It seems we cannot get away from surveys. With each purchase a survey is included to see how the company has performed, the quality of the merchandise, the speed of service, cleanliness of facility, demeanor of personnel, time of day, weather, moon phase and a litany of pressing questions ranked 1-10 everything known under the sun. Surveys serve a purpose for self-examination and companies thrive on the business of product survey as well as employee survey. While the use of examining questions can be somewhat of a nuisance at times there is a lesson that has a sound Biblical principle for the child of God. One of the effective tools for growth and maturity is the use of self-examination.
In the medical field exams are vital to determine good health. In the spiritual field these exams are important to see how the spiritual body is growing or suffering from lack of nutrition. David implored the Lord to examine him and prove him in Psalm 26 and to see what was in his mind and heart. This is a bold request! We can invite people into our homes to see how we live but many things can be hidden from sight. When we invite the Lord to examine our minds and our hearts there is nothing that can be hidden. God knows the heart (Acts 15:8) and asking Him to scrutinize our lives is a bold test of faith.
The apostle John shows the character of examination when he writes, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (1 John 3:18-21). Our motives are not just an outward manifestation of our faith but driven by the inward man whose image is laid clear by the eyes of the Lord. We serve a God who sees our motives, our desires, and our true character.
The Bible reveals three truths of examination the child of God will find that helps mold the Christian character into the image of godliness. The first is found in 2 Corinthians 13:5 – “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” What Paul is asking is for all of us to take ownership of our lives as we see where we are with our faith in Jesus Christ. We know the answer to the question before the question is asked. Examining ourselves and proving (a stronger word) ourselves is where we come to terms with who we really are. We know that God knows our hearts but not until we acknowledge that we know our hearts can we grow properly.
What will the answer be when the survey is taken? Testing ourselves is to compare my life with the character found in holy scrip. Can I examine myself as a godly husband or wife; an employee that shines in the workplace or a neighbor that seasons those I come in contact with as an influence for good? These are attributes that show my life in the character of Jesus Christ. What is my involvement with the work of the church? How deep is my knowledge of God’s word? When do I see opportunities to talk with others about salvation? Examinations require questions! Tough questions. Hard answers.
The purpose of a life survey is to check our progress along the spiritual road of maturity. The saints of Hebrews 5 were rebuked for failing to grow as they should. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food” (Hebrews 5:12). Failure to examine oneself can bring about spiritual immaturity. If a child does not grow in body we take them to the doctor for an examination. When we do not grow as a child of God we must examine ourselves – learning how to fill our lives with the proper spiritual nutrients.
A second truth about self-examination is found in Galatians 6:1-5 – “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.” Taking a survey of our own hearts is necessary when we see how others are overtaken with difficulty. We are not immune to the failings of character. It can be easy to condemn the person who falls but pride proceeds our own destruction (Proverbs 16:18). Satan is just as interested in my life as the life of the one he helped to stumble. We should never think the devil is too busy to bother with my life. Our self-examination helps us to have pity on those who are overtaken in a trespass and strengthen our resolve to resist temptation. The blessing of bearing burdens with others is the knowledge the burden I bear is also my own.
Humility is a virtue that gives vision to our lives in Christ Jesus. This character is the foundation of why we are willing to take survey of our life and to see the truth of who we really are. We can brag like the Pharisee who said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men.” Or we can be like the tax collector who “would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’” (Luke 18:9-14). Jesus spoke this parable “to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others.” The tax collector took stock of his life and knew his need for the Lord. Growth is best defined by the realization of our need for the grace of God for without it we are nothing.
A third admonition for self-survey is when we remember the sacrifice of Jesus on the first day of the week. “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28). The power of the Lord’s Supper is the weekly remembrance of what Christ did for us and what we are doing for Him. As we take of the emblems honoring the sacrifice of the Son of God we must examine ourselves and commit our souls to the task seeking more courage to serve faithfully the cause of salvation. Jesus committed Himself to the cross; I must commit myself to the cross. The Lord gave His life so that I can be saved; I must give my life in service of self-examination to see that I am in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5) and that I will not stumble (Galatians 6:4).
Our lives can never be full until we see the price Jesus paid for my sins. If we were able to stand on Golgotha and examine the body of Jesus hanging on the cross it would sicken our hearts and minds with grief. He did that for me. He died a most horrible death and it was my fault. He who knew no sin died for me because I wanted to enjoy some pleasure. How awful. How needful for me to examine my life and see my need for the mercy of a loving Father. Examining ourselves in the taking of the Supper is to see who I am and what I am. I am lost without Him and I cannot save myself. I need Him every hour. My life is nothing without Jesus Christ. The memory of His death is something I take with me each day with thanksgiving that He was willing to die for me. God be merciful to me a sinner.
When was the last time I took real stock of my life and examined closely my relationship with God? Paul would proclaim that at best he was the chief among sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). But his life was not burdened with the knowledge of his sin but the joy he knew in being found in favor with God. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). The aged apostle examined his life and found God’s love; and he found his own self-worth in knowing that God’s love had redeemed him.
We should all take the survey of David. “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether … Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalms 139:1-4,23-24). Examine yourselves whether you are in the faith – let each one examine his own work – let a man examine himself. What a survey. And the survey says?