Self-examination: Search me, O God, and know my heart: try (examine) me, and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23,24
July 10, 2014
Self-examination. Is this something you have done? Is this something you do?
Many years ago I read a statement that has stuck in my mind ever since. Gordon MacDonald, author of Ordering Your Private World, wrote,
Most of us live unexamined lives.
If this statement is true, it certainly opposes the words of the Apostle Paul in his writings to the Corinthians...
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 1 Corinthians 11:28
and also his words to the Galatians,
...let every man prove (examine) his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. Galatians 6:4
Paul is not alone in his writings either. Long before him, the Old Testament author of Lamentations wrote,
Let us search and try (examine) our ways, and turn again to the LORD. Lamentations 3:40
These verses certainly show that self-examination is important. And to put all authority on the subject, the prophet Haggai records the actual words of the Lord...
Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Haggai 1:5
Examine. Consider. Webster's dictionary shows us that both of these words reflect the same meaning.
Examine: to inspect carefully with a view to discover truth or the real state of a thing.
Consider: to fix the mind on, with a view to a careful examination; to think on with care; to ponder; to study; to meditate on.
If most of us live unexamined lives, the Word of God makes it clear that this should not be. We are to examine ourselves and our work. We are to search and consider our ways.
Is this something you and I do?
Self-examination should not be something we have done and don't need to do again. Lamentations 3:40 says we are to search and test our ways, and turn again to the LORD. This turning again is a continual action, a result of examining our ways. Rather than a once-in-a-lifetime event, considering ourselves should be something we do – a regular event in our lives.
But what is the purpose of examining ourselves and considering our ways? Why should we ponder and study our lives? So we can find areas of our life that are not in accordance to what God would have for us. When we, by careful examination, discover things contrary to Him, we are to then turn again to the Lord, putting such things out of our lives. Self-examination is essential to becoming like Christ.
Going back to Gordon MacDonald, he also suggested a way to help in regular self-evaluation. He recommended keeping a journal to record not only your daily activities but, more importantly, your behaviour, reactions, and decisions to the events that occur each day. Get a notebook and try his suggestion - it works! Regularly taking time to ponder and evaluate our day - and predominately our conduct during the day - is a great help in examining ourselves. As we search and try our ways we recognize our failings and, as a result, turn again to the Lord. Keeping such a record allows us to review past days, showing us areas in which we repeat the same mistakes, but also encourages when we see ways in which we have grown.
All of us want to grow spiritually, don't we? None of us want to be making the same mistakes and conducting ourselves in the same manner next year as we are today. A quick glace at our lives won't make lasting changes but regular evaluation and turning to the Lord will develop our spiritual growth. Self-examination is the key.
David prayed, asking the Lord to show him his failures and to lead him in His ways. May we pray along with him,
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try (examine) me, and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23,24