Going to the doctor, or to the veterinarian for must of us is not something we embrace wholeheartedly. I hate to wait in line, much less wait at any doctor’s office. As a veterinarian, my profession is like many other noble pursuits where we know prevention of disease through vaccination and laboratory surveillance is key to providing a longer, happier life for our patients. We preach prevention and compliance all day long. Even so, a recent study a few years ago by Novartis Animal Health showed that if the average client purchases a full year worth of monthly heartworm prevention, the average compliance is only 9.2 doses or about 76%. Since the cost of treating heartworm disease can reach or exceed $800-$1000, an ounce of prevention is surely worth a pound of cure. Nonetheless, we are all human and have a life to live in front of us. This instance is certainly devastating enough in our dog’s life, but what could be learned from this about our spiritual life?
When performing a physical examination on a patient, I do what is known as a “nose to tail” exam. I start with the nose and examine each system as I progress from front to back, making notes and observations all along the way, whether good or bad. I think this approach is helpful in examining our spiritual condition in several ways. First, start with your mind, thoughts, and beliefs. If our mission in our Christian walk is to “know God and make Him known” then it reasonably follows that you must first know “Him”. So how do you know that you know Him? Romans 1:20 says: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” Therefore, underlying intellectual knowledge of God is the premise of knowing the existence of God through general revelation from the world around us. However, to believe that God exists is separate from believing in God, specifically belief in the atoning work and teachings of Jesus Christ.
This distinction leads us to the next critical juncture in “knowing” which resides in listening to the heart. Many of us experience an intellectual knowledge of God but lack a relationship in our heart. This relationship must not be confused with an emotional response to God because a positive emotional response to God solely through a feeling or a song might lead us toward God, but likewise, later a negative emotion or doubt could be waiting to draw us away. Matthew 22:37-40 is very clear: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” And further Matthew 7:16-17 states: 16 You will know them by their fruits. …17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. ” So, check your heart and you will know by the evidence that you love God fully as shown by the fruit in your life. This vital connection between the mind and the heart is proof of God’s effect in your life. Apologetics and knowledge give us reasons and evidence for how we know what we believe and why we can know and trust that the evidence is true. The goal therefore in apologetics is to grow in knowledge and ultimately in the relationship with God himself.
Sometimes during an examination, I will discover pain in an area, and the evidence of a previous illness or injury. Occasionally I also will find evidence of cancer. Spiritually, we can liken this finding to trauma, suffering, or sin in our life. If left untreated, the condition can affect the remainder of our lives. The book of James reminds us that we should “count it all joy when we fall into various trials”. So when you feel pain, how do you respond? 1 John 1 reminds us that what the Disciples saw, heard, and touched was testified to us in order for our “Joy to be complete”. One of the foundational verses of Christian Case-making is 1 Peter 3:15, but often missed is the statement: But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” You must connect your thoughts, your mind, to loving God. Is your heart attitude toward your neighbor, and if so do you experience the spiritual fruit of a relationship with Jesus? Galatians 5:22-23 gives us “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.” I challenge each of us to take time to perform a spiritual check-up. In this way, God’s amazing grace can be prescribed by a relationship with Jesus Christ, the greatest of all physicians.