So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. – 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 ESV
Why do you do the things you do? Most likely, it is either to please yourself or to please someone else. We are either motivated by self-satisfaction or some form of people-pleasing. We are out to make ourselves feel good or to ensure that others feel good about us. But Paul introduces another motivating factor for the believer: Pleasing God. More than anything else, we should desire to do what pleases Him. And Paul knew that a life of holiness, living set apart and consecrated to God and His purposes, was what pleased God. He wrote to the Thessalonicans: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” (1 Thessalonians 4:3a ESV). God desires His people to be holy and distinctively different in their behavior. He wants to them live according to His will and in keeping with the godly guidance of His indwelling Holy Spirit.
The apostle Peter described as life of holiness as “doing good”. He wrote, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15 ESV). He went on to say that we must abstain from certain ungodly behaviors such as sexual immorality and lustful passions. But while we “put off” unrighteousness, we must “put on” godliness. Peter went on to say, “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 ESV). To refuse to live a holy life is to disregard the very will of God for you. It is to willingly disobey and displease Him. But Paul insists that he makes it his aim to please God. That was how he was able to maintain his motivation to do the right thing even when he got the wrong reaction. He was able to endure injustice and abuse even when he was doing exactly what God had called him to do. Because his real goal was to please God, not man. Peter claimed that suffering was to be an expected part of living a godly life. “But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:20-21 ESV). Just as Christ suffered for doing what was right and godly, so shall we. We should not be surprised when living godly in an ungodly world brings godless reactions from ungodly people.
But Paul was of good courage. Even though he found life on earth to be difficult at times, he was encouraged by the knowledge that this life was not all there was. He believed in a life to come. He lived by faith, not sight. Like the writer of Hebrews, he knew that faith was “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV). And he knew that faith was essential if anyone wanted to live a life that pleased God, because “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV).
Paul received courage from the fact that God had promised Him eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. He received courage from the promise of Jesus that He would one day return. He received courage from the promise of a redeemed and resurrected body. And he longed for the day when he would be able to vacate his earthly “tent” and move into his new body, a “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (1 Corinthians 5:1b ESV). But in the meantime, while he waited for the return of Christ or his own death, he made it his aim to live his life in such a way that it pleased God. That meant he had to stop trying to please others or doing what brought pleasure to himself alone. And Paul knew that there was a day coming when his actions or deeds would be judged by God. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (1 Corinthians 5:10 ESV). On that day, every believer’s conduct in this life will be judged – every thought, action, attitude, and word will be exposed. Everything we have done since the day we accepted Christ as Savior will be assessed and evaluated as to whether is was good or evil. This has nothing to do with judgment for sin, because all our sins have been paid for by Christ. It is about whether what we have done in this life since coming to faith in Christ was godly or ungodly, righteous or unrighteous, pleasing or displeasing to God. Did we live our lives in keeping with His will? His will is our holiness. So was that our motivating factor? Was pleasing Him our aim? Our actions and attitudes will reveal whether it was or not. How we lived our life will expose whether we were trying to please Him or whether we were living to please ourselves or others. Paul’s aim was to please God – even in this life. He made it his life-long objective to do the will of God, to live holy, set apart – doing good even when it produced less-than-good outcomes. He lived by faith, not by sight; trusting in the reality of what he hoped for, yet couldn’t see: Heaven and his resurrected body. Paul actually looked forward to the judgment seat of Christ, because he was confident that his aim in life was to please God. He was attempting to do the will of God, not men. He was striving to please God, not himself. And while that kind of lifestyle might result in troubles and tribulations in this life, it promised rewards in the life to come and the promise of hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21 ESV).