Life brings us many things that we hate to do, but however tedious they may seem… we are still forced to accomplish them. How much we loathe the task does not change its necessity. We can procrastinate or prolong the inevitable, but the menial must be executed at one point or another. One of these assignments for people in the business world is taking inventory. Even though it is necessary from time to time to itemize or catalog a list of current assets or goods… that does not change the fact that it is far from the top of the “things I like to do at work” list. However, without that itemized list, the business cannot run smoothly, efficiently, or effectively.
For the past couple of weeks, I have been taking an inventory of the books in my personal library at the church building. Throughout my ministry, I have been richly blessed by brothers and sisters donating their books to me. Mentors, family members, retired preachers, and various church family have generously passed down their books from time to time. Because these books all center around the same subjects (faith, Christianity, spirituality, etc.), I wind up with three or four duplicates of the same book sometimes. I have long desired to take an inventory of my books into an App on my phone but never really had the time or diligence to accomplish that wish. All of that changed when I broke down and committed the time and energy into taking an inventory.
As I took an inventory of my books, I learned three powerful lessons that not only applied to my library, but I believe in a grander scope, to the Christian life. I began to realize how long it had been since I last took a spiritual inventory. What happens when we do not take inventory of our personal spirituality? I believe we are setting ourselves up for failure.
The first thing I realized was NOT taking an inventory of these books only ever hurt myself. Realizing all the help I could have gotten on difficult subjects I have had to address in the past made me wish I had done this many years ago. Not taking an inventory of my books forced me to work twice as hard than I had to. So often, I dealt with difficult subjects and questions in ministry alone when I had books on the subject that would have helped. The same applies spiritually. When we do not take an inventory of our walk with Christ, we are making the difficulties of life twice as hard as they have to be. Taking this spiritual inventory can help us see if we have the disciplines required to face the temptations of life. A spiritual inventory helps us see if our lives are bearing the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) or displaying the Christian Graces (2 Peter 1:5-8).
The second thing I realized was taking an inventory of these books prepared me to be a better resource. One of my greatest mentors in college constantly challenged us to “be a resource” to others around us. What I had not realized was the resource these books could be to the people around me. Whether it is encouragement through difficult times, answers to difficult questions, or a host of other benefits these books can offer… I realized they were benefiting only me. Now I will be able to lend books to the people searching for answers. It is no different with a spiritual inventory. Only after we take an inventory of our knowledge of God’s Word can we be better spiritual resources for the people around us.
The third thing I realized was taking an inventory of these books allowed me to help others beginning their ministries. When I could finally see the number of duplicates I had on certain books, I could then pass those on to preachers and ministers younger than me. I had the choice to have numerous copies of the same book collecting dust or do what had been done for me and pass them on to fervent young men becoming Gospel preachers. The choice was easy to make but had I not taken an inventory, I could not have been that blessing to others. When we refuse to take spiritual inventory, we are not capable of helping others because we have not even prepared ourselves.
Jesus talks about the idea of taking an inventory in Luke 14:28-33 with two examples. The first was a man who wanted to build a tower but did not count the cost of finishing the construction. As a result, everyone mocked him for starting something he could not complete. The second was a king who went to battle against an army twice the size of his just to realize they were not prepared. As a result, he was forced to beg for peace because he did not take the necessary inventory of his army’s ability. In verse 33, Jesus said if we are like these men, we cannot be His disciples.
It may not be easy or fun to take inventory of our personal spirituality, but how can we run our race smoothly, efficiently, or effectively if we don’t? When we choose not to do it, it hurts only ourselves. However, when we decide to take a spiritual inventory… we make ourselves better resources to others, and we can even help others in their walks with Christ. I believe it is time to look inwardly and challenge ourselves as Paul said, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” 2 Corinthians 13:5a.
-Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism