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Time for a Check-up? (2)

C Logan, Botswana

In our previous article we considered four of the Seven Features of Spiritually Healthy Believers. We now turn our attention to the remaining three.

5. Weight control

An abundance of "things" clutter our lives, weigh us down, and impede our progress. We want more, buy more, and accumulate more. And so the deadly virus of "affluenza" spreads like wildfire in our materialistic society and our homes end up being crammed with so many "essential items" we never even use. If only we remembered that "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Lk 12.15).

There was once a unique man who when He came to die had only a few garments to His name: even these were rudely stripped from off His back. It seemed that He had very little to pass on to His followers, but we who have come to know and love Him have realised that through Him we have received the greatest inheritance imaginable – all the spiritual blessings that God lavishes upon His children are ours in Christ (Eph 1.3).

Consider a soldier on active duty: he carries with him only the bare essentials so that he can be focused on getting the job done. He must be able to move unencumbered on the battlefield. "Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier", was how Paul explained the need of the hour to his younger colleague, Timothy (2 Tim 2.3-4). We risk losing our sharp edge the more we seek to "enjoy softness" and navigate life as easily and as comfortably as possible. Paul lived by what he preached and the old cloak (his only one?) that he left behind at Troas (2 Tim 4.13) could have had many stories to tell!

Someone has written: "As you go through life, don't seek for fame, or for money, or for power, because one day you'll meet a man who cares for none of these things, and then you'll realise how poor you are".

6. Strong relationships

It is well established that those who are surrounded by a loving family and faithful friends are at a great advantage over those whose relationships with others are fraught with tensions and problems. Many people today sit in doctor's surgeries complaining of a great variety of physical ailments but these are only masking the underlying psychological problems that are the key to understanding the real reason for their somatic complaints – wives at odds with their husbands, children unhappy at home, employees under pressure at work, or elderly people who feel alone and forgotten.

One of the simplest commands issued by the Lord Jesus Christ is one of the hardest to carry out. He said, "Love one another" (Jn 13.34). For good measure this command was repeated by the Apostles Paul, John, and Peter (Rom 13.8; 1 Jn 4.7; 1 Pet 1.22). How wide should our love be? Obviously it should cover all of those who are of the household of faith (Gal 6.10). Add to that your neighbour (Lk 10.27; Gal 5.14), widen the net to include your enemies (Mt 5.44), and for good measure do not forget every sinner whom God loves (Jn 3.16).

To seek to love everyone does not compromise truth: it is the truth. We all struggle with this. Some personalities grate upon us, some Christians annoy us, some churches perplex us, and a host of others things disturb and frustrate us. It would be much easier if we had to love only those who are most like ourselves. The example of Christ puts us all to shame.

It is a good testimony when we enjoy the company of other believers, when we love and respect them, and can work harmoniously with them. To be frank, the devil hates this. He much prefers that we think ourselves better than others and spend our time criticising or even scrapping with other Christians. The devil rejoices when spiritual pride prevails – it was that very thing which marked him out from the beginning – and produces its poisonous fruit of strife and division.

The cry of Elijah is still heard today: "I, even I only, am left" (1 Kings 19.10), much as the proud Scottish mother boasted of her son who was marching in the parade: "Look, everyone is out of step but our Jock". We would do better listening to Paul: "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another" (Rom 12.10). By following this advice we may well prevent many of the spiritual ailments that are so common today.

7. A positive outlook

Our general attitude to life affects our health. There will always be gloomy pessimists and unrealistic optimists but the Christian should be a hopeful and joyful realist. He understands the reality of sinners in their need and the reality of a cruel enemy of souls, but at the same time he is sure of this – there is real hope in One who came and died upon the cross. Christ won the victory and opened up the way to God and heaven above. Those who trust in Christ are forgiven and He will lead them safely home. All these are blessed realities. Our future is secure. Why should we not be glad?

That is not to say that the Christian pathway is an easy one – it is usually strewn with obstacles and often marked by rough and rocky stretches. At times the pathway leads through dark and oppressive valleys. These things might overwhelm us if we were alone, but we are not – the Lord is ever by our side. No wonder Paul and Silas, scourged and bleeding in the Philippian prison, could sing praises to the Lord at midnight (Acts 16.25). Paul later recalled a time of deep trial in his life when men forsook him, but "the Lord stood with [him]" (2 Tim 4.16-17).

The One who is ever with us through the trials of life does not abandon us when it comes to the hour of death. He will not forsake us: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou are with me" (Ps 23.4). After the suffering comes the glory, and to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

All of this and much more lies ahead of every child of God, and if we set our affections on things above it will not seem very long until those hopes are realised and we are home with Him. There is, however, one event that might pre-empt the valley experience of death. It is more glorious still: the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. This prospect should spur us on in service and gladden our hearts. Maybe He will come today!

Finally, how was the check-up? I hope you have a clean bill of health.



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