Tuesday Truth for Youth: You’ve Had the Physicals. Now’s the Time for Bigger Tests.

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So half the year is over already! Wow! Where does the time go?

As summer begins to begin to draw to a close, many of you are planning on gearing up for the beginning of another school year, and that means shopping, packing, and saying “goodbye” to those you love. But for many of you, it also means those dreaded annual physicals. Every year it seems that the list of folks who are required to get them grows larger and larger. Yes, there’s the most common and popular ones: football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, swimming, track and field, gymnastics, golf, and wrestling. However things have changed significantly in terms of the sports that people play—now people are forced to get poked and prodded for such creative past times as: Lacrosse, Pickleball, and yes, even chess! And, no, I’m not making this up! Hey, I don’t make the rules, here!

Bringing Pain brings Them Pleasure!

You can’t mean to tell me that doctors don’t purposely put their stethoscopes in the freezer, and when they get together, they laugh about the look on your faces. Just reading this made you all inadvertently gasp breathlessly.
I know, not cool! Right?!

I can’t imagine that anybody would enjoy going to the doctor to get poked, prodded, or
punctured, but it’s just another hoop you’ve got to jump through to go to school or play team sports these days.
Now, I’m no doctor, but I’ve had doctors tell me that the whole purpose for physical examinations are for two important reasons:
• Preventive medicine: to catch any problems while they’re still small and manageable.
• Track development: to make sure someone’s growing like they should be and meeting all their “developmental milestones.”

God Wants You to be Healthy
God wants to make sure that you are spiritually healthy. He, through the apostle Paul, put it this way:

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light” (Colossians 1:9-12, NIV).

Did you catch that? Paul actually addresses spiritual growth and then gives us several ways in which we can actually measure it; you might call them “developmental milestones.” Let’s break them down individually:

Goal: to live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way.
Developmental Milestones:
• bearing fruit in every good work
• growing in the knowledge of God
• being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might as evidenced by great endurance and patience
• giving joyful thanks to the Father

Whoa! I’m tired just reading that list! Did you notice that being a healthy, growing Christian involves a lot of doing? I counted four verbs/action words.

Spiritual > Physical

Now it’s no secret that your spiritual health is more important than your physical health, so how are you doing? At the beginning of the year I gave you the challenge to define your relationship with God. So, I’ve got to ask: did you do that? Do you have any specific goals that you set for yourself at the beginning of the year? Have you met them? How is your progress? Are you growing in your relationship with God? I know, I know, they’re uncomfortable questions, but you can’t really move forward in your relationship with God if you don’t ask those hard questions.

Commanded to Test

Did you know that if you are a follower of Jesus, that God has actually commanded that you take the time to give yourself a physical, so to speak? The Apostle Paul informed the ones he knew: “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5, NLT). I don’t know about you but that’s pretty strong (and clear language).

So if you want to test yourself, then how do you do it? Well, in order to pass any test you are required to give information—data. There has to be a period of time where you have to gather truthful information. Now I’m no doctor, but I might suggest three effective ways to get to the truth:

1. Ask God – Go to God first!

Get alone and pray this prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalms 139:23, 24, NLT).

2. Ask yourself:

Take time to think deeply about what you want with your relationship with God and then ask yourself if you’ve met that standard? Record your thoughts with paper, audio, or video—or all three. But the keys are to take time to be still to calm your thoughts; and be honest with yourself; and make sure that you record your findings. A good question to ask yourself would be “how does my life and character measure up with these checklists?: Jesus’ Two Standards “‘Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets’ ” (Matthew 7:12, NLT).

“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (Matthew 7:15-20, NLT).

The Apostle Paul’s Two Competing Forces

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives (Galatians 5:19-25, NLT).

The Apostle Paul’s Perspective on Perfect Love

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT).

The Apostle Peter’s Path to Spiritual Growth & Maturity

“May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:1-11, NLT).

3. Ask Others

Using the same five passages of scripture above as a great standard, ask other people who know and love you to truthfully and honestly rate you on how you rate with these things. Make sure that you ask a minimum of three different kinds of other people: at least one parent; one friend (your own age); and one other adult.

Will some of this be difficult and even embarrassing? Sure, but if your goal is to grow closer to Jesus, then you’ll be willing to do it. And, real talk: I’d rather hear heart-wrenching truths from people who I know will always have my back! “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6, NLT). Jesus’ half-brother had this insight into the power of unloading on a close friend: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16, NLT).

Diagnosis = Terminal!
You don’t have to talk to go to a church, read a Bible, or talk to a pastor to know that you’re a sinner! Hey, don’t get offended—we’re all sinners: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23, NLT). And because we’ve all broken God’s standard, we will get death! “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, NLT).

Heart Transplant
We should all be headed to death row, but praise God that Jesus stepped in and gave us all a reprieve: “ ‘For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NLT). Jesus gave all His followers a heart transplant! And because of that, we are literally new people, which means that we don’t have to act like we used to: “Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:14-17, NLT)

Prognosis
As a follower of Jesus, your future is bright and you can confidently begin to make the changes you need to make. (Philippians 2:12). But never forget that it is God who tells you what you need to work on (John 16:8), and it is He who ultimately gives you all the motivation and power to change (Philippians 2:13)!

If you want to get involved with God and live a joyful, powerful, and peaceful life to be able to share His love with others, then you’ve got to be honest and ask yourself the spiritual physical. And, praise God, you can pass His physical.

He promises: “ . . . that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6, NLT).

Take the time to do the hard work and let God’s laser-beam microscope of His Holy Spirit investigate you. I know that you’ll be better off for it. Here’s to your good health.

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