Examine me, O Lord, and test me! Evaluate my inner thoughts and motives! Psalm 26:2 (NET)
Just Because It Seems to Be Working, It Doesn’t Mean That Everything Is All Right
Many of us have had the unpleasant experience of driving in our car when we notice that the Check Engine light has come on. We may not immediately detect that there is any problem. The car seems to be running fine. Maybe the light came on by mistake. Perhaps it will go away.
We think to ourselves, “Nothing seems to be wrong. I can probably let it go for a while.” Experts, however, caution against ignoring the warning. “The light is an indicator that there’s something wrong with your vehicle. It could mean anything from a loose gas to serious engine troubles. The system is telling you that something has failed and will immediately cause damage to your vehicle that will be costly to repair.” Ignoring spiritual warning signs will also lead to more significant problems.
A Spiritual “Check Engine” Display
For better or worse, people do not come with a light to indicate spiritual problems. However, the signs are there if we are willing to look for them. In Revelation, Jesus admonished the church at Ephesus because “they had left their first love.” A waning love for God is a sure sign of trouble. We may still be going through the motions, but a closer examination will expose a rift in the relationship.
A sign of the last days is a diminished love. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. Matthew 24:12 (NLT). How can we know what our love is on the decline? It is easy when you think about it. When your love is strong, you want to spend time together. You are interested in what interests them. There is a void in your life when you are not with the one you love.
A cold heart or leaving our first love does not occur suddenly. King Solomon started well, but he allowed distractions to consume him. When Solomon became old, his wives shifted his allegiance to other gods; he was not wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord his God, as his father David had been. 1 Kings 11:4 (NET)
There are other warning signs, but inevitably the root cause of problems in our relationship with God can be seen by examining our hearts. Or better yet, ask God to give you an examination: Examine me, God! Look at my heart! Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts! Psalm 139:23 (CEB)
Do Not Ignore Problems
As with our cars, we will not resolve our spiritual problems by ignoring them. People do many things in life that seem to work for a while partly because they are making a comparison to a deficient standard. We limp along, thinking that we are doing all right because we only compare ourselves with others who do the same things and get the same results until someone or something comes along to demonstrate a higher standard.
There is a danger when we compare ourselves with each other. “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV) We can be deceived into thinking that all is well when we make comparisons. Still, eventually, something will come along that will expose the inadequacy, and then we must overcome our pride if we are determined to remedy the situation.
The longer we continue believing that all is well simply because it seems to be working, the more difficult it will be for us to acknowledge the shortcoming and take the steps necessary to fix the problem. “Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” Romans 12:3 (NLT)
Many problems, both with our cars and our hearts, could be avoided if we do not neglect regular maintenance. The owner’s manual for a car gives us a checklist of what we must do on a regular basis to keep running in optimal condition. Neglected maintenance probably will not cause an immediate problem, but eventually, the cost will be much greater.
Ultimately, our negligence will be exposed, and we will be confronted with the dilemma of whether or not we simply give up in failure or go back and fix what is wrong in order to move forward. It may seem unnecessary when things are going well, but we would do well to remember that just because something appears to be working for us, it is not necessarily correct. I’m sure that each of us can think of many applications for this lesson.
Jesus, speaking in Revelation to the Ephesian church: Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first… Revelation 2:5 (NIV). As with our automobiles, wear and tear or even neglect will take a toll. It can happen so gradually that we can hardly notice. We get used to it. But when we take a ride in a new car or get around someone who has enthusiasm and love, we are reminded of where we used to be or what we used to have. When this is the case, may we cry out like King David did: Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:12 (NIV)