By Michael E. Brooks
“But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain” (Galatians 4:9-11 NKJV).
A fixed part of my daily routine is to check my blood pressure, blood sugar and weight, to ensure that I have all those things as much under control as possible. Though I am not suffering from any particular illness, I have found that to maintain general health it is good to monitor those vital signs.
Should they get out of balance, damage might be done before obvious symptoms alert me to the problem. Keeping track of these vital signs then is one aspect of a regimen of health.
I am fully aware that one may have perfectly normal blood pressure, and one’s weight may be just what the charts suggests, and still have major health concerns. I am also aware that a person may be under or over weight, have abnormal blood pressure or exhibit other irregular signs, but still be in very good health.
The signs are simply indicators, objective measurements that have demonstrated ability to predict or suggest health problems.
Spiritual health is even more important than the health of one’s body. Our souls are eternal. Nothing is more important than insuring one’s entrance into eternal life (Matthew 16:26).
Yet souls or spirits may develop problems which endanger that entrance. Many realize that their spirits are fatally affected after much damage has already been done, and when it may be very difficult to escape condemnation. Such is tragic.
There are vital signs of spiritual health just as there are of one’s physical condition. Like blood pressure and weight, these serve as indicators to warn us when danger encroaches. Not all dangers produce the same signs. Not all signs mean the same thing. But a general awareness and watchfulness in these areas can be greatly beneficial.
Most people consider the regular practice of religious activities to be the best and most reliable vital sign for Christians. If one goes to church, prays, reads his or her Bible, and gives generously to the church or to the needy, one is considered to be a faithful Christian, in good spiritual health and with no concerns for his soul’s salvation.
Lest we place too much confidence in those indicators however, let us recognize that by those standards, the Pharisees of the first century were among the most spiritually healthy people the world has ever known. Few groups have ever practiced religion more strictly, zealously, or consistently than they.
Yet Jesus repeatedly condemned them as hypocrites (Matthew 23) and stated, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).
These groups prayed many long prayers, gave much to help the poor, and labored long in their religious duties. But they were extremely unhealthy, in a spiritual sense.
The Galatian Christians caused Paul to worry about their spiritual health because of ominous signs which he witnessed. They observed legalistic rules imposed on them by others. They kept commandments of men, rather than depending upon God’s grace for salvation. They were in danger of apostasy.
In Galatians 5:16-25, the apostle lists a number of signs which indicate whether one is in good spiritual health. If one is walking by the flesh, he will do the works of the flesh, such as adultery, uncleanness, idolatry, envy, etc. If however one is walking according to the spirit he will bear fruits of the spirit — love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, etc.
As we attempt to monitor our spirit’s state of healthfulness, let us not think only of our physical religious activity. Let us also consider the presence or absence of such qualities as joy and kindness in our lives. If these are absent we may have great cause to be concerned, whether or not we continue to attend all the assemblies of the church.
By Michael E. Brooks