As another year begins to wind down, different folks approach the last few weeks and days differently. Some focus on the expectations they had at the start of the year and launch a feverish attempt to ‘wrestle’ the things yet to be actualized from God’s hands before December 31st (regardless of whether or not He actually promised them these things or whether or not He gave them a timeline for their actualization). Some enter into a season of thanksgiving, focusing instead on the things God has done for them in the course of the year. Yet still, some take stock of the year to assess what they achieved in the year with a view to charting the course for the coming year.
The reason why we undertake assessment tests/examinations in school is not as a form of punishment but rather to assess what we have learned thus far so we can go over the things that are outstanding and/or move on to the next thing/phase. Without this assessment, a student could go on taking classes and assuming he is learning all he needs to learn….or rather, that he understands all that he has been taught. Imagine graduating from school assuming you understand what you were taught in medical school and going on to start practising on patients!
As Christians, we are assessed in life by the trials we undergo. We encounter situations that help us see if we have grown in the character of Christ – the fruit of the Spirit; if we truly trust God; if we truly love God, etc. Trials also make us stronger and give us fresh revelation of God as He walks with us through it, teaching us and bringing us out on the other side (if we submit to His workings in our lives).
However, there is an important form of assessment that we need to carry out which is our own responsibility as individuals – self-assessment.
But let every person carefully scrutinize and examine and test his own conduct and his own work. He can then have the personal satisfaction and joy of doing something commendable [[a]in itself alone] without [resorting to] boastful comparison with his neighbor.
(Galatians 6:4 AMPC)
For if we searchingly examined ourselves [detecting our shortcomings and recognizing our own condition], we should not be judged and penalty decreed [by the divine judgment]. But when we [fall short and] are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined and chastened, so that we may not [finally] be condemned [to eternal punishment along] with the world.
(1 Corinthians 11:31-32 AMPC)
Let me use yet another school-related analogy to simplify verse 31 above. When I was in secondary school, if you wanted to do well in Maths exams, you didn’t just wait to be examined by your teacher. You took the trouble to solve questions in the textbook for each topic you were taught, marking your personal tests with the answers given at the back of the textbook. This self-assessment helped us identify which concepts we didn’t understand so we could seek help from either our teacher or other students who understood the concepts and also identify the careless mistakes we were prone to make, so as to guard against them. Having done this, the chances of scoring very high on the school tests/exams was very high.
God’s plan for us is not to just get saved but to grow/mature continually so that more and more, we think, speak and act like Jesus. We look more and more like Him. We become lights like He is the Light of the world (see Galatians 4:19).
His intention was the perfecting and the full equipping of the saints (His consecrated people), [that they should do] the work of ministering toward building up Christ’s body (the church), [That it might develop] until we all attain oneness in the faith and in the comprehension of the [[a]full and accurate] knowledge of the Son of God, that [we might arrive] at really mature manhood (the completeness of personality which is nothing less than the standard height of Christ’s own perfection), the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ and the completeness found in Him.
(Ephesians 4:12-13 AMPC)
So if the goal is maturity and becoming more like Jesus, what are the yardsticks by which we should assess ourselves as disciples of Christ? In my thinking, Jesus is the yardstick so let’s look at His qualities by which we should assess ourselves.
1. The fruit of the Spirit: Am I manifesting more of these fruits daily than I did last year or at the start of this year?
But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence)…
(Galatians 5:22-23 AMPC)
2. Servanthood: Have I served God and others sufficiently this year or has it been more about serving myself (and my immediate family) and my needs? Serving God means serving His kingdom purposes in whichever way He would have us do so – generally in our daily lives at home, at our workplaces and on the streets; and in whatever specific assignments He has given us, both within and outside our local assemblies.
For I have come down from heaven not to do My own will and purpose but to do the will and purpose of Him Who sent Me.
(John 6:38 AMPC)
Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Matthew 20:28 NIV)
3. Love: Although this is listed as part of the fruit of the Spirit, it deserves special mention because it is the summary of our lives as Christians. First and foremost, do I love God more – shown by how obedient I have been to Him (John 14:15) and how much I commune with Him. Secondly, have I loved others?
Facts about this love (see Luke 6:32-35; Galatians 6:10; 1 Corinthians 13):
– It is unconditional, so we love even when we are not loved in return.
– We love both our brethren in Christ and unbelievers.
– It is not based on how we feel or if we like the recipients but a decision to care and do good to all.
I believe that this is a good time to assess ourselves with these parameters, give thanks for every small area of growth and commit to keep growing and pressing on to perfection by the grace of God and the help of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.
(Philippians 3:13-14 AMPC)