Only God knows
As I approach what we consider a landmark age, I find myself undergoing some self-assessment and questioning what I’ve done with the decades I’ve spent on this earth.
Some think only men go through this self-critiquing but maybe that was when women didn’t think they had anything else to do on this earth but get married, have children, raise these children, and support their husbands as they fulfil purposes outside of the home. Now, women realize they have God-given purposes that might go beyond their homes and women are living out the passions in their hearts, too.
So, I guess I’m not immune myself.
At a really low point, I reached out to my dearest friends. While I believe we should share our burdens with our friends, I had to ask myself thereafter what I was hoping to achieve. It occurred to me that I wanted to hear from others how well I was doing. While that might seem harmless and maybe even desirable, I stumbled on a verse today that reminded me that seeking validation from men (and even from me) is not the way to go.
My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
(1 Corinthians 4:4-5 NIV)
What struck me from these verses is that I might think I’m doing the right thing, but only God can say if I really am. This is because He doesn’t just look at what we do but goes further to look at why we do it. We need to bear in mind that although our spirits are regenerated (born again), our souls – intellect (mind), will, and emotions – will need to be subjected to our spirits which are subjected to the Holy Spirit. Our souls cannot be trusted to judge our actions because they are capable of deceiving us –
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV)
All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. (Proverbs 16:2 NIV)
We human beings are very capable of doing a good thing with a wrong motive and the difference between us and God is we applaud what we see with our physical eyes as a good thing but God is more interested in what only His eyes can see – the motives of our hearts. It, therefore, goes without saying that I can’t applaud myself and say I’ve done well since I’m not living for myself but for the One who died and rose for me – Jesus Christ, my Lord (2 Corinthians 5:15).
The conclusion of the matter is that I can’t give myself accolades and neither should I look to human beings for accolades. I will have to keep doing what I believe God would have me do and try to check my motives continually while I await the return of my Lord. When He returns, He will return as Judge and will judge what we have done and give praise where due.
For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
(1 Corinthians 3:9-15)
In Matthew 21, Jesus gives a parable about a master who gives his servants money to trade with for him and came back, asking for them to account for what they did with his investment. To the servants who had done well and were fruitful, multiplying his investment, he gave praise –
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
This statement, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” is what we should be living for, not the praise of men or our praise of ourselves.