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Taking Spiritual Inventory

Seven areas to consider

Alan Pastian on January 18, 2019

Spiritual growth is not only a mark of Christian life but a necessity of Christian life. If you are the same person you were last year at this time, you have some spiritual growing up to do.

It’s important to take spiritual inventory from time to time to identify what is spurring or stunting your growth. Psalm 119:59 says, “I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes.” Here are seven areas worth examining as the new year begins:

1. Shame

Humans have a desire for connection. Yet shame can keep us from experiencing authentic connection to God and others.

Shame isn’t from God. It first appeared in Scripture when Adam and Eve sinned, and then hid from God. God’s response was, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). This isn’t because God didn’t know their physical location but because He cared about their spiritual condition. Shame compels you to remove yourself and put yourself into hiding.

Shame leads to isolation. Shame says, “You are the wrong person.” The Holy Spirit says, “You made the wrong choice.” Shame attacks your identity and makes you feel worthless. The Holy Spirit reminds you of your value in Christ and invites you to come to Him in repentance.

Seek forgiveness, and receive the grace to become more like Jesus. Don’t let shame drain you, isolate you, or inhibit your growth. Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

2. Holiness

Holiness is protecting what is most valuable, sacred and special: your relationship with God. It’s keeping your godly relationship safe, set apart, secure and protected.

Choose to fight against what could hurt this special and sacred relationship. Fiercely protect and nurture your relationship with God. Safeguard the commitment you made when you became a Christian. Holiness isn’t about a list of “no’s” but a singular “yes” to God in all areas of your life.

Holiness is embracing who you are with God rather than resisting who you are without God. It’s receiving who God is first and then understanding who you are second. That’s the difference between, “What I can do because of God’s holiness?” and “What I can do for God’s holiness?”

3. Comparisons

When you compare yourself to others, you are focusing on the wrong things. Comparison can give you a false sense of inferiority or superiority. God didn’t call you to run someone else’s race. We are to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Celebrate what God is doing in those around you instead of comparing their lives to yours. Focusing on Christ and giving Him glory in all things is the best way to stay free from jealousy and pride.

4. Conflict

If you’re in relationships, you will encounter conflict. Nevertheless, your goal should be to make peace whenever possible. Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean you have to confront them and engage in an argument. Instead, confront yourself about any attitudes that need to change. Failing to understand where others are coming from is the root of conflict. So have conversations, not confrontations. That requires engaging in a two-way dialogue, rather than attacking someone on social media.

Focusing on Christ and giving Him glory in all things is the best way to stay free from jealousy and pride.

Listening is powerful — and necessary if we want people to listen to us. Don’t come into conflict simply telling people what to think or what you think, but ask them what they think. How you say things can be just as important as what you say. Stop trying so hard to convince people you’re right, and invite them into a discussion.

Don’t view differences of opinion as barriers but opportunities to reflect the character of Christ. When you disagree, choose to rally around themes that can do the most good: love, honor, peace, humility, kindness, forgiveness and hope.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

5. Forgiveness

Decide today that you are no longer going to live with feelings of resentment and animosity over things others said or did to you in the past. Even if you don’t feel like forgiving, it’s what God calls you to do.

Forgiveness doesn’t require agreeing with what the person who hurt you did. Rather, it’s canceling the debt against the person who hurt you — just as Christ cancelled your sin debt. Forgiveness is living as though you were never offended. Unforgiveness is a reminder of what someone did to you. Forgiveness is a reminder of what God did for you.

Forgiveness is less a feeling and more an act of obedience. While blessings and charity affirm who we are, battles and adversity confirm who we are. That’s why forgiveness is supernatural. Show the world Christianity really works by forgiving others the way Christ forgave you.

6. Calling

Your calling starts with a desire to be the person God created you to be. Once you can be yourself, then you can find yourself. It’s in that sweet spot that you will discover your calling.

Before the foundation of the world, God had a plan for you. The passions, skills and interests that make up who you are will surface throughout your life. When you see them, excavate them and embrace them because they point to your calling. Discovering your calling is not about working harder or going further, but digging deeper to discover who God designed you to be.

7. Contentment

Jesus promises His followers will have life “to the full” (John 10:10). Anything disconnected from Christ will always leave you empty. The person who gains the whole world yet lose his or her soul has nothing (Mark 8:36). Yet the things of this world never cease their beckoning. They are always whispering, “What you have is not enough. You need more.”

Contentment silences the voices of covetousness and greed. While ambition to find your purpose is healthy, making possessions and power your goal in life is wrong. When you focus on things, you miss out on God’s best for your life. You fail to appreciate what you have, where you are, and whom you’re with.

At the end of the day, your circumstances will not make you happy. No matter how successful you become by human standards, nothing can satisfy you like Christ.

The apostle Paul wrote, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).

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