Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?2 Corinthians 13:5
By Tim Thomassen
Samuel Johnson once wrote: "The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken." Another author added the following: "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails" (William Arthur Ward).
Newsweek magazines cover story of July 24, 1989, was entitled: "The Environment: Cleaning Up Our Mess. What Works, What Doesnt, and What We Must Do to Reclaim Our Air, Land, and Water." The following is a short quotation from that article: "In environmental affairs it is crucial to draw the distinction between one-shot problems, such as Love Canal, Times Beach, Exxons idea of steering a tanker, and cumulative damage. Transitory ecological infractions happen fast; usually the restoration can too. But problems that take a long time to build up, take a long time to fix" (p. 41).
What is true of the environment also pertains to problems encountered by humans. First-time offenses, oversights, carelessness, and other minor deviations can usually be corrected if dealt with in a timely and appropriate manner. On the other hand, improper and faulty behavioral patterns which are not curbed but are enabled to continue become fixed and rooted, making rehabilitation and reversal very difficult, if not impossible in some cases.
Machiavelli wrote these profound words: "A social problem is synonymous with a disease, which at its beginning is easy to cure, but difficult to recognize. Yet, at its worst stages, it becomes easy to recognize, but difficult to cure."
Personal reform develops from a life based upon non-changing principles. Once personal habits are aligned with those principles and the follower of the Lord trusts in him with all his heart and leans not his own understanding, any situation can be faced and any problem confronted. Then he can join his voice with with the Apostle Paul when he said, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Phil. 4:13).
Essentially, principles are common-sense wisdom taught in the Bible. However, common sense is not always common practice. Our principles must become more important to us than other peoples opinion.
It is never too late to develop principle-centered habits. We should not let past histories become cancers in our life. It is not what people do to us. It is our choice how we react to them. The start of a new year is a good time to begin making better choices.
A sister in Christ who made rapid progress in her understanding of and growth in the Lord was once asked the secret of her advancement. She replied quickly, "Mind the checks."
Perhaps the reason that some of us do not know and understand the Lord better is that we do not give heed to his gentle checks, his delicate restraints and constraints. His is a still, small voice.
Adjustments and Corrections
We must also sometimes make adjustments and corrections. If the problem is a minor one, it might be recitifed quickly. However, if it is more serious, the restoration may be difficult and lengthy.
The Psalmist requested: "Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart" (Psa. 26:2). The Hebrew word translated "examine" means to test, especially to test metals. This is reminiscent of Malachi 3:3, "And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver: that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness."
All the dross of self-will, personal ambition, and pride must be removed. As the refiner of gold watches the metal in the crucible to see his image reflected in it, so the Lord has his eye upon us. The purging does not come all at once. Rather, it is a daily process.
Self-evaluation is an important step in the testing process. We are told in Haggai to "consider our ways." The admonition is repeated twice, both in verses five and seven. Notice how Rotherham translates these verses: "Thus saith Yahweh of hosts, Apply your hearts to your own experience."
In Proverbs 23:12 we are also told to "apply our heart unto instruction and thine ears to the words of knowledge." Once we know what to do, we must do it. James tells us that "if any one be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he resembles a man viewing his natural face in a morror; for he viewed himself, and went away, and immediately forgot what kind of person he was. But he who looks intently into that which is the perfect law of freedom, and continues in it, not becoming a forgetful hearer, but a doer of its work, this man will be blessed in his deed" (James 1:23-25 Diaglott).
A Self Test
The questions below are some we might ask ourselves. This is a self examination. The purpose is not to evaluate our family members, friends, or anyone else; only ourselves.
Our theme text tells us, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith, prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" The NIV reads, "Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you, unless, of course, you fail the test?"
Again, in Galatians 6:3, 4, Paul wrote: "For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then he shall have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another."
These questions may be appropriate to ask as a new year begins, but a periodic review of these as to how they relate to our daily experiences is also recommended.