We are quickly approaching Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. God has us come before Him each year on His Holy Days, and every year we add to our understanding of His plan of salvation, of His love for mankind and gain a deeper appreciation of what to do better in our lives as His Ekklesia (“called-out ones”).
With Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, a big theme is of course overcoming sin—and in connection with considering the impact of sin in our lives, we are told in Scripture to examine ourselves. Self-examination is rarely a pleasant endeavor. We know ourselves better than anyone else—the false pretenses, the white lies, the public posturing and so forth all wither under self-examination. We are left with the reality of who and what we really are. Most people never go through this type of examination because it can be crippling if there is no plan of action after the self-examination.
What Exactly Is Examination?
In 1 Corinthians 11:26-29 1 Corinthians 11:26-29 26 For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come.
27 Why whoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29 For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
American King James Version×the apostle Paul discussed examining ourselves. In verse 28 the Greek word used for “examine” ( dokimazo [dok-im-ad’-zo]) can mean to test, to approve or prove, to discern, to try. Too many look at this admonition as a once-a-year personal spiritual inventory.
The definition of “examine” shows us there is much to consider in examining ourselves, but we must be sure to keep the right balance. “Examine” can also mean “ to test . . . in order to determine progress .” One of the big things we can miss in our spiritual examination is that God does not want us to become overwhelmed by the sin we see, but instead to realize what we need to change in order to make progress.
Job’s Trial of Examination
The book of Job is an interesting book on many levels, perhaps primarily because of the self-examination Job goes through. No other book God has preserved for us has such a detailed recounting of one man’s thoughts and conversations as God works with him.
At the start of the book, Job’s life is good—he serves God, he is blessed with physical wealth, he has healthy children who enjoy each other’s company, and much more. Unbeknownst to Job, God and Satan have an ongoing conversation about Job. We know from Scripture that even though Satan is constrained by God, he is currently allowed to rule over the earth (Ephesians 2:2 Ephesians 2:2Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:
American King James Version×, 6:12; 2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
American King James Version×). Satan, however, is an adversarial ruler (2 Peter 5:8 2 Peter 5:8
American King James Version×)—he rules to hurt us not help us. God is simply asking if Satan, in his adversarial role, was considering Job. Why would God draw such attention to Job? A simple summary of the book of Job is that God was using Satan to help Job in his self-examination. Job’s story is a wonderful reminder to read prior to Passover.
Christ was telling His disciples, and by extension us, that because He overcame so could we.
Satan had considered Job, but Satan knew that God had given protection to Job. Satan then went on to challenge God to take that protection away from Job, saying that Job would then curse God. Our self-examination is important to be able to more completely take on the mind of Christ and to continue to overcome sin. While this is our responsibility, God will help us with it if we do our part.
God let Satan lead Job through a series of trials—each worse than the previous—to show Satan that he didn’t really know Job at all. God had confidence in Job, but He also used Satan to help make Job understand and obey God on a much deeper level (Job 1:8 Job 1:8And the LORD said to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil?
American King James Version×). Job was being sifted. Job was being refined. God was setting Job off on an intense exercise of self-examination. When we face situations similar to what Job went through, we need to remember not to “despise the chastening of the Lord” (Proverbs 3:11-12 Proverbs 3:11-12 11 My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: 12 For whom the LORD loves he corrects; even as a father the son in whom he delights.
American King James Version×).
What we can often miss in the midst of a trial, is that God is looking for us to succeed (rather than looking for us to fail) because, from His perspective, as long as we are in the “fight” we have already become part of His family (Romans 4:17 Romans 4:17(As it is written, I have made you a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who vivifies the dead, and calls those things which be not as though they were.
American King James Version×b). We learn to trust and obey God through the trials we face (Hebrews 5:8 Hebrews 5:8Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
American King James Version×).
Examination From Others
Much of the book of Job recounts the advice and examination Job was receiving from his supposed friends—supposed friends because they hurt Job more than they helped him. While they were correct in some areas, they assumed sinful actions by Job and they presumed to speak for God way too much. They even seemed delighted in some of Job’s suffering. While it is hard to hear correction from others, it is extremely important to consider if there is anything of value in what they say. Even if our friends are wrong, oftentimes there is still an element of truth or a point of growth that we can use to become a better son or daughter of God. God is looking for a return on the “investment” of His Holy Spirit (Isaiah 55:6-11 Isaiah 55:6-11 6 Seek you the LORD while he may be found, call you on him while he is near:
7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, said the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and returns not thither, but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
11 So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
American King James Version×), and in order for us to determine if we are being a profitable servant, we must examine what has been accomplished in us.
Self-examination is seldom pleasant or comfortable—but it is a necessary part of our calling so God can bless our latter days.
Overcoming Is Part of Examining
In John 16:33 John 16:33These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
American King James Version×Christ said that He overcame the world. How would Christ have known He overcame unless He examined Himself? He was telling His disciples, and by extension us, that because He overcame so could we.
Examining ourselves can also mean examining how we function within the bigger body. Are we serving others, are we supporting others, are we hurting others, are we a benefit to the spiritual body? Examination involves an element of listening. God allowed Job to be sifted by Satan so that he would grow in the grace and knowledge of God and have a deeper understanding and application of God’s ways. Even though we can be blind to our shortcomings—just as Job was initially—God seeks to lead us out of that blindness, never forsaking us (Isaiah 42:16 Isaiah 42:16And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do to them, and not forsake them.
American King James Version×). Like Job, God will not allow a trial to be more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13 1 Corinthians 10:13There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.
American King James Version×). God is leading each and every one of us through this refining process to produce something more precious than gold.
We must be careful not to think that God wants us to examine ourselves so He can punish us. God is faithful to forgive our sins when we repent (1 John 1:9 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
American King James Version×). After God forgives our sin, He separates Himself, and us, as far from that sin as is possible (Psalms 103:12 Psalms 103:12As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
American King James Version×).
It is worth asking a few questions in considering self-examination:
- How did we grow this past year? Perhaps you had a number of trials you struggled through, but if we consider that trials are for our edification, then we need to make sure we learned the right lesson(s). Are we a better son or daughter of God now compared to a year ago? Do we have more understanding of His law, His plan of salvation and our role in His coming Kingdom?
- How did God bless us spiritually this past year? Where have we seen God’s hand in our life?
- What do we see more clearly now that God wants us address in the coming year? Could we stand before Christ today and say we have done everything in our power to prepare to be a son or daughter in His Kingdom? If not, what should we be doing?
After Job’s friends were done telling Job all that he had done wrong, Job defended himself. At the end of that book, when Job was done defending himself, God steps into the conversation, and Job comes to some hard realizations. Job finally saw what God wanted him to see and said, “ Now my eye sees You ” (Job 42:5-6 Job 42:5-6 5 I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees you.
6 Why I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
American King James Version×). Because Job examined himself, God blessed Job’s latter days.
Self-examination is seldom pleasant or comfortable—but it is a necessary part of our calling so God can bless our latter days. As we approach Passover, and indeed as we rehearse God’s plan of salvation anew in the coming year, let us remember to examine ourselves so we can be useful to God in His Kingdom.