When a study is made (e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-35W_Mississippi_River_bridge), the results often indicate that the catastrophic failure was caused by minor weaknesses called stress fractures. They actually begin as invisible, microscopic microfractures that are linked to the crystalline structure of the materials at the molecular level.
Small weaknesses left untreated will result in fractures and failures over time. But the patterns of failure were there all along.
Take a person's character. We see moral failures all the time. They are well publicized when the failure occurs in preachers and politicians. We seem to expect better behavior from them, though their failures are really no worse than our own.
When the highway bridge fails, we trust the DOT has been protecting us by inspecting the highways and bridges, but still, the failures occur. Some failures should have been caught by inspections, but some are beneath the surface and too small for the inspectors to see.
What about us? Who inspects us? Who can see beneath the surface? Who has microscopic and x-ray vision? The Bible teaches us that we should be on a regular schedule of self examination.
Here are 16 scripture verses with the topic of examining yourself.
Using the analogy of bridge failures, let me suggest some practical areas in our lives where the microfractures develop, causing a fault line that could result in an earthquake under the right circumstances.
1. Keeping our word.
A. As simple as saying to yourself, "I will do such-and-such tomorrow," but not doing it when the time comes. (Like getting up early, exercising, jogging, etc.)
B. Being on time. If we know when something starts and we have said we will attend, and we are late, we have not kept our word.
C. Meaning what we say. When we carelessly say, "I love you," to someone who is attracted to us and we really aren't willing to make a life-long commitment, we are lying.
D. Telling white lies. (As if there were such things.)
E. Trying to get out of a contract. Whether a cell phone contract, a rental contract, or a rent-to-own contract, keeping your word requires fulfilling the terms of the contract, even if something better comes along.
F. Trying to save face or win. Repeating "You said such-and-such," when all you really can know (without a recording or a witness) is, "I heard such-and-such." Repeating "I said," when all you can really support (without a recording) is, "I meant to say," or, "I was trying to say."
G. Putting others down (thinking that makes us better than them).
H. Not allowing someone to clarify what they meant, by insisting, "You said!" (as if you have never misspoken anything).
The main problem with self-examination is twofold: 1, the examiner is biased and 2. the examiner is ignorant. Jeremiah 17:9 says "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" [NIV]
The psalmist tells us that God is the one who must search our hearts: Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23
Multiple times in the Psalms the refrain is repeated: Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Psalm 86:11
The author of the letter to the Hebrews points to the practical way we find our faults, through the study of the Scriptures:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12