My husband had a professor in college who responded to most, if not all, student questions with the same answer. If a student asked about grading requirements for an assignment, the professor would say, “Check the website.” If a student asked about dates for tests, the professor would say, “Check the website.”
The professor’s frequent use of the phrase became somewhat of a joke in our home. If I inquired about something around the house or asked my husband a question, he would often look at me and say (in his best imitation of the professor’s voice), “Check the website.”
Although humorous, the professor’s intent in directing students to his course website every time someone asked a question was most likely that he wanted students to do what they needed to before they could expect an action from him.
Spiritually, we can apply this same “check the website” principle when we feel like we aren’t receiving God’s blessings. Although God isn’t as gruff as my husband’s instructor and wants us to come to Him and ask when we don’t know the answer in a situation, there are times that we can examine our actions against God’s Word and discover that we aren’t reaping what we want in a particular area because of what we are sowing.
In his devotional My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers explains how we should all “turn up” or check the “spiritual index.” According to Merriam-Webster.com, an “index” is a device (such as the pointer, called a “gnomon,” on a sundial) that gives a particular value or an indicator that leads us to a conclusion:
Never say it is not God’s will to give you what you ask, don’t sit down and faint, but find out the reason, turn up the index. Are you rightly related to your wife, to your husband, to your children, to your fellow-students … Have I been asking God to give me money for something I want when there is something I have not paid for? Have I been asking God for liberty while I am withholding it from someone who belongs to me? … If we turn up the index, we will see very clearly what is wrong — that friendship, that debt, that temper of mind.”
The Blessing of Reaping and Sowing
Essentially, Chambers points out that many of us are asking for a blessing when there is a reason we can’t have it. Although Chambers focuses more on the idea of our prayers being hindered by certain attitudes in his devotion, we can also apply his idea of the “spiritual index” to the principle of reaping and sowing in the Bible.
Just like the sun causes a shadow to fall across a sun dial when its rays hit the gnomon in order to tell the time, God causes our own examinations or “gnomons” to point to a particular problem in our lives when we subject ourselves to the light of His truth.
Obviously, there are times when we don’t receive blessing because it isn’t in God’s timing or He has delayed his response to work out our character or His answer is no.
However, I know I have been guilty of blaming God when I don’t get a certain outcome in a circumstance even when I haven’t exactly invested what I should to get the harvest at the proper time. As Galatians 6:7,8 tells us: “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. From the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap, but the one who sows to the spirit will from the spirit reap eternal life.”
Although this passage is talking primarily about those who spend their money on worldly pleasures while neglecting to support the church, we can apply this to other areas of our lives. As commentator Albert Barnes notes, “Every kind of grain will produce grain like itself.” If we are acting in ways that are corrupt in our relationships or our finances, those choices will eventually come back to affect us.
I don’t know about you, but for much of my life I worked mostly on my external behavior, making my outward actions look as good as possible for those around me, while hiding some secrets. But I hadn’t realized that this is essentially “mocking God” (v. 7). I can’t just pretend to be a good person. Merely assuming outward forms of Christian behavior does not deceive God. We may get away with our sin-hiding for a time, but the Bible is very clear that God notices our true motives even if we fool everyone around us.
In essence, Galations 6 reminds us that our actions do have an impact on our lives. While the lines cannot always be clearly drawn between our actions and the circumstances that come into our lives (sometimes bad things will happen even when we do what is right or vice versa), there is a correlation between our actions and spiritual blessings. Therefore, if we want a spiritual blessing in our lives or we know God has promised us one, and we’re not receiving it, we can check the “index” — and evaluate our deeds and what fruit they are producing in our lives.
God Blessed Me Financially When I Obeyed
A perfect example of the principle of sowing and reaping at work in my life is when we were attempting to sell our townhouse and move into a bigger home. Our house was on the market for a year and a half, and we hadn’t had a single offer. I kept telling myself it wasn’t selling because of the location, the cramped floor plan, the plain master bathroom, or the lack of a basement. However, those were not the answers that gave me any peace; there was something else, and I knew it. What came to mind when I prayed about it was an unpaid sum of money I had promised to the church.
I had pledged a sum over a period of four years to help pay for a church remodeling project, and after making a few monthly payments, I had gotten lazy and stopped paying on the debt. A few years in, I still owed money to fulfill my commitment. When I received a check for some training I had completed for work and it was almost the exact amount I needed, I handed over the money to the remodeling fund and felt an instant sense of peace. One month later our “unsellable” house was under contract, and we were in the joyful process of looking for a new place to live.
Skeptics might look at this and say there was no connection between our house sale and the church payment — labeling what happened as coincidence. However, I have seen the principle of the index at work enough times in my own life to know that when I fulfill a pledge, I prepare myself to receive a blessing. Chambers affirms this idea when he says, “It is no use praying unless we are living as children of God. Then, Jesus says — ‘Everyone that asketh, receiveth.’ ”
Checking the index in this case was not too painful; I had to give up some money I would rather have used on something else. However, there have been other times I have had to step out in faith when I felt tired and didn’t feel like doing what God asked. Or, I felt God’s nudge to let go of anger and make an apology in a relationship when I just wanted to stay mad or blame the other person. Many times, I have not wanted to obey, but when I live as God prescribes and take His Word seriously, I benefit from the blessings He promises.
To be clear, God isn’t a genie waiting to hand out gifts when we earn His good favor. We don’t merely do the things we should do to somehow earn something from God. In addition, index-checking is not a ritual we do to earn salvation. Our right standing with God comes when we put our faith and trust in Him (Romans 3:20-25).
However, God does want us walk in faith and continually grow in righteousness after we are saved with the decisions we make. By reading His Word and spending time with Him in prayer, we can know those areas where God wants us to take or action or reminds us of an action He has already instructed us to take (Psalm 139:23, 24).
In my own experience, God has offered me more grace than I really deserve. A lot of times when I think I know of a problem in my spiritual life but am not sure, I’ll ask Him for confirmation, and He answers me. If we seek God intently, He will help us in the way to go. He will help us to know the areas we need to work on that are preventing us from receiving the blessing promised us.
I encourage you. Have you checked your index? What might Jesus be pointing out to you? If we already know of a directive God has given us, but we have gotten off track or grown weary in doing what He has asked, we can get back on track again. Many times, we want to obey God, but we let our own fears or doubts get the best of us.
However, we can push through whatever obstacles we have knowing that the work we do for God will not go unnoticed. As Ephesians 6:8 says, we will receive from the Lord the same good we do for others.
*Updated and adapted from post published May 29, 2015.