By Fletcher Mantandika, MDiv, 2008 WSC Alumnus
An Inventory for the Soul
Every good businessman will, from time to time, close his business for inventory. This is considered standard practice for any business to succeed. Closing a business for inventory on a regular basis, allows the business owner to think carefully about his business and assess it so that he can then decide how to best to run it. While the experience might be challenging (especially when things are bad), it is a good practice in the long run; while it might be painful, it is profitable; while it halts the business for a while, it is healthy for the business in the long term. Every good businessman understands this. The principle extends and applies to everything in our lives. It applies to our cars (we have to get them serviced every so often so that we can keep using them). Our bodies have to be checked by the doctors so that we can maintain our good health. Our dishes have to be cleaned on a daily basis so that we can keep using them. Our clothes have to be washed from time to time so that we can keep wearing them, on and on it goes. It just makes sense. It is so natural to do these things.
A Slow Fade
And yet, when it comes to our spiritual lives, it's not so natural. People can go on and on for days, weeks, months and even years without stopping to take stock of their spiritual lives - to check their spiritual temperature and figure out whether it's hot, cold, or lukewarm. As a result, many plunge their souls into ruin because they did not take the time to stop and do an honest assessment about their spiritual condition. They wake up one day only to discover that they have drifted ashore - so far away from the Harbor - so far away from God, who alone provides shelter for the human soul and protects it from the troubled waters of this world. This discovery usually happens in a crisis - physical or spiritual or both. That is the wrong time to make that discovery. Most people who fall into grave sin will admit that their failure did not happen in the "moment" - but much earlier. "People never crumble in a day. It's a slow fade" (Casting Crowns). There was an area of their lives that they had neglected for a long time and one day, it all blew up. They fell flat on their faces in sin - the slow leak (the neglected area in their lives) deflated their spiritual tires so much so that there was no more air left to keep it in motion. And the inevitable result was a crash - grave sin, adultery, a divorce, or shipwrecking the faith altogether.
It Doesn't Have to Happen to Any of Us
The good news is that, this slow fade doesn't have to happen to any of us. God has given us ways to stoke our spiritual fires so that we are constantly burning hot in our souls—hot in our love for Him and in our love for neighbour—hot in our devotion and service to Him—hot in our faith and obedience to Him. Each week when we gather with His people in church, we are stoking our spiritual fires. When we partake of the Lord's Supper, when we are on our knees in prayer, when we take time to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him as He teaches us from His Word, we are stoking our spiritual fires and fortifying ourselves against the attacks of the enemy.
The Word of God - A Sure Way of Gauging the Spiritual Temperature of Your Soul
The end of each year provides us a natural opportunity for a spiritual inventory. One of the most important ways we can do this is by assessing our intake of the Word of God. How much of the Bible have you taken in this past year? And how much of it do you plan to take-in in the year ahead? What plan have you put in place for that? These are just some of the questions that we should ask ourselves and answer honestly on a regular basis but especially at the end of each year and the dawn of the New Year. We have to be intentional about this. A deliberate, disciplined and study intake of the Word of God is what we need to keep the spiritual fires burning hot in our souls. Donald Whitney writes in his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life:
No Spiritual discipline is more important than the intake of God's Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There is simply no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture. The reasons for this are obvious. In the Bible God tells us about Himself, and especially about Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God. The Bible unfolds the Law of God to us and shows us how we've broken it. There we learn how Christ died as a sinless, willing Substitute for breakers of God's Law and how we must repent and believe in Him to be right with God. In the Bible we learn the ways and will of the Lord. We find in Scripture how to live in a way that is pleasing to God as well as best and most fulfilling for ourselves. None of this eternally essential information can be found anywhere else except the Bible. Therefore if we would know God and be Godly, we must know the Word of God - intimately (p. 28).
I hope that you will make it your aim in the year ahead to study the Word of God and let it check your spiritual temperature. As you read the Bible, you will find that the Bible is reading you. Make it your aim this coming year to stock the fires of your soul by letting the Word of God dwell in you richly. That can only happen with a commitment to study, meditate and practice the Word of God day by day. Spiritual growth doesn't happen by accident. It must be deliberate. God has given us the tools we need to ensure our spiritual growth - and the Word is the most important of them all. I pray that you will make the Word of God your daily companion in the year ahead.
"...Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD" (Deuteronomy 8:3b)
Fletcher Mantandika is a 2008 MDiv graduate from WSC and is Founder and President of Joy the World Ministries, and he is also Pastor of New Westminster Chapel.