This is the time of year when people evaluate things. Some of those evaluations are highly subjective. Right now, the web is ablaze with various lists describing somebody’s “Top _____ of 2011.” Perhaps you’re in the process of evaluating politicians as we prepare to enter an election year. Some of those evaluations are highly objective. If you watch the stock market, you know that the year has been generally flat – in spite of dips and rises throughout the year. I am sure your company is well aware of how they’re doing financially based on the red and black numbers on their balance sheet.
Perhaps your employer has conducted a year-end review on you. Based on their evaluation of your job performance, you may or may not have gotten a raise in the upcoming year. Maybe you’re in the process of evaluating your family’s budget in preparation for the upcoming year. Maybe you’re evaluating your health or your diet.
Regardless of what you are evaluating, regardless of how subjective or objective those evaluations may be, there is some standard by which all evaluations are made. A company may use last year’s numbers to evaluate this year. An employer may use an employee’s job description to evaluate performance. A doctor may use blood pressure or cholesterol as a standard for evaluating health.
The most important evaluation that you may need to conduct is to evaluate how you’re doing in your walk with Christ. Though it is the most important, it may be the most difficult to measure. How do you evaluate something that is so personal, yet affects everything about you? How can you tell if you are doing better than last year?
Different people may offer different standards. Someone might say that growth is measured by the amount of time spent in prayer and Bible study. In other words, if you’re reading & praying more than you were last year, then you’ve grown. Others may measure growth by church attendance & participation. Still others may determine growth on the basis of victories over besetting sin.
Perhaps the most effective measure of spiritual growth can be found by determining fruitfulness. While praying more, studying more, participating in church more, and sinning less are definitely good things that I strongly encourage, they must lead to fruit lest they become religious activities with no real bearing on the Kingdom. John 15:5 makes it very clear. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.” Three verses later, Jesus said, “My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.”
Picture a monk who goes to a monastery, takes a vow of silence, and spends the rest of his days reading the Bible and praying. We are tempted to be impressed by such religious devotion. However, there is a fatal error that we mustn’t overlook. When we read the Bible and pray more, our response should be to tell others, not maintain silence. This highly devoted monk has privatized something that Christ expects to be lived out in public.
So, how are you doing in your walk with Christ? If you were to evaluate your walk with the Lord on the basis of spiritual fruit, would you say you’re doing better than last year, about the same, or much worse? In other words, how’s your fruit?
Looking forward to a fruitful 2012,