One of the main reasons why people go to the hospital to see a doctor is for the doctor to diagnose what is wrong with them and prescribe the proper drugs or treatment. The process of trying to determine which disease or condition explains the signs and symptoms a person is manifesting is what is known as medical diagnosis. There cannot be a diagnosis without an examination. It’s not just enough to call your doctor and say I have a headache. It would be wrong based on just that piece of information for the doctor to diagnose that you have malaria. This is because someone who is stressed or emotionally distressed can have a headache. Someone with migraine, toothache, high blood pressure or malaria can have a headache. A proper diagnosis requires physical examination of the person, the signs and symptoms as well as laboratory test results. A diagnosis based primarily on just what a patient told you on the phone could lead to a medical error.
Just as doctors need to undergo thorough examination to determine what is physically and mentally wrong with a person, God too tells us to go through a process of examination to determine our true spiritual state. Appearances are deceptive and the fact that a person appears to look “spiritually healthy” on the outside doesn’t mean that is the person’s true condition. As it is wrong for a doctor to rely on just what a patient says to give a diagnosis, we can’t just rely on physical appearances in our walk with God. It’s not enough to count the number of times you came to church in a month or year and conclude based on your church attendance that you are a vibrant believer and God is pleased with you.
Examining our bodies is essential for our health. There are some examinations that can be carried out by ourselves without going to the doctor. For example, ladies 20 years and above are encouraged by health practitioners to regularly examine their breasts to notice changes including masses or lumps as these could be early signs of cancer. In the same vain, you don’t need to go to your pastor to examine you to tell you how you are faring spiritually. You can do this on your own. In fact, you are in a better position to do a thorough self-examination of your life as you know yourself better than your pastor does, you know things about yourself your pastor has no idea about.
The reason why doctors encourage women to do breast self-examination is to remain vigilant for noticeable changes in their body. Why does God encourage us to do a spiritual self-examination? It is for us to be vigilant for signs of digressing from the Word and will of God; it is for us to check our lives to see that we haven’t departed from God’s standards and turned away from God. In Matthew 7:21-23, we are told that not everyone who calls Jesus their Lord or manifests the gifts of the Spirit such as prophecy will enter the Kingdom of heaven, not everyone who does the wonderful works of God such as casting out devils and freeing people from satanic holds will enter the Kingdom of heaven. It is only the person that does the will of God. We therefore need to regularly examine ourselves to see if we are doing the will of God, if we are in the will of God for our lives.
Self-examination is about placing our acts, our thoughts and our words under the light of God’s Word to see that not just what we do outwardly like preaching at a crusade, or what we do for the eyes of only those who see us in church such as looking very pious anytime we come to church, but what we think in our hearts which others aren’t privy to, what we do when no one is watching us, are all pleasing to God and bring glory to God.
A number of people at one time or the other have received an incorrect diagnosis; they were told by a doctor that they have an illness or medical condition which they didn’t really have. This is very dangerous as it can lead to an incorrect treatment which can harm the person’s life. When it comes to our walk with God, we can also make wrong ‘spiritual diagnosis’. Obviously, the people Jesus spoke about in Matthew 7:21-23 had made some false assumptions about their spiritual health and where they stood with God. They imagined that because they were involved in seemingly good, Christian acts, they were spiritually healthy believers. They didn’t understand that they needed to look deeper, they needed to probe further, they needed to examine not just their outward works but the state of their heart. If they had undergone proper self-examination, they would have seen where they needed to make amends, confessed and repented of those things they had done that offended God, and received His forgiveness.
While trying to diagnose a medical condition, doctors use certain medical tools. Tools such as stethoscope, blood pressure meter and examining table. God has given us His own tools to use to examine our ways. These are His Word and His Spirit. The Word of God and the Spirit of God are there to guide us into all truth (John 17:17, Psalm 119:160, John 16:13). His Word will show us where we have missed it, His Spirit will convict us of things in our lives that are not in line with God’s will for our lives. God can never give us a wrong diagnosis. His diagnosis is always correct and there is always grace and power made available for us to overcome any situation we find ourselves in. You don’t come out of God’s examining room screaming and wailing for being diagnosed with a terminal or incurable disease. God brings us under His examining table not to criticize and condemn us or give us some bad news that will hurt and break us. God’s intention in telling us to examine ourselves is simply for us to see ourselves as He sees us, to show us where we have gone slack, places we need stirring up and where we need more of Him in our lives. Then He offers us His medication that will help us overcome our present spiritual condition and move from where we are to where He wants us to be. The medicine He dispenses to us after a time of true self-examination is GRACE to stay in the center of His will, WISDOM to be a better person, UNDERSTANDING that will take us to greater levels of spiritual maturity and POWER to reflect more of His glory. May we be filled with more and more of God as we heed to His call to examine ourselves and give careful thought to our ways.
PHOTO CREDIT: Francisco Venancio on Unsplash