Wanted: Confident Christians
2 Corinthians 5:6-10
October 31, 2020
We could all use a little encouragement right now.
I’m writing these words in late October 2020. In a few days we will wrap up the most contentious presidential election of my lifetime. Soon we will say farewell to 2020, which has been nothing like we expected.
Twelve months ago we had never heard of the Coronavirus, and we didn’t know anything about lockdowns, “flattening the curve,” or sheltering in place. I had never worn a mask in public, but now I wear one to go to the grocery store.
No wonder we feel jumpy
I can hardly blame anyone for feeling a bit worried about the future. No one knows what will happen next week, next month, next year. It feels like the national blood pressure has gone up 100 points in the last nine months.
No wonder we feel jumpy.
No wonder we worry about our safety.
No wonder we lose our temper so quickly.
As Thomas Paine famously remarked in 1776, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Though he was talking about the American Revolution, his words apply in 2020.
Where can we go to find the confidence we need? While playing a round of golf with a friend, we came to a hole featuring a huge patch of rough in front of the tee box. When my friend told me to be careful, I replied that I had confidence. He laughed and said, “You know what confidence is, don’t you? It’s your last thought before reality hits.” For some of us, reality has hit pretty hard, and our confidence is about shot.
That brings me to our text–2 Corinthians 5:6-10. Twice in this passage, Paul says, “We are confident.” Let’s see how God’s Word can give us confidence, even in these shaky times.
#1: Confident Christians Look Forward to Heaven
“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. . . . We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (vv. 6 & 8).
Where is home for you?
If you move around enough, the answer to that question will be a moving target. When I was growing up, home was a small town in Alabama. Recently Marlene and I moved for the 11th time in 46 years. That seems like a lot until you realize the Census Bureau says the average American moves 11.7 times.
Moving around so much has its benefits, such as seeing new places and meeting new people. As a result of our moves, we have friends all over the country and around the world. But the flip side is that there is a certain rootlessness to life at this point. When you move eleven times, it’s hard to know where home is.
Where is home to you?
On a trip to Atlanta, I called Marlene and left a message saying I was looking forward to coming home. I didn’t mean I was looking forward to the house where we were living. When I got home, I didn’t hug the drapes and say, “Drapes, I’m glad to see you.” I didn’t say to the rug, “Oh, rug, I missed you so much.” The house is beautiful, but it is home because the people I love live there. Home to me is where they are, and if they are not there, it doesn’t seem like home at all.
That’s the point Paul is making in these verses.
Our home isn’t in this world. Our home is somewhere else. We will never be at home in this world because we are constantly saying goodbye to the people we love the most. Our children grow up, they leave home, they come back for a visit, and all too soon they leave again. As the years pass, the visits grow more infrequent. If you are looking for a place where you won’t have to say goodbye, you won’t find it on Planet Earth. You’ll have to go somewhere else. The goodbyes of this life ought to make us homesick for heaven.
Adrian Rogers said it this way: “If you sometimes feel out of place, without roots, detached for whatever reason, take heart—that’s how homesickness feels! Your Chief Shepherd is preparing a permanent home for you in heaven, and he is waiting to see you there!”
If you don’t feel at home in the world, that’s a good sign because we are pilgrims on our way to a better place.
Chin up, child of God.
We’re marching toward heaven.
Soon we will be at home with the Lord.
#2: Confident Christians Walk by Faith, Not by Sight
“For we walk by faith, not by sight” (v. 7).
Have you taken a walk lately?
To walk means “to take a series of small steps in the same direction.” Walking by faith means something like “keep walking in the right direction, even when you’ve can’t see the final destination.” Sometimes walking can be tedious, slow, and downright boring. If you’ve got to get from Point A to Point B, walking will get you there eventually. All you have to do is start walking and don’t stop until you get there.
When Paul says we don’t walk by sight, he means that we don’t yet see what God has promised. I sometimes think about this when I visit a cemetery. If it’s an old cemetery, you can’t tell much about the people buried there. You can’t spot the scoundrels by reading the headstones because if anything is carved into the granite, it’s likely to be something nice: “Beloved husband,” “Loving mother,” or something neutral like “Rest in peace.”
Start walking and don’t stop
You can’t tell who’s who by reading the markers. Saved and lost lie side by side, six feet underground, lined up neatly in long rows.
Of necessity, we die without seeing all we have believed come true. It reminds me of the old joke: “What’s necessary for a resurrection? Answer: You have to die first.” I can’t argue with that. I’m all in favor of resurrections, but I’ve never seen one myself. All the people I’ve buried as a pastor are still in the grave.
No resurrections yet.
Walking by faith means we hang onto that little word “yet.” We don’t yet see all God has promised to his children. But we live and die believing the “yet” will come true for us.
That’s why we pray for the lost. A young woman who told me her brother was “not saved yet.” That little word “yet” makes all the difference. To say, “He is not saved” is a statement of current fact. To say, “He is not saved yet” brings God into the picture. You are speaking of things you have not yet seen.
That’s walking by faith!
Just because our loved ones are not saved today does not mean they won’t come to Christ tomorrow. Oh, we of little faith. As if man’s puny unbelief stymies God. Let us pray and believe for those who don’t know the Lord, and let us say by faith, “He is not saved yet” or “She has not come to Christ yet.”
Words matter. Say out loud what you want God to do, and then trust that he will someday turn the “yet” into glorious reality.
#3: Confident Christians Want to Please Christ
“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (v. 10).
Ambition is a strange thing.
It makes a man get up at 4 AM so he can get to the gym early. It makes a young woman spend 12 years getting medical training so she can be a heart surgeon. Ambition drives us to get up early and stay up late, and it causes us to work three jobs so we can save enough money to get married. We push ourselves beyond our normal limits to reach a goal stretching out in front of us.
The reward determines the sacrifice. Those who want to win Olympic gold train for 15 years or more. They give up everything to be the best.
Ambition is a strange thing
There is such a thing as godly ambition. That’s what Paul means when he talks about pleasing the Lord. It means seeking his pleasure above your own.
It starts with a simple desire to spent time with the Lord.
Recently we bought an Aussiedoodle puppy that we named Sadie. Although we’ve only had her for three months, it feels like she’s been part of our family forever. Wherever we go, she follows us. If I stand up, she perks up, and her head follows me to see where I’m going. If I come in from the garage, she waits for me at the first landing on the stairs. Then she waits to make sure I’m going up to the top level of our home. When Marlene and I take her for a walk, she constantly looks back at us to make sure we are keeping up. When we watch TV in our bedroom, she hops on the bed and watches it with us.
Wherever we are, that’s where she wants to be.
It’s not like we trained her to do that. She started watching us the moment we brought her home. Something in her wants to be with us. In the morning Sadie jumps on the bed to greet Marlene, and they snuggle for a while.
It’s like that all day long.
Sadie wants to be near us
We don’t have to tell Sadie to stay close to us. She does it naturally, even eagerly, because something inside her makes her want to be with us wherever we go.
A popular worship chorus says, “I just want to be where you are, dwelling daily in your presence.” Though the sentiment is very biblical, I never could connect with it very well. Sometimes my life seems more like the old refrain, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.”
A few minutes ago, Sadie wandered into my office to say hello. She does it because she wants to be with me. She honors me not simply by being in my presence, but by being so eager to see me.
Oh, to have a heart like that, to want to please my Master by spending time in his presence.
Standing at the Judgment Seat
Paul wants to please the Lord because he knows one day he must stand before the judgment seat of Christ (v. 10). Note how comprehensive this judgment is:
It includes every believer: “We must all appear.”
It cannot be avoided: “We must all appear.”
It is a personal judgment: “We must all appear.”
We all have a court date with the Lord himself. That’s one appointment you won’t miss. You and I will stand individually before the Lord Jesus Christ. We will receive what is “due” us for the life we have lived in the body. The phrase “good or bad” means something like “useful or useless.” When we stand before the Lord, we may be surprised to discover that much of our life had no eternal value.
Is your life worthless to the Lord?
This is a judgment of quality, not quantity. The preacher has no advantage over the shut-in. The richest people in heaven will no doubt be the most forgotten people on earth, not the high and mighty but the overlooked widow who never stopped praying, the teenager who shared Christ with his friends, the single mom who raised four children without complaint, the valiant missionary who left the comforts of home for the dangers of the Middle East, the unseen prayer warriors who lifted up God’s work. These are the true heroes, the real gold medal winners, the ones who will win Heaven’s Academy Awards.
I am reminded of the missionary who returned from Africa on the same ship with Teddy Roosevelt. When the ship arrived in New York harbor, thousands of cheering people lined the dock to welcome the president. When the missionary got off, there was no one to meet him. Feeling depressed and alone, he began to trudge along the street, wondering why they weren’t cheering for him. He felt depressed until he heard the Lord whisper, “Don’t worry. You’re not home yet.”
When we stand before the Lord, we will already be in heaven. The issue is not, “Are you saved?” because that’s not a matter of works but of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The question the Lord will ask will be, “What did you do with what I gave you?” He will evaluate your life and mine on how we used the talents, skills, opportunities, and open doors he put in front of us. The Lord will ask:
How did you spend the money God gave you?
How did you spend the money I gave you?
How did you use the time I gave you?
How did you encourage the people I put in front of you?
We do not need to fear that judgment, but we should not take it for granted either. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 speaks about a fiery judgment that will burn up all the wood, hay and stubble in our lives, leaving the gold, silver and precious stones of godly Christian character. The fire is not the fire of hell but the fiery gaze of Christ who cannot be fooled. His vision pierces through all hypocrisy to see the true value of what you have done with your life. He judges the enduring value of a person’s life.
What you do now determines how you will spend eternity. Nothing is wasted when we serve the Lord. Christ sees the acts of kindness others don’t notice, and they will one day be rewarded by him.
“I Have a Savior”
When I look at the world around me, I see many things that might lead me to give in to despair. We live in such strange times. If you’re looking for hope, stay off social media and stop watching the news.
But we can be confident when we focus on eternal reality:
Whether we live or die, we will be with the Lord.
While we are here, let’s serve the Lord.
One day we will stand before the Lord.
One day we will be with Christ forever!
That ought to be more than enough to make us confident as we face the future. `Have you ever offered yourself unreservedly to the Lord? Perhaps it would help you pray a prayer like this:
Lord Jesus, here I am. Use me any way you see fit. I offer you all that I have for the service of your kingdom. Put me where you want me to be. Amen.
When President Ronald Reagan was nearly assassinated in 1981, his pastor from California came to see him in the hospital in Washington, D.C. The pastor took the president’s hand and asked him, “How is it with you and the Lord?” “Everything is fine with me and the Lord,” replied Mr. Reagan. “How do you know?” The answer was simple and profound: “I have a Savior.”
That’s the difference Jesus Christ makes. When you have a Savior, you can face your death with courage and grace. Do you have a Savior? If you don’t, or if you aren’t sure, I urge you to place your life in the hands of Jesus Christ. Do it right now! Trust him as Lord and Savior. Ask him to take away your sins and to give you new life. Come to Christ, and your life will never be the same.
It won’t be long now
Be encouraged, child of God. The Lord is not so unjust as to forget your service for him. He sees all you go through. He knows about your struggles. He sees how hard the fight is, how you are sometimes tempted to quit, and how you keep going when others around you throw in the towel. When we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Lord himself will reward us if we are faithful to him now.
So the word of the Lord is this: Keep on fighting. Keep walking by faith. Keep on believing.
The best is yet to come. It won’t be long now, just a little while and the Lord himself will return, and all our struggles will be over. This hot battle won’t last forever, this long road will soon come to an end, and this old world full of “dangers, toils and snares” won’t last much longer. Hold on to your faith, child of God. Keep believing. Put on the whole armor of God. Never give up.
Live for Christ today, and you will have no regrets when he comes again.