How do we know if we're healthy? How do we know if our bodies are well and can be expected to serve us in good fashion?
I suggest that the mark of both health and illness is change. For example, if our body temperature suddenly rises, we know that our body is under attack and defending itself. If there is sudden pain, it's a signal that something is amiss. And even on the good side, we experience change, though more subtle. A healthy body is in a constant state of restoring and renewing itself. We are less aware of these changes, but when they stop, we know. When the changes in our body stop, we are dying, and it's only a matter of time before our bodies have no life remaining.
But we are not merely bodies, physical organisms. We have mental and spiritual components as well, and they are as important as our bodies, and perhaps even more so. We can live a fulfilling life with a "defective" or malfunctioning body. We cannot with a corrupt or twisted mind or spirit.
So let's look at our spiritual health, and ask the same questions: How do we know if we are healthy? And, we might add, are there - as in the physical world - things we should do to maintain and enhance our health?
How do we know? I suggest that, like physical health, spiritual health is marked by change. If we go for extended periods with no change, something is wrong.
Will it do to say, "Well, I pray and read my Bible on a regular basis"? Sort of like saying, "Well, I take vigorous walks and exercise on a regular basis."
Those are good things, but they don't necessarily lead to change. To grow physically - or mentally - we need to be challenged. The level of exercise we did last month is probably easier this month, and if our exercise is easy, we aren't growing, we're only maintaining the status quo. In our spiritual life, the status quo is especially not acceptable, because we are never to the goal of being like Jesus and intimately knowing both Jesus and the Father (John 17). It's as if, in the first quarter and after receiving the opening kickoff, a football team stopped working toward the end zone, deciding that they were satisfied with being on the field in uniform, and would only do enough to stay at their present place.
The football idea is ludicrous, of course. A team cannot play the game and not try to score. It's inherent in what football is about.
However, for us to be satisfied with an immature, unproductive and even disobedient spiritual life is equally ludicrous. If we think we can do that, we are fooling ourselves. We are designed to make Jesus manifest in the world, representing him, making disciples for him and acting on his behalf in this life. Sitting back in satisfaction, doing little, leads to disaster.
So one question we might ask is, "Am I being challenged?" As I need to be pushed physically, I need to be pushed spiritually - and mentally. Contentment with the status quo is the practice of fools. (I initially wrote fools and children, but children are never satisfied to remain the same.)
The Bible is clear about who we are and what we is our task and purpose on this earth. After his resurrection, Jesus told his followers four things:
1. He was sending them as the Father sent him;
2. they were to receive the Holy Spirit;
3. they were authorized to forgive and retain sins: and
4. they were to wait for a kind of experience of the Holy Spirit that empowered them as witnesses - representatives - of Jesus (John 20 and Acts 1).
Anything less is spiritual illness and disobedience.
When we settle for a "Christianity" that consists of being a nice, middle class (usually Caucasian), (usually) American, we are fooling ourselves, and are disobedient to the God we claim to serve. Everything in the Bible, from cover to cover, speaks of a supernatural God who calls people to a supernatural faith that produces supernatural fruit. And if we are "doing what comes naturally," we are missing it, and badly.
God has called us to join him in the task of reconciliation of creation with its God. He has called us to implement what Jesus began when he was here among us. To sit in satisfaction when we are spiritually in a near comatose state is not only ludicrous, but reprehensible.
So are we healthy? I wonder. How do we know? Are we making unwarranted assumptions?