By Rev. Stephen Plouffe
Special to The Guardian
The Winter Olympics gave us many opportunities to cheer (and perhaps groan) as our athletes achieved great feats on the world stage.
I enjoy the profiles of athletes that are offered alongside the performances and I am always struck by the immense effort and dedication required to make it into Olympic competition. The Apostle Paul likened the Christian life to a lifelong race, and it too requires effort and dedication if we are going to run well.
In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul exhorts his readers with these words, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith; test yourselves.”
Now we may question the need to examine ourselves as Christians, but if we are honest then the most pressing and truthful answer is one we know all too well: because we are so easily deceived by our own sinful hearts. As Christians, we have both a calling for this life and a heavenly goal set before us for the next. If we think of how Olympic athletes are dedicated to the goal set before them, how they monitor and examine their lives for years in the run up to the actual race they will run, we may marvel at the effort put into an earthly pursuit. They order their lives around the race that is not yet run for the hope of competing in it. How much more should Christians be concerned for the state of their lives and hearts before a Holy God when they are running an earthly race with an eternal destination? We need to be watchful, examining ourselves to see whether we have grown slack in service, or have wandered from the way, or have let our love grow cold.
Firstly, we need to examine ourselves by the light of God’s Word. Psalm 119:105 states: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
The Bible is our guide to knowing how we are to run our earthly race well, and we can’t possibly take seriously the work of examining ourselves if we don’t know what our calling is. Horatius Bonar describes entering into the Christian life of sanctification as a change of employment. No one starts a new job without first finding out what is required of them. We need to be faithful students of the word of God if we are to understand how we are called to live and serve before him.
Secondly, we need to faithfully seek the leading and work of the spirit in prayer, and in fellowship with other believers. It is only with the Spirit’s help that we will move beyond seeing the Bible as a manual for good living and will instead see it as the gracious and glorious revelation of the Triune God, given so that sinners may not only see their sin, but also the way of repentance and salvation.
Finally, we must examine ourselves to see whether we love Christ, for He is the foundation of all true life and faith.
I leave the last word to Simon Kistemaker and his answer to the question of what it means to be in the faith. Read it slowly, carefully, and prayerfully and, if need be, with tears and repentance:
I belong to Jesus Christ in this life and the life to come.
I dedicate my whole being to him as his faithful servant.
I present my heart to him promptly and sincerely.
I oppose sin and the works of the evil one.
I long to be eternally with Jesus.
Rev. Stephen Plouffe is with the Island Free Church. A guest sermon runs regularly in Saturday’s Guardian and is provided through Christian Communications.