Most of us give at least some attention to our physical health and wellbeing. We usually have certain markers that tell us how we are doing. These are things like how much we weigh; what we see when we look in the mirror; how quickly we get out of breath when we run up a flight of stairs; or how many muscles ache the day after we work in the yard. With the help of a physician, we may also keep track of vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar. When one or more of these vital signs get out of line, we know that we need to make changes in our diet or exercise. Like the dashboard of a car, these vital signs help us make good decisions and navigate healthfully through life.
But what about our spiritual lives? What are the vital signs that tell us how we are doing in our relationship with God? How do we know if we are on the right track in our discipleship — as followers of Jesus?
These are important questions, and I encourage you to think for yourself about how you know how you are doing. While I wouldn’t presume to give you an exhaustive list, I have some ideas about what the vital signs of Christian life might be. I share them in the hope that you will explore them for yourself as you grow in your faith.
To start with, remember that on Pentecost, we claim Jesus’ Easter promise that God would send the Holy Spirit into our lives. So, as you celebrate Pentecost (it’s June 5 this year) consider Galatians 5:22-23, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Each of the nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit is a vital sign for Christian life. They are indicators of God’s Spirit in our lives.
As a spiritual exercise, take them one at a time. On a scale of one to ten: how much love are you experiencing today? How much joy? How much peace and kindness and generosity, etc. do you experience? Because these are subjective questions, you might want to think about how you know whether you’re experiencing and producing love and joy and peace, etc., and as you increase your awareness of the Spirit’s movement, you can intentionally allow God’s Spirit to have more and more access to your life.
Other vital signs of Christian life include the amount of time we spend in spiritual disciplines. We know that important relationships take time — including our relationship with God. The amount of (quality) time we spend with God in prayer, worship, Bible Study, service to others, etc. are pretty good indicators of our spiritual health. (These are also the primary ways we allow the Holy Spirit to access our lives.)
The good news is that, as we mature in our discipleship, just monitoring the vital signs of our spiritual health will bear fruit. I believe that as we pay attention to the vital signs of spiritual health, we start to make decisions that will transform our lives. When we allow God to have access to our lives, we experience the transforming power of God’s grace. And that really is good news!