February 1, 2021
Now that we are a month into the new year, and the wonderful new years’ service that we had together to usher in 2021 is becoming a little distant, finding its place in the annals of memory, it is a good time to consider our need of daily examination. It is a well-established tradition to review the past year as we approach the cusp of the new, to examine ourselves and our lives, to think about our successes and failures, and to commit ourselves to making improvements in those areas where we may be falling short. But this same examination is needful on a daily basis.
We find in the Bible the principle of a day for a year in prophetic time, and we also find “that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2Peter 3:8). Well would it be for us to consider every day as if it is the new year, so we would examine ourselves daily, creating this as a new tradition in our lives, three hundred and sixty-five new year’s days every year, if you will. For, truly, we only ever have one day that is ours, and the longer we delay such a review only allows our opportunities for improvement, better self-knowledge, and the chance to right our wrongs with others to pass away forever, to drift away into the eternity of the past. It is best to daily review so that we won’t have to repeat our mistakes, or lose opportunities altogether because of forgetfulness.
The following is from an address specifically to ministers, but includes a message to us all:
There is much in the conduct of a minister that he can improve. Many see and feel their lack, yet they seem to be ignorant of the influence they exert. They are conscious of their actions as they perform them, but suffer them to pass from their memory, and therefore do not reform. If ministers would make the actions of each day a subject of careful thought and deliberate review, with the object to become acquainted with their own habits of life, they would better know themselves. By a close scrutiny of their daily life under all circumstances they would know their own motives, the principles which actuate them. This daily review of our acts, to see whether conscience approves or condemns, is necessary for all who wish to arrive at the perfection of Christian character. Many acts which pass for good works, even deeds of benevolence, will, when closely investigated, be found to be prompted by wrong motives. Many receive applause for virtues which they do not possess. The Searcher of hearts inspects motives, and often the deeds which are highly applauded by men are recorded by Him as springing from selfish motives and base hypocrisy. Every act of our lives, whether excellent and praiseworthy or deserving of censure, is judged by the Searcher of hearts according to the motives which prompted it. 2T 511.2
We are to give the actions of each day 1) careful thought, 2) deliberate review, and 3) close investigation so that we would know ourselves and our own motives, thus becoming aware of our own state and the influence we exert on others around us. This is necessary, not only for ministers, but for each one of us if it is our desire “to arrive at the perfection of Christian character.”
It sounds like a simple task to undertake, but, for many of us, it actually means making some big changes. It takes time to conduct such a personal review. When I first tried it I found that it took much more time than I thought it would. As I reviewed my day, I wrote down those things that I could improve upon, but it didn’t suffice to just leave it there. Being aware of a problem is only the beginning. In order to actually make the necessary changes, not by my own wisdom and willpower but by the wisdom and power of God, I needed to search the Scriptures for the counsel and the promises that would enable me to overcome. My simple investigation into my actions became an hour of prayer and study on top of my usual routine. So there is the need to carve out of our already busy schedules sufficient time to carry out this solemn self-investigation, and on a daily basis. We will all have our different ways that work best for us, but, if we don’t already have it in our daily routine, it will still require us to make some adjustments.
If we are ever at a loss at how to begin, or how to carry out this daily review, the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy have lots of helps to aid us:
- Examine Yourselves
2Corinthians 13:5 admonishes us to “examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” We have all done this in what could be the biggest, most obvious way already. We have examined our understanding, and we know for certain that we are in the faith of the Son of God. We know who He is, the Christ, the only-begotten Son of the living God. But the small things are included in this exhortation also, for “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). “Whatsoever” includes the small, everyday actions of life that are to be lived in the faith. Have the actions of this very day, big and small, been lived in the faith? We are called to a high calling, not just in the big ways, but in the little things also:
It is the little foxes that spoil the vines; the little neglects, the little deficiencies, the little dishonesties, the little departures from principle, that blind the soul and separate it from God. RH, December 29, 1910 par. 11
It is the little things of life that develop the spirit and determine the character. Those who neglect the little things will not be prepared to endure severe tests when they are brought to bear upon them. Remember that the character building is not finished till life ends. Every day a good or a bad brick is placed in the structure. You are either building crookedly or with the exactness and correctness that will make a beautiful temple for God. Therefore, in looking for great things to do, neglect not the little opportunities that come to you day by day. He who neglects the little things, and yet flatters himself that he is ready to do wonderful things for the Master, is in danger of failing altogether. Life is made up, not of great sacrifices and wonderful achievements, but of little things. RH, December 29, 1910 par. 12
- Not I But Christ Liveth in Me
In Galatians 2:20, we have been given a description of what a life lived in the faith looks like: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Paul knew that Christ lived in him. He didn’t say, I hope I’m living by faith, or, well, I’m doing the best I can and may God have mercy on me. No, he was absolutely positive. He knew. He examined his life and could positively say, “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” He was aware of the motives of his actions.
Now Paul was an apostle chosen for big things, but his success in the big things that he was chosen for is a testimony that he had grown able though his character development in the small things, and that carrying out the work of God in such a big way did not become a license for him to neglect the small things.
- Die Daily
Did Paul review his life daily, and examine the actions of his day? In 1Corinthians 15:31, he says, “I die daily.” If we will be able to say that we die daily, we must know the motives behind our actions each day in order to confess with Paul that we do indeed die daily.
It is faith that worketh by love that we want, “for in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6). We can think we are acting out of love, but something more sinister may be lurking there, hidden from our view. If we value the reproof of the Lord, He will show us when and where and how we have been blind to our selfish motives.
It is hard to acknowledge our selfishness when we so much want to be perfect followers of Christ. It can be crushing. We love Him and His ways, and we want to emulate His beauty in this earth. But if we keep in mind that His reproofs are given in love in order to bring us closer to Him, and to do a better work for Him, we will be willing to bear the reality of the shame of our nakedness, and to accept His reproofs, and take hold of His promises, and Spirit to overcome and be changed, and to really possess that faith that works by love.
- Every Topic of Life
The Bible is full of admonitions and principles that we can apply to our daily review. There is counsel on how we are to use our words, our money, our time, our abilities, our influence, our health, our food, and every possible decision we could ever put into action in a day. The chapter titled, “Talents,” from Christ’s Object Lessons, is an excellent resource to help with self-examination.
- Scripts from the Spirit of Prophecy
The Spirit of Prophecy has some wonderful helps for daily self-examination. Jesus has even given us specific questions to ask ourselves that can guide our daily review. Below are a few counsels from the Spirit of Prophecy that provide us with some questions we should be asking ourselves on a daily basis:
… Your life is hid with Christ in God. Ask yourselves the questions: Have I complied with the
requirements here laid down by the inspired apostle? Have I evidenced by my life, my death to the world, that my life is hid with Christ in God? Am I submerged in Christ? Do I draw sustenance and support from Him who has promised to be to me a present help in every time of need? 2T 177.1
The Lord is testing and proving His people. You may be just as severe and critical with your own defective character as you please; but be kind, pitiful, and courteous toward others. Inquire every day: Am I sound to the core, or am I false-hearted? 5T 97.2
Those engaged in the work of God cannot serve His cause acceptably unless they make the best use possible of the religious privileges they enjoy. We are as trees planted in the garden of the Lord; and He comes to us seeking the fruit He has a right to expect. His eye is upon each of us; He reads our hearts and understands our lives. This is a solemn search, for it has reference to duty and to destiny; and with what interest is it prosecuted. Let each of those to whom are committed sacred trusts inquire: “How do I meet the inspecting eye of God? Is my heart cleansed from its defilement? or have its temple courts become so desecrated, so occupied with buyers and sellers, that Christ finds no room?” 5T 423.1
“Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” We are living in a time when we should individually ask ourselves, “How do I stand related to God and eternity?” It will not matter to what nation we may have belonged, or what sect we have followed; but it will matter upon which side we have stood between good and evil. Daily you should ask yourself, “Am I a Christian? Am I a servant of sin, or am I following Christ? Am I renewed in the image of Christ by his transforming grace? Has a moral change taken place in me? Do I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ? Do I feel that I am not my own, but that I have been bought with the precious blood of Christ, and must consecrate myself to his service? … Let no soul risk his eternal future upon a supposition. RH, October 25, 1892 par. 1
You are to speak to sinners; for you know not but God is moving upon their hearts. Never forget that great responsibility attaches to every word you utter in their presence. Ask yourself the question, How many have I spoken to with my heart filled with the love of Christ, concerning the unspeakable gift of God’s mercy and Christ’s righteousness? To how many of your friends, relatives, and neighbors, have you written, reaching out in unselfish love, that their souls may be saved? Christ said, “I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it.” RH, February 12, 1895 par. 8
We are not of this world, and our lives will reflect our peculiarity, not only in the visible habits of our daily living, but even in the habit of a daily review by the Word of God. Ellen White wrote, “This daily review of our acts, to see whether conscience approves or condemns, is necessary for all who wish to arrive at the perfection of Christian character.” It is necessary. “Necessary” means essential and indispensable. We cannot afford to neglect this counsel, nor to begin the new habit of this daily review. If we don’t, we might find that we remain wanting when Michael stands up.
Of all people, we need this the most. Being the most privileged, having the three angels message to understand and deliver to the world, and having the most counsel on religion and daily life through the Spirit of Prophecy, we have high claims placed upon us. The message we are giving to the world requires a life to match, if we would hasten the Lord’s coming. Only then will He come. So let us take this admonition to heart, and devote a portion of each day to solemn, prayerful self-examination.