A simple approach to measuring progress
“It’s time for a pop quiz.” What student loves to hear these words? When I was in school, and only on rare occasions, the teacher would allow us to grade our own quiz. Now, that was good! But tests help us measure our progress — even if we don’t like them. And a test can help us measure our spiritual progress as well.
The Bible gives us guidance so we can measure our spiritual growth. So how about a pop quiz on your spiritual progress? There are many scriptures that lend themselves to this approach. We will use Ephesians 1:15–23 as the basis for this quiz. This is part prayer, part report from Paul to the church in Ephesus.
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1:15–16)
This passage starts with thanksgiving. Paul is thankful for their faith in Jesus and their love for God’s people.
We can start here, too. Would Paul commend us for our faith and love? These are the first two things that we can measure. So, we start our progress report — our pop quiz. One word of note: no one will get a perfect score on this test. You have made some progress, maybe even great progress, but you’re not there yet.
Question One: How is your faith?
Do you believe Jesus died for your sins?
Do you believe that he provided eternal, abundant life for you?
Does your life back up your confession?
How far does your faith take you out of your comfort zone?
Your daily life must project your faith. That means:
- Prayer is your priority. This is the voice of faith. We exercise faith as we pray.
- Listening as essential. We cannot hear God without listening.
- Obedience becomes routine. When we hear God, he will prompt us to do something.
- Comfortable with being uncomfortable. Faith always takes us out of our comfort zone. It takes us to the place where we must totally rely on God, not on our own resources.
- Persecution accepted as a blessing. A life of faith attracts ridicule, isolation and sometimes violence. Jesus told us to consider persecution as blessing.
Ask God, how am I doing on the faith test question?
Question Two: How is your love?
Do you love God’s people?
Do you love God’s difficult people? We have to love even those!!
Would you sacrifice your life for God’s people? This is the love standard Jesus gave when he told his disciples to love each other as he loved them.
How far does your love take you out of your comfort zone?
Our daily lives must project our love.
- Forgiveness is essential.
- Unconditional compassion for all people become who we are.
- Hard expressions of love replace easy avoidance of difficult people. Some people are harder to love. How do you respond to them? We cannot avoid those who need love (and everyone needs love).
- Comfortable with being uncomfortable. Again, we must embrace the idea that as followers of Jesus, we will be called upon to enter situations far from our comfort zone to express the love of God.
Ask God, how am I doing on the love test question?
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (Ephesians 1:17)
Questions Three: The Spirit of wisdom
Wisdom starts with discernment in all situations. This is what is required:
- Sensitivity to people — you are focused on others not yourself.
- Quick to listen — to God and to others; it is so hard but so essential to listen. Find help here.
- Slow to speak — sometimes it is better not to speak at all!
- The ability to apply the truth in those situations, as Jesus would, becomes the definition of wisdom.
- Our lives should become fine tuned to the truth as found in scripture.
- It is essential to become grounded in scriptural knowledge.
- This takes our commitment to it. It might be the toughest and most demanding test we face.
- It takes continual effort.
- Wisdom is built with time and prayer.
Ask God, how am I doing on the wisdom test?
Question Four: The Spirit of revelation
The Spirit of revelation means we are open and expectant to receive a revelation from God. It requires:
- Faith to believe that God still reveals himself
- Patience to wait for that revelation
- Quiet time because God will not shout over the noise of your life
- Persistence in all these things until you receive that revelation
- A scriptural foundation for your life because revelation will never contradict the written Word of God.
Ask God, how did I do on the revelation test question?
The previous two test questions are important because they allow you to know him better.
- Knowing God is the goal for this prayer.
- Knowing God is essential for us because we are following him.
- He wants intimacy with us. That comes as we know him better.
- This allows us to understand his will and ways.
- It enables us to pray better.
- And it allows us to follow better.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18)
Question Five: The enlightenment question
What hope has he called you to?
- All the promises of Jesus. This is a breath-taking list!
- Abundant life — an already/not yet life. We have abundant life as we follow Jesus but the fullness of this life will be realized in heaven.
- Eternal life — this is another already/not yet reality.
- Someday life with him in heaven. That is the greatest hope of all. Heaven is a place of indescribable glory, inextinguishable joy and the enveloping presence of God.
The second part of the enlightenment question is the comprehension of the power of God. This power of God is revealed in many ways.
- It is for those who believe.
- God’s power doesn’t work against us.
- When we feel overwhelmed by the enemy we must know that God’s power is greater!
- This is a prayer for our perception of this great power.
- How would our lives be lived if we truly perceived his power?
- What would that do to our faith?
Ask God, how did I do on the enlightenment test?
And a Little About the Power of God!
That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:19–21)
Now Paul is going to explain to us a little about this power that is available for us.
- It is resurrection power. The power that raised Jesus from the dead
- That power is ascension power.
- And it is exaltation power. This power placed Jesus far above. Far above literally means above above! Jesus has absolute power and authority over all:
Now and forever
- This is the power that is available to us by faith!
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:22–23)
Finally, Jesus is the head of the church — God accomplished that by his power as well!
- We are the body.
- A healthy body does what the head tells it to do.
- Therefore, we do only what the head tells us to do.
- To do otherwise would indicate profound dysfunction.
- He directs in ways we often cannot understand.
- We do his will in a natural and coordinated way.
How did you do on the test questions today? When we honestly look at these questions they will help us measure our progress and prompt us to pray and ask God for more help in areas where we are weaker. No failures here — only areas for God to do greater work in and through our lives.
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