1 Tim 4:7-9 calls the believer to train themselves for godliness for it has spiritual benefit, both for this life and the eternal life to come. Our training equipment are the spiritual disciplines (bible study, prayer, giving, serving, worshipping, church attendance, fasting, meditation, and evangelism) and the now and forever benefit is glorious godliness. These spiritual exercises share a relational theme, godliness stems from a closer relationship with God. They also share a self-assessment theme, spiritual disciplines reveal our needs and failures. When we prioritize self-assessment in our spiritual exercise we grow in our devotion to the Lord and in godliness.
Devotion to the Lord (our love for Him, loyalty to Him, and enthusiasm for Him) comes from deep, prolonged inquiries into God’s character, works, purposes, and promises. These beautiful truths matter more to us the more we know ourselves, our design, needs, calling, destiny, and sin-shot failures. The art of self-assessment is marrying the truths of God’s infinitude and our finitude in order to increase our fidelity to God (c.f. Isaiah 6).
Assessment comes down to evaluating two categories: what am I supposed to be and do; and how am I carrying out those things. Here are four ways to think through these two categories (a good example of self-assessment and prayer can be found in Psalm 143):
1 – God’s design and redemption. God invites us to assess Him, His design, and His work – not in critique but in awe and understanding. In fact, meditation on God’s good design and redemptive work are crucial in comprehending who you are as a person and as a believer. We cannot know ourselves, let alone know what we ought to do, think, say, or value, without a clear understanding of who God is. Moreover, when we clarify who we are as God’s creation, we must go one step further and think through who we are as redeemed, Spirit-indwelt people of God. Consider what it means for you to form and fill the world around with God’s glory through faith in Jesus Christ. Thinking on God shapes a correct self-assessing matrix.
2 – Our shortcomings and situations. It is only logical that we next ask “How am I doing at carrying out God’s design and identity?” And to that the only honest answer is a hearty, “Not as good as I should be.” Sin is missing God’s standard. God didn’t design us to do everything, but He did prepare work for us to do perfectly… here we fail. Situations (such as relationships, physical health, and resources) play a part in our faith and failures. They don’t excuse sin, but they provide hard evidence for our sinful motives and actions. Considering your shortcomings and situations draws a clarifying line into your heart’s idolatry.
3 – Depending on God. Many Christians become weighed down comparing God’s grandeur and their evident love of lesser glories. Though tainted by sin, the Christian, by the Spirit’s freedom and power, can be faithfully successful! What an encouragement to know God is now our partner in completing our faith and work! Thinking through how Christ has met your every need and assessing your faith response is critical devotional work. Is your knowledge of God growing? How about your devotion to Him? And your dependance on Him? What about your commitment to His ways? Analyzing God’s faithfulness for you and in you and through you bolsters devotion.
4 – Praying for faithfulness. Assessment is no good unless something comes of it. Like an employee who ignores their yearly reviews will soon need to find a new job, the self-assessing Christian must strive for a greater love, loyalty, and enthusiasm for the Lord. Thankfully, since Christ is our designer, savior, and mediator, we know where, when, and how to gain this deepening joyful commitment – honest prayer all the time. Prayerfully confessing your shortcomings, lamenting and rejoicing in situations, admiring God’s sovereign and gracious work in you, acknowledging His good works prepared before you, and your need for Christ in everything is just that – the fruit of faithful and devotional self-assessment.
P.S. The art of self-assessment can be done in an instant (Why did I say that? What is my motivation going into this meeting?) or it can be an extended practice (What do my interactions with my children over the past month reveal about my parenting goals? What effect should the truth of God’s justice have on the way I handle my monies?) Either way, the Christian, devoted to God and growing in godliness, cannot abandon self-examination but prioritize it.