6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:6-10 NIV)
My father turned 91 in July. His expectation was that he would not live beyond 70 given the medical history in his family. He is experiencing the gradual decline in body and mind that come to most with advancing age. Each day is a struggle to make the effort to live well given that his greatest desire is to be at home with the Lord. Maybe the young do not experience this struggle, but those of us who are older certainly do. This is why Paul’s words are so important.
I am convinced that what we do here on earth after accepting Christ and being baptized makes a difference. It is not just those who have rejected Christ who will stand before the judgment seat. We will all make an appearance. I am convinced that the only plea I can make is guilty and that my penalty has already been paid by the blood of Jesus. This is the function of grace and has nothing to do with what I have done or not done. However, something else is going to take place at judgment. What we receive in eternity is related to how we have allowed the Holy Spirit to work in our lives while we are here on earth. Paul’s goal is to please the Lord and this goal is driven by Paul’s desire to be with God in eternity. Too often my goal is to please myself and that goal is driven by my desire to make my life in my current body more comfortable while I am here on earth. Most of the poor decisions I make result from a selfish and short-term focus.
From what we know from church tradition Paul gave his life as a martyr for his faith in Christ. He finished well. Finishing well is a challenge and it seems that the challenge is increased when you have had great success in Christian leadership here on earth. On the Listening In podcast for October 16, Jeff and Terra Mattson noted that 70% of Christian leaders do not finish well. I have not read their book so I do not know where the statistic came from, but it does seem that moral failures and loss of faith have become so common that we have all become numb to them.
I am grateful to be surrounded by faithful Christians who are finishing well. Each of these people provide me with an encouraging example of what it looks like to serve God and strive to please Him even when life is very hard and it would be easy to give up on life, or worse give up on God. I am trying to call my father every day. Our conversations are not long, and I have begun ending our conversations with a portion of scripture. I am encouraged every time by his response to hearing God’s word. I am certain that everyone where he lives knows of his love for God and I am grateful for the testimony he provides each day as strives to please the Lord and finish well.