Read Lead Pastor Duane Mabee's weekly Pastor's Ponderings here!
Honest Self-Evaluationby Duane Mabee on June 1, 2023
Honest self-evaluation is one of the most difficult things to do, and one of the most important. After describing how badly the Israelites went astray in the Older Testament, Paul warned the Corinthians saying, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor 10:12-13 ESV). In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus talked about people who thought they were believers, but would be surprised to discover that they weren’t. Paul says that we should, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves,” (2 Cor 13:5 ESV). Self-examination is critical to a healthy Christian life.
When we do evaluate ourselves, though, it is important that we don’t just search for things that confirm what we already believe about ourselves. Researchers call that confirmation bias. It works like this… say I believe that I am the world’s best soccer player, so I only look for evidence that confirms what I already believe about myself. I only compare myself to five- and six-year-old kids that just started playing, and I completely ignore any evidence or feedback that might suggest that I really stink at playing soccer. Don’t laugh too long, it happens all the time. I can’t tell you how many musicians and public speakers I’ve met who think they are the best that has ever been. The people Jesus talked about in Matthew 7:21-23 suffered heavily from confirmation bias as well.
The only way to grow and improve is to honestly look at what we do well and what we don’t do so well, and then make plans to improve. The truth about you is your friend. You can only improve what you know needs to be improved.
To improve, you also need to know the difference between effort and impact. Most of what we examine is related to effort. So, if we are trying to grow spiritually, much of what we look at is the efforts we’ve made – I have attended church and Sunday school every week for X number of weeks, I’ve read X number pages of the Bible this year, I’ve given X percent of my income to the church, etc. Those are all good things, but they are looking at the effort we’ve expended, without looking at the result. But Jesus pointed out that effort and impact are two completely different things when he said the widow gave far more than the rich people who had put thousands of dollars into the offering, (Luke 21:1-3).
It is much harder to get at the impact of what we’ve done, but far more important. Some critical impact questions for us to ask when it comes to the development of our spiritual maturity could include… How have I taken what I’ve learned in Sunday school over the last X number of weeks and used it to become more like Jesus? What are three key changes I’ve made as a result of my Bible reading this year? What is my true motivation for giving what I give? Answers to questions like that will go a long way in helping you discover if you are growing in spiritual maturity.