Over the past weeks and months, great emphasis has been placed on staying physically fit and well. The importance of physical exercise even in lockdown was recognised by the government, and Joe Wickes’ fitness workouts became a useful part of families’ home-schooling efforts. People have become very alert to symptoms of Covid-19 and as the country begins to creep back to some kind of normality, things like temperature checks are being used as a way of measuring this new normality.
Physical check-ups may be useful, but so are spiritual check-ups. God’s word encourages us to come before Him and ask Him to search us and know us (see Ps 139:23-24). Paul tells believers to ‘examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.’ (2 Cor 13:5) He knew the benefits of physical training, but also stressed the value of godliness to spiritual health. (1 Tim 4:8)
Martyn Day, in his book “Beyond Easter”, writes of the spiritual check-up Jesus gave Peter when He asked him three questions about his love for Him in John 21. He refers to three things we can be checked for in the natural realm and relates these also to spiritual health:
Jesus took Peter’s spiritual temperature by asking about his love for Him. Whilst a raised temperature in the physical realm causes concern, in the spiritual realm, what is dangerous is being lukewarm. (Rev 3:16) We are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Matt 22:37) and anything less than this is not good.
Jesus checks our breathing. “It has been said that prayer is to the sould what breath is to the body – in other words, rather important.” (Martyn Day) Our prayer life reveals much about our spiritual health. How much time do we spend talking and listening to God? Are we short of breath, coughing and spluttering? Respiratory problems have been one of the major issues raised by Covid-19. Are we experiencing similar problems with our communication with God? Our prayer life, usually secret and unseen, is perhaps one of the greatest barometers of spiritual health.
Jesus checks our reflexes and responses. “How do we respond to God and His requirements? Does He get much reaction from us?… Are we sluggish in how we view His authority? What is the extent of our obedience?” (Martyn Day) The Bible has much to say about listening and doing. (James 1:22-25) Jesus spoke about putting His words into practice. (Matt 7:24-27, John 13:17) The challenge is always how swiftly we respond to God.
Spiritual fitness, like physical fitness, requires our commitment, discipline and effort, all of which have to be mixed with faith, hope and love. As we draw closer to Jesus, He enables us to ponder these things and gives us the power to change. Peter reminds us that failure does not have to have the last word!