On March 17th, 2020 Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19. The basketball game that was about to tip off never was. In similar fashion the United States began shutting down and people started realizing this virus is real.
We are approaching a year of dealing with the pandemic and it seems there is light at the end of the tunnel. The vaccine is being rolled out systematically; COVID-19 cases are dropping across the country. For the first time in over a year a Providence Hospital in Portland reports they have zero COVID-19 patients in critical care.
So how are you holding up?
While the virus may seem to be under control, we must recognize the long-term effects of the virus will continue for years. Dr. Adrian James, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, expresses concern over the “profound long-term consequences of COVID-19” pointing to the deaths of loved ones, draconian lockdowns, and the economic fallout. James says this is the “biggest hit to mental health since World War 2.”
Again, how are you doing?
As you navigate your mental health during this season, I want to encourage you. Do not give up! Do not give into despair!
However, my desire is not that you would simply pretend everything is okay. I want more for you! As we approach the year mark of this virus, this is a great opportunity to take a spiritual inventory. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, challenging them to test their faith:
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5, ESV)
Why don’t you take some time and examine your faith? Below are three questions that will help you evaluate how you are doing spiritually:
- Are you secure in your identity in Christ?
I love how the writers of the New Testament go to great lengths to help the Saints know who they are in Christ. For example, look at the first chapter of Ephesians. Paul points out that Christians have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (v. 3). God chose you (vs. 4), adopted you (v. 5), blessed you with grace (v. 6), redeemed you (v. 7), forgave you (v. 7), gave you purpose (v. 9), and sealed you with the Holy Spirit (v. 13).What do you do if you do not feel secure in your identity with Christ? First, ask yourself if you are living in step with the Gospel. Ask God to show you the areas of your life that you need to surrender to him. Blessings of confidence in our relationship with God come through obedience to his Word.
Second, remember that what Jesus says about you is more important than what anybody else says about you. Lean into these spiritual truths. Preach them to yourself every day. Allow these truths to pour over your heart. Never forget who you are in the eyes of your father in heaven.
- Are you growing in Christ?
Dallas Willard points out, “Grace is opposed to earning, grace is not opposed to effort.” I want to be clear, as Christians we do nothing to contribute to our salvation. The moment we ask if we have done enough is the moment that we say Christ on the cross is not enough. We have our hope set on the work of Christ, recognizing we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9, ESV).However, growth in Christ is intentional. Throughout the New Testament the writers insisted the saints pursue their faith. Here are just a few verses that challenge inactivity of the saints:
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12, ESV)
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,” (2 Peter 1:5, ESV)
“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (Romans 14:19, ESV)
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15, ESV)
“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:11, ESV)
What do you do if you find yourself stagnant in your faith? Remember the things you did at first, when you first encountered the Christ at your savior (Revelation 2:5).
Then, do the next right thing you know you ought to do. Remember, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. He will lead you if you are willing. He may drive you into the Word, into deeper prayer, or into the community of believers – the Church. Or he may lead you to repentance or forgiveness. The key to spiritual growth is surrendering to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.
(A quick side note as you follow the Spirit’s leading in your life. The Spirit of God will never contradict the Word of God.)
- Are you serving Christ?
Exercise is necessary for your physical wellbeing; likewise, it is necessary to exercise your spiritual muscles. James writes that faith is completed by our works (James 2:22-24). If you aren’t putting your faith into practice by serving others you will not be spiritually healthy. Again, we are saved by grace through faith. However, if you are not careful, it is easy to be become self-centered. We tend to drift towards inactivity selfishness. Paul warns the churches in Galatia to not use the freedom we have in Christ to satisfy our flesh but to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13-15).If you are wondering where to start, loving your neighbor as yourself is life changing (Matthew 12:30-31). However, if you are looking for something more specific, Jesus gave specific instructions to his disciples:
“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:37–40, ESV)
So, how are you spiritually?
One of the beautiful parts about the Gospel message is the gift of repentance. Whenever we see that our lives are not in step with Christ, he allows us to step back in sync with him. This is the gift of sanctification – where God changes our hearts to conform to his.
If you are not secure in your relationship with Christ, lean into what Christ says about you. If you are not growing in your faith, allow the Holy Spirit to lead you. If you are not serving, have courage to love your neighbor.