Video 5 Your Spiritual Health
How are you doing spiritually? No, really. I want you to answer the question. How are you doing spiritually? Take a few seconds and think about it. Don’t worry. No one’s watching. Just answer the question in your mind. It’ll just be between you and God. And, well, God already knows how you’re doing.
Rather than trying to guess what you said, let me share with you how I would respond to the question. When someone asks me how I’m doing spiritually, the first two things that come to mind are Bible reading and prayer. As a Bible professor, my Bible reading is usually pretty good, though I feel a bit guilty since it’s part of my job. I often wonder how much Bible reading I would be doing if I were a mechanic or a business owner instead of a “professional” Christian. Most of my Bible reading these days has to do with preparing to teach a Bible class or researching the Scriptures for the latest book I’m writing. If I were a lawyer, a doctor, or a stay-at-home mom (I mean, dad), would I be reading the Bible as much as I am now? Or at all?
In terms of my prayer life, um . . . well . . . yeah, it pretty much stinks. On a good day I may spend some time in prayer in the morning—like, five to ten minutes. But those good days are few and far between. Usually I toss up a prayer here and there, often out of guilt that I don’t pray as I should, or because I gave that Christianese knee-jerk reaction when a friend told me about a trial they were going through: “I’m sorry to hear that, brother. I’ll pray for you.” Did I just say that? Did I mean it? Okay, I’d better pray for my friend right now because I don’t want to be a liar. Besides these guilt-driven prayers, it’s not uncommon for me to go a few days and realize I haven’t prayed at all.
By now, I usually have a softball-sized lump forming in my gut as I grow disgusted at how well, or not so well, I’m doing spiritually. And then I reflect on how I’m living.
My guilt is temporarily soothed by the fact that I’m generally living a pretty moral life. I’m not out getting drunk. I’m not having an affair. And if I can be completely honest, I haven’t struggled with porn ever since I became a Christian. (Part of this is because I got saved in 1999, just before the Internet became an omnipresent beast, so I never had to wean myself off Internet porn. In my teen years, you had to actually buy a magazine or a VHS tape—remember those?).
I’ve got a healthy marriage and four wonderful kids. I usually read the Bible to them at night, though we certainly go through seasons where my wife and I rush them off to bed so that we can squeeze in an extra hour of Netflix. Oh no. I forgot. Netflix. Maybe I’d be doing better spiritually if I didn’t watch Netflix every single night of the week. Maybe I should read a book instead. Or maybe I should pray.
As I feel the weight of spiritual depression setting in, I remind myself that I love God’s mission. Every year I take a mission trip to Nepal and serve the impoverished believers in that developing country. I give food to lepers. I preach the gospel to blind people. I teach the Scriptures to new and old believers. I absolutely love to experience God through these marginalized Christians living in the midst of a Hindu nation!
I don’t leave my love for missions in Nepal. There’s not a day that goes by when my heart isn’t heavy for people who have been neglected by society, oppressed by the majority, or even shunned by the church. The other day, my family and I visited an international church that was filled with immigrants and refugees from Africa. The two-and-a-half-hour service was translated into Swahili. I was bubbling over with empathy as I talked with joy-filled believers who came to America to escape civil war and genocide. We worshiped Jesus together through several languages. It was epic.
Okay, so my Bible reading is going okay, depending on how you measure it. My prayer life is in need of some serious improvement. I really should do something about my Netflix addiction. (Maybe after I finish the last season of The Walking Dead.) I’m a decent husband and father, though I still have much room to grow. I truly love people, especially the marginalized. So how did I score? I don’t know, maybe a 6 out of 10? Perhaps a 7? I guess it depends on how many points we get for prayer—or lack thereof. Maybe I scored more like a 5.
Do you see anything wrong with all of this? What’s the common theme across everything I’ve said? You can see it quite easily by looking at a few key words; they occur in almost every sentence that I’ve written above. I’ve reduced my entire “spiritual life” to my fragile pursuit of God. I never even factored in God’s relentless pursuit of me.