in need…
- Is it our ABILITIES? I gave at the office. I’m spent…
- Is it our THOUGHT LIVES, FANTASIES or AFFECTIONS? I want what I want when I want it…
The thing I love about Joseph is his vigorous and rigorous determination and passion to live for God in the midst of extreme circumstances, adversity, disappointment, and against overwhelming odds. For the next 60 days, let’s dive in together, challenge each other to make honest evaluation of our lives, emulate biblical examples like Jesus and Joseph, and elevate our lives to be who God created us all to be.