An Acceptable Performance

November 17, 2017 at 6:05 pm | Posted in II Corinthians, Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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There came a point in the Apostle Paul’s ministry (and, who knows? it may have been there from the time he met Christ and received the forgiveness of sins) when his fear of death was overshadowed – or at least challenged and deeply ameliorated – by his longing to leave this world behind and go to be with his Lord.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

Philippians 1:22–23

Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

II Corinthians 5:6-9

It would not be unreasonable to say that, even as Paul cherished his opportunities to minister in the name of Jesus in this world, his heart was still occupied with Heavenly thoughts more than earthly thoughts. In II Corinthians 5:9 he did not attempt to hide the fact that what he was doing was “labor” – the type of physical work that could be easily observed by other human beings. However, even as he labored before, and among, men, he seemed only to be conscious of the eyes of His Master upon him.

I spent my childhood in an environment where baseball was a form of religion. From the earliest levels of little league almost everyone in my home town was cognizant of which kids performed well on the diamond, and which ones didn’t. And, while it seems likely to me all these years later that us boys had an inflated sense of the importance of winning or losing, striking out or getting a base hit, blocking a grounder with our chest (or chin!) or letting it go through our legs, I can also tell you that many a dad was evicted from the park for yelling at, or fighting with, umpires, coaches, and other dads. Plenty of boys who had escaped corporal discipline for bad grades, ditching school, stealing, and vandalizing would find themselves on the business end of a belt or an open-hand whack to the head out behind the concession stand after an 0 for 4 evening or a couple of inexcusable errors. Some of us played the game for fun, and some of us played it for survival.

not impressed by your performance

The result of this kind of pressure to perform is a laser-sharp focus. Despite whatever flaws were instilled into us concerning sportsmanship and fair play, we did learn the sort of concentration that allows you to block out everything else in your surroundings and zero in on the spin of the ball, the tendency of the runner leaning off first as if he might try for second, and where you would throw the ball if it happened to carom off a bat and head in your direction on any given pitch. The roar of the crowd after a good play – or the boos and jeers after an overthrow – became something to tune out and ignore. For several of us, the approval of the crowd did not matter one iota, but the approval of our fathers did. They were who we wanted to please, and there is no doubt we played harder because of our desire for their praise, and because of a fear of their disappointment.

The Apostle Paul did not play baseball, and his Heavenly Father was interested in far greater glories than a small-town sporting event. And, of course, God’s interest in Paul’s performance was not motivated by a petty desire to live vicariously through his exploits. However, Paul wanted very badly for his efforts to be “accepted” by the Lord, and you and I would probably do well to adopt this same motivation today.

Paul is like a musician who does not need the approval of the audience if he can catch the look of approval from his Master.

Oswald Chambers, March 17 devotion on II Corinthians 5:9 from My Utmost for His Highest

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