I read Don Whitney’s Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health for a small-group class on Sunday mornings at Trinity Baptist in Norman this year. I understand that it has been used for some time by several ministers and in various discipleship settings at the church. I found Whitney’s book to be sound, penetrating in its insight, and most helpful both for personal spiritual evaluation, as well as for group discipleship and discussion.
One of the benefits of Ten Questions is that Whitney does not approach the topic of spiritual growth from a “legalistic” viewpoint; that is, he does not merely list a number of spiritual disciplines and encourage you to “check them off” as you work through them daily. While there is surely benefit to be had from learning about particular disciplines, I have also seen over the past generation a danger in some discipleship emphases, in that they have become legalistic: just check off the box as having done x, y, and z, and you are a good disciple!
We know that is not the truth; that discipleship is primarily a matter of the heart, and Whitney’s book reflects that. His ten questions, and the explanatory chapters, do a good job of getting to the heart of the issue, instead of leaving one at a surface, “legalistic” type level.
For example, in the chapter on the importance of the Bible in discipleship, many might have settled for “read your Bible daily” or some such similar admonition. However, we all know that the Pharisees read and memorized the scriptures, but were far from exemplary disciples! It is not nearly enough to merely “read” the Bible, or even learn it by heart. We must allow it to touch our hearts and change our lives. But Whitney avoided the legalistic mindset and got to the crux of the matter with his question: “Are you governed increasingly by God’s word?”, reminding us that our relationship to scripture is NOT merely academic, but that we are to be “governed” — ruled — by it as an expression of the Lordship of Christ. His adverb “increasingly” also reminds us that we are to be continually growing in this relationship to God in His word. It should challenge one to look beyond whether he is just “having his daily devotions”, and instead to consider whether God’s word is increasingly directing his life.
The range of topics is suitably broad and comprehensive, including chapters on “Do You Thirst For God?”; “Are You Governed Increasingly by God’s Word?”; “Are You More Loving?”; “Are You More Sensitive To God’s Presence?”; “Do You Have a Growing Concern For The Spiritual and Temporal Needs of Others?”; “Do You Delight in the Bride of Christ?”; “Are the Spiritual Disciplines Increasingly Important to You?”; “Do You Still Grieve Over Sin?”; “Are You A Quicker Forgiver?” and “Do You Yearn For Heaven and to Be With Jesus?”
The importance of growth in our spiritual lives is addressed in some of the key words in these chapters, such as “increasingly”, “more”, and “quicker”. Whitney does not allow us to be content to “sit on our laurels”, spiritually, but challenges us to take further steps towards spiritual maturity.
Whitney has a requisite Biblical basis for each chapter, and includes many enlightening scriptural insights. But he also adds illustrative and challenging quotes from Christians from throughout history, including Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis, David Brainerd, A.W. Tozer, and more.
Whitney’s book is practical, helping the disciple to develop specific concepts and practices which will assist him to grow in each desired area. For example, in the chapter on being more sensitive to God’s presence, he shares about how if you begin looking for everything in a room that is blue, you will soon develop what he called “blue eyes” — on the lookout for the color blue wherever you go. In the same way, the author suggests “We need to develop ‘God eyes'” (p. 67) and increasingly recognize the presence of God and the manifestation of His work in every place. There are many such helpful suggestions throughout the volume.
Ten Questions To Diagnose Your Spiritual Health is not a long book; the main body of the text is only 116 pages long — just over ten pages per topic. But it is packed with penetrating questions, insights, and challenges to help evaluate and assist in a growing Christian life. I have personally highlighted sections and prepared questions for use in future discipleship classes and one-on-one meetings, and would heartily recommend it for such use by others as well. Of utmost importance, however, is the searching challenge it brings to each of us personally as we diagnose our own spiritual lives. For individual or group use, this “diagnostic tool” is just what the doctor ordered!