Most people don’t like tests. Some people suffer from test anxiety and have a hard time performing well under the pressure of a test. Sometimes tests can seem pointless. Like the student in the cartoon, you might ask, “What does this have to do with the rest of my life?”
Although tests in schoolwork may not seem very helpful at times, evaluation is crucial for any kind of personal development. I’m not talking about paper-and-pencil standardized tests. What is far more important than any paper test you will ever take is something called self evaluation.
I’m talking about taking a step back and pausing to think about how you are doing in various areas of personal development. It involves comparing your performance with a model or example. Setting personal goals to aspire to and periodically evaluating your progress toward those goals, is another way to think about this. You won’t learn how to do this in a classroom, and yet knowing how to self-evaluate is vital for lifelong success.
Spiritual Self Evaluation
The same is true in the spiritual realm. Salvation occurs through the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart convicting of sin (self evaluation) and leading to repentance and faith in Christ. After salvation, the Holy Spirit performs the same ministry of prompting us to compare our lives with God’s Word and make adjustments accordingly. Unfortunately, many Christians are not aware that the cycle of spiritual growth begins with self evaluation. To expand on an earlier concept we discussed, Christian spiritual growth is an upward spiral that begins with a heart response to self evaluation and leads to action or change.
Biblical Basis for Self Evaluation
The Bible has a good deal to say about self evaluation. Consider the following verses.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! – 2 Corinthians 13:5
God wants us to continually check up on our spiritual state. Drifting along taking your salvation for granted is dangerous!
Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. – 1 Corinthians 11:28
God designed communion to be an opportunity for Christians to reflect on their relationship and fellowship with Christ.
Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the Lord! – Lamentations 3:40
Just as God’s people, Israel, tended to drift away from the Lord, it is easy for us to unknowingly let our spiritual growth slip. We should constantly be searching our hearts and our lives.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:6-7
God brings circumstances into our lives to help us evaluate our priorities. Although living in America is a blessing for Christian freedom, it has caused the Church to grow lax, spiritually. Perhaps we should welcome the persecution that seems to be growing on the horizon!
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
Be careful, lest you become a fool or naive person – someone who doesn’t evaluate themselves!
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! – Psalm 139:23-24
This is a prayer we should echo frequently, as we ask the Lord’s help in self evaluation.
Biblical Conclusions About Self Evaluation
We can draw from the verses above some clear conclusions.
- Spiritual self evaluation is commanded (1 Cor. 11:28, 2 Cor. 13:5)
- Spiritual self evaluation is necessary for spiritual growth. (Lam. 3:40, Eph. 5:15, 1 Tim. 3)
- God brings circumstances into our lives to help us evaluate our spiritual growth. (1 Pet. 1:6-7)
- Spiritual self evaluation should be something we desire. (Psalm 139)
During my college days at a Christian university, summers were a definite challenge for me spiritually. By God’s grace, I grew a good bit spiritually during the school year. The focused environment, structure, and routine all helped me to be intentional about my walk with the Lord. But in the summer I worked 60 hours a week at a retail job. I was still involved in ministry, but I was around ungodly co-workers, surrounded by the pervasive influence of American pop culture and materialism. I could feel its influence on me. At that point in my life, I wasn’t disciplined enough to focus on spiritual growth intentionally without a support structure. I didn’t really like structure – I just kind of coasted through the summer and let my work schedule drive my life – and I let my spiritual growth slip. I could feel myself growing cold spiritually.
Maybe you’re stronger spiritually than I was and you can maintain spiritual growth on your own, but you have to be intentional about it. In order to make spiritual self evaluation the priority it needs to be, I believe every Christian needs two things: a plan and a partner. We’ll talk about those in a couple of follow-up posts.