by Mark Dance
This month I will celebrate my 50th birthday with a comprehensive check-up. My doctor will check first on the condition of my heart with his stethoscope, which is the most important (and least invasive) part.
If he sees something troubling about my heart, the rest of the check-up gets put on hold because my heart is essential to my health.
“The Great Commandment” is our Great Physician’s comprehensive check-up for the believer’s heart, as well as his or her soul, mind, and body.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength … this is the greatest and most important command (Deut 6:5; Matthew 22:37-38; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27).
I want to challenge you to take a short self-examination of your life as you consider the implications of loving God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Although the Great Commandment is a comprehensive covenant commitment, it is not a compartmentalized one.
Each area of our lives overlaps somewhat with the others, so try not to over analyze each word to the point where this becomes merely an academic exercise
1. What is the condition of my heart?
Faithful Jews not only knew the Great Commandment (aka Shema), they also quoted it twice a day, wrote it on their doorposts, and tied it on their foreheads. Unfortunately, most came short of writing it on their hearts, as God desired (Jeremiah 31:31: Hebrews 8:10).
The Shema is asking if we are all-in, starting with our hearts. The “most important commandment” in the Bible is also the most important question in our lives—“Do I love Jesus with all of my heart?” How can I rekindle that love today?
Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart (Psalm 86:11b-12a).
2. What is the condition of my soul?
All humans have souls because God has breathed life into us all (Genesis 2:7). The “soul” is used as a synonym for the individual person (you). When a ship or plane goes down, they report how many “souls” were lost (Acts 27:37). There are currently more than seven billion souls on planet earth, and every soul will live forever…somewhere.
The Greek term for soul is “psyche,” from which we get the English word psychology. Is it well with your soul, or does your interior life need some rearranging? While the heart is the eternal part of my life that is fully redeemed, my soul is the internal/emotional part that is constantly being restored and renewed.
King David’s Psalms were mostly lament songs which revealed the sadness in his soul, yet he also allowed God to restore his soul in green pastures and beside still waters (Psalm 23:3). Where are the “green pastures” that restore your soul, and when were you there last? My soul is best restored in oak trees overlooking green deer food plots.
Mary’s soul experienced both rejoicing and sadness. Rejoicing initially at the news of her pregnancy, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord “(Luke 1:46), and sadness at the news of her son’s imminent death which would “pierce her soul” (Luke 2:35). Having a troubled soul is not a sin, rather it is a sign of humanity. Even Jesus experienced a “sorrowful” soul as His death loomed near (John 12:27).
Jesus promised rest for every soul that asks for His help: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, I will give you rest…for your souls (Matthew 11:28). When was the last time you opened up to the Lord or a friend about the current condition of your soul?
3. What is the condition of my mind?
Lifeway Research recently found that about a quarter of pastors say they have personally experienced some kind of mental illness, yet most are reluctant to talk about it to their congregation (66 percent). If you are struggling with consistently negative thoughts, please consider talking to your pastor, doctor, or a therapist about it.
Also, it is sometimes difficult to love the Lord with all of our minds when we are exposed to so much useless media. Try to think of one way you can change your lifestyle this year that would reflect an all-in love for Jesus.
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2)
4. What is the condition of my body?
Do you believe your physical health affects your mental, emotional, and even spiritual health? I personally believe the Shema may be referring to the health of our literal bodies.
I know this is a sensitive subject, and one to which perhaps more people will fail than succeed, but since our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), doesn’t it follow that we should take care of them? Presenting our bodies as a spiritual sacrifice is a personal act of loving worship (Romans 12:1).
I personally do both cardio and strength training twice a week each, which is what health experts recommend. Each person’s diet and exercise routine needs to be customized to their own bodies. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Healthy churches are led by healthy pastors and leaders who love God with all of their hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Will you take a few minutes right now for a Great Commandment check-up? It may be the most important thing you do all week.
- The Physically Healthy Pastor
- The Spiritually Healthy Pastor
- The Emotionally Healthy Pastor
- The Mentally Healthy Pastor