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Devotionals

Spiritual Stocktaking (Part 1)

Many years ago I managed a small country branch of an electrical mechanical wholesale business. I did not enjoy stocktaking, which was done twice a year. Every screw, nut, bolt, etc. needed to be counted and then recounted. These were the days everything was recorded manually. The closest to “electronic equipment” was the calculator. You would have a record of the previous “count”, what ought to be in stock and what was actually in stock. Figures needed to match or else the auditors wanted “a please explain”. We would need to do the count over a weekend and work late at night because we could not interfere with “business” time.

The purpose was not just to catch the staff should there be a variance in the totals. We needed to know where the company was as far as profit and loss was concern. Were we viable? Did we meet the projected targets for the past half year? If there were losses of stock, how did these occur? What were the weak links as far as sales, security and staffing were concerned.

Although radically different, the Christian life needs to follow the basic principle of stocktaking to analyze where a believer is spiritually in their Christian pilgrimage. To do this, there are different angles of approach. Personally, I find that a good method of spiritual stocktaking is to look at one’s prayer life and ask how many prayers are being answered and how many are not being answered.

Living Sinfully is a Terrible Cause of Prayers Not Being Answered

We can never get past God’s Word, which says:

Isa 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

Pr 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

In Isaiah we hear that God does not hear the prayers of the wicked, yet in Proverbs we learn He hears the prayers of the righteous. Here we are confronted with willful sin. Being Christian yet choosing to live as we please with little or no regard for how God requires we behave. When your prayers are not being answered, seek to see if there is sin in your life.

Cherishing Sin in the Heart is a Terrible Cause of Prayers Not Being Answered

Ps 66:18 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

Note the difference between this point and the previous one. The previous one deals with a sinful lifestyle whilst this one deals with sin in the heart. You might live before the world as if you are a pretty good person, but God sees the heart. Never forget that before the sin can be activated, is must first be in the heart … and as Jesus says, whatever is in the heart comes out!

Mat 15:18 “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what make a man ‘unclean’ …”

Verse 19 … “for out of the heart comes …” So the stocktaking needs to look deeply into the acts but also at the heart. What is in the heart? Never underestimate the Psalmist saying:

Ps 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

The only way to root sin out of the heart is to fill the heart with God’s Word. The Word of God will push sin out of the heart.

Refusing to Do What is Right in God’s Sight is a Terrible Cause of Prayers Not Being Answered

This is different to sinful living or acting. This point refers to not doing what God says He requires you to do.

1Jn 3:21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

Obedience to God pleases Him. This means that disobedience does not bring Him pleasure and then we do not have our prayers answered. Take Jesus’ command that we evangelize. Do we?

Mat 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Take praying for those in authority (government – president – cabinet).

1Ti 2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

The backdrop to this kind of praying is evangelism. When we don’t we displease God (v3). There are so many illustrations I could use but take wives living in submission to their husbands; husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the Church (sacrificially – giving up their life for their wife); children obeying their parents and fathers not being harsh towards their children. Many of these things, when not done, might not be seen as expressions of sin … yet when not done, they expressly refuse to do what God says.

I have a few more issues to consider tomorrow … but for today, let’s start spiritual stocktaking in these three areas … willful sinful living, sin in the heart and not doing what God wants us to do. Something to remember is that this is a private matter between you and God. No one else is in the stocktaking room … it’s just you and God. There is no embarrassment before man … just before God who loves you and wants the best for you. Because He loves you and He encourages you to participate in making certain you know and understand where you stand is the realm of spiritual obedience so that where change and reform are required you may proceed with haste for no one know how long he or she has left on this planet. To die in disobedience means that is the garment you enter eternity with. How terrible … how dreadful should you not be ready!

Father, today I say with the Psalmist … Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Lord I do so want to live to please You in holiness of life. Help me to go through a spiritual stocktaking exercise to root out all sin. Amen.

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