Some of my years of teaching were spent in middle school and I often had to write my own tests and exams. I usually tried to limit my questions to the specific skills or information I had taught, while including some extra-credit integration and application essays to test the students’ deeper and more lasting grasp of the information.
In my opinion, this is a good point on the calendar for spiritual evaluation of the past year in order to begin planning for the New Year we are entering. How do we go about evaluating our year in terms of spiritual growth toward maturity in Christ? Perhaps taking the exam provided by our Master would be the most helpful. In Psalm 139:22 & 24, the psalmist opens his heart to be examined by God, Himself. We could echo his words from our hearts. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” Then Jeremiah urges in Lamentations 3:40, “Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord.” This means that we need to be open and cooperative in the exam as well as in any needed remediation. Hopefully, we will be able to say with the psalmist in Psalm 26:2&3, “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my mind and my heart. For your loving kindness is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth.” This whole Psalm reflects someone who did well on the exam! Read it to see how well you did this past year?
We are exhorted by Paul to examine ourselves especially before participating in the testimony of our abiding in Christ when we share the elements of the communion table with the local body of believers. (I Cor. 11:28 & II Cor. 13:5) Regular and honest evaluation is strongly advised and connected to the judgments to come when each of us will give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10, 12-13)
Perhaps some self-check quiz questions we might pose to ourselves would prod our thinking. Have you improved over the past year in the following areas?
- Do I pray without ceasing?
- Do I hunger and thirst after righteousness?
- When I see a brother or sister ‘taken in a fault’, do I practice restoration instead of passing judgment?
- Do I always ask God for direction instead of asking Him to bless what I have decided?
- Is it easier to truly forgive and forget when others trespass against me?
- Do I love things less and people more?
Only honesty and transparency in the exam will yield accurate answers and the abiding power of the Spirit of God flowing through His vine into our branches.