Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you — unless, of course, you fail the test? 2 Corinthians 13:5
I remember clearly, when I came upon this verse a few years ago in my daily reading. It caught my attention, although I did not immediately understand exactly how to “test myself.”
I stopped to talk with the Lord for a moment, “Lord, I know in my heart that you live within me. I have seen the wonderful changes in my thinking and my actions since I accepted you as my Lord and Savior. I’m sure this is the case with the Corinthian believers as well, but Paul still tells them to test themselves. How can I do this Lord? How exactly would you have me test myself?”
I underlined this verse in red pen and went on with my reading. From past experience I knew that the Lord would speak to me on this issue soon and I wanted to be able to quickly remember and relocate the verse when His answer came. Within a couple of days I found myself nearing the end of the book of Philippians when verse 3:17 popped off the page at me. “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.”
I can not imagine having the confidence in my walk with the Lord to humbly tell someone, “follow my example of living for Christ.” Yet Paul, under the influence of the Holy Spirit could say this. Out came the black pen this time and I made some notes in the margin. I noted that I have not necessarily met many Christians whose life should be used as a model of excellence and yet daily every one of us is an example to the world. Then I realized something else.
For the previous few days I had been preoccupied by business dealings with another Christian. Very occupied actually, as she had been very demanding, controlling and somewhat difficult to deal with. I actually fouind myself wishing I had never become involved with her in the first place. Each time we finished speaking I would note the way she had handled herself. I often thought, “My goodness, do I do this to others? Do I treat others graciously or do I make them wish they had never met me? Am I following her example or Paul’s?”
I have always been an analyzer by nature, and I believe to some extent this is one way of testing ourselves. If I am having difficulty with someone, I have to wonder, what started it? Was it something I said, or are they just this way with everyone? Another important question to ask ourselves is, “What is it exactly about this person that I consider to be a problem?” Why is this particular question important? Because in Romans 2:1 Paul tells us, “… for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
And Paul once again is exactly right, the characteristics I found difficult to deal with in this woman are the very same traits I display in my flesh. I struggle with being demanding and controlling, and yet I am the first to notice when others do not place these traits in check.
As I gave myself more time to consider this situation and especially in this new light, I saw that the best way to test myself is to take note of the very things that bother me in others and realize that these are most likely the same things that I do myself. Under conviction, I realized that I had been showing favoritism, which is against God’s instruction. In James 2:9 we find that favoritism is considered a sin, even if that favoritism is toward ourselves over another. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
I, of course, am always able to continue to love and care for myself even though I struggle with these issues. Now the test was, will I love another with these same traits? My love for the Lord must be stronger than my love for self. Only because Christ lives in me, was I able to pass this test.
It so often boils down to community. We can read the Word alone but to apply what we’ve learned and show ourselves approved we must share our lives with others. We can only really examine ourselves when others hold the test paper.