Published May 26, 2015

Paul's Epistle...
("Passion Checkup - Part 2")

Each of us has an annual physical exam – or at least we're supposed to. The purpose of the checkup is to determine the state of our physical health. A good report is an encouragement, especially as we grow older. But such a checkup could turn up some physical problem that needs to be addressed.

Actually, our "spiritual health" is much more important. That's why we started a "passion checkup" in this column last week – so we can self-evaluate our "passion" level for Christ and His work. And this checkup, too, is intended to uncover any problems that need to be addressed in our Christian life. You can review the first two points in our archive. So let's continue the checkup...

Checkup point #3:  How passionate are you about Bible study?

The Bible is God's Word. It's how we get to know Him. Without the Bible, we wouldn't know Him in the way we do. Unfortunately, a 2012 study by LifeWay Research – conducted among church-goers – found that just 19 percent of these respondents read the Bible every day. 26 percent read it a few times a week. But 18 percent admitted they rarely or never read the Bible.

LifeWay Research President Ed Statzer, reacting to the study, said, "Bible engagement has an impact in just about every area of spiritual growth... God's Word is truth, so it should come as no surprise that reading and studying the Bible are still the activities that have the most impact on growth in this attribute of spiritual maturity."

Do you read the Bible on a regular basis? Do you study the Bible on a regular basis? Do you let the Word speak to your heart as you study it? Do you listen to what God is telling you?

Sometimes "listening" is the problem. Jay Parrack & Vocal Event have a new song out that, speaking of God, says, "Sometimes His voice is louder than thunder, [but] sometimes, sometimes He whispers..." God often speaks to us in a "still, small voice" (1 Kings 19:12), which is why we are told to "be still, and know that I am God..." (Psalm 46:10).

How do you hear someone who is whispering to you? You get as close as possible to that person. God loves to whisper to you through His Word. But if you don't read it, if you don't come close to Him, you won't hear Him.

Of course, another way God speaks to us (and this is closely related to the previous item) is during prayer. So....

Checkup Point #4:  How passionate are you about prayer?

According to a U. S. News/Beliefnet survey, among Christians, just over two-thirds – 68.1 percent – say they pray more than once a day. When asked about the most important purpose of prayer, the most common answer – from 41.9 percent of respondents – was "intimacy with God." Actually, that last answer is pretty impressive, even if less than half of respondents knew it.

What is prayer, after all? It is how we communicate with God. But it's also one way that God communicates with us. Prayer is two-way, not one-way. It's not like sending off an email to someone and hoping for an answer later. It's more like a two-way telephone conversation, or at least it should be. We talk to God and He talks to us – if we listen, and if we have a "good connection."

James 5:16 tells us that the "effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." "Fervent" is just another way of saying "passionate." And James assures us that such passionate prayer has an impact! What's more, we are to "pray without ceasing" (1st Thess. 5:17). (See a previous column about that in our archives.)

So – how are you doing with your "passion checkup?" I'll have more checkup points here next week...

- Paul

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