“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates (2Co 13:5)?”
Paul wrote these words to the Corinthian church, which was struggling with issues of sectarianism, sexual immorality and denying the apostleship of Paul.
The apostle wrote to rebuke them, chastise them and exhort them. As their ‘father’ in the gospel, he was concerned about their spiritual health and well-being; he was concerned about whether they remain in a right relationship with God.
In these words the apostle wrote, we can infer that the Corinthian Christians had been neglecting the important spiritual exercise of examining themselves, to see if they remained in the faith or have departed to apostasy.
This remains an important exercise to keep our spiritual well-being in check.
It is easy to watch our conduct when we are among other people. We are usually mindful of proper social etiquette so as to at least not make fools of ourselves and to keep up a good impression.
It is when we are alone that we let our hair down. But even when we are in the company of others, we are often ‘alone’ in our thoughts. People may observe our external behaviour but no one can see accurately into our minds except God.
It is in the solitude of our minds that we need to be more vigilant and mindful. The wise man counsels, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life (Pro 4:23).”
When we make a habit of this spiritual exercise of self-examination, we may be able to discover areas in our lives where we fall short of the gospel standard. The apostle says in Philippians 1:27, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
Self-reflection helps us to discover our sins and shortcomings. It not only uncovers any hidden sin but also helps us to recognise areas where we can improve. Self-reflection is a means for us to live worthy of the gospel.
Self-reflection is the first step. We may become aware, through this spiritual exercise, of any sin and shortcoming but awareness is only the beginning. If there was sin in our lives, we still need to repent and resolve to live righteously.
If our self-reflection leads us to take positive actions in repentance and improvement, then it could be truly said to have been worth it.
We feed on the scriptures daily for our spiritual nourishment, to help our inner being to be strengthened (cf. 2Co 4:16; Eph 3:16). When we reflect upon ourselves using the knowledge we have gained from the scriptures, we can check our manner of life and speech and thus become wiser.
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night (Psa 1:1-2).”
Another psalmist adds this wise counsel. It applies equally to the young and not-so-young alike.
“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee (Psa 119:9-11).”
Making it a daily habit to self-reflect in the light of what we learn from the scriptures, leading to the benefits of spiritual growth, is easier said than done and requires not a little discipline. Any of us who have tried it will understand the demand on self-discipline, but will also readily acknowledge the benefits.
The hectic pace of life with its accompanying stress adds to our increased exhaustion. Many may find it a chore to make time for self-reflection and meditation. It is more tempting to spend any spare time to catch up on our sleep and recreation.
If we think about it, not spending time on self-reflection is only another form of escapism. Our stress will not go away; worse, hidden sins may become further entrenched, adding to our spiritual woes and lack of peace.
If we exercise the discipline to examine ourselves, whether we remain in a right relationship with God, we find that we are mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepared to face another day with all its challenges and stress.
We will experience the peace of mind and strength of spirit to continue our pilgrimage to our home above. Such benefits come about only with discipline and love for God’s word.
“Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments (Psa 119:4-6).”
“O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day (Psa 119:97).”
Self-reflection and meditation are not spiritual exercises we can simply pick up at leisure and cast aside whenever we feel like it. It comes with a serious and mature attitude toward our lives and responsibility toward God.
To learn to be a man and woman of God, we ought to learn to take responsibility for our own growth and manner of life. Whatever we do or say, we alone are responsible and shall have to give an account (cf. Rom 14:12; 2Co 5:10).
Through the spiritual exercise of reflection and meditation, we can learn from our mistakes, make necessary corrections and prevent these mistakes from recurring. We can prevent hidden sins from building and thus hurting our relationships with God and fellow man.
This is an important part of our growth as saints on this earth. Again, it is easier said than done, but let us trust in our Lord and set our hearts and minds on growing in holiness