Feb 17, 2020 • Written by Judy Episcopo
Between the aches and pains of getting out of bed every morning and having to spend more time to “cover up” the indicators of aging on my face, I am reminded that I am nearing the finish line of life.
I find it encouraging that the Apostle Paul dealt with this too. Scholars believe Paul was in his late 50’s when he wrote 2 Corinthians. I believe he was “feeling his age” when he wrote 2 Corinthians 4:16 which says, “Therefore we do not lose heart, though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
Paul’s musings on getting older don’t lead him to fear and denial, but rather take him to a vision of leaving an eternal legacy.
Reading into the next chapter, his meditations on his weary body cause him to focus on his eternal home and God’s desire for faithful stewardship.
What do I mean by faithful stewardship? Paul talks about this in 2 Corinthians 5:10. Speaking to Christ followers he says, “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.” (Also see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15.)
But how does this not contradict our belief that “we are saved by grace and not by works lest anyone should boast”?
I think this can be confusing for people, but Susie Larson in her book Fully Alive has some helpful insight. She emphasizes Jesus is all we need for salvation, but we are also called for a purpose and rewarded for stewarding that purpose well.
She says, “Jesus is enough. He didn’t save us to slave us. He saved us because He loves us. And because we love Him we learn what He cares about and we live accordingly. We are saved by grace, but we’re rewarded for stewardship.”
Susie Larson goes on to say that it matters what kind of life we live because “what God rewards reveals what’s especially close to His heart.”
Rewards from God show us what is important to Him and how we can best represent Him here on earth. Things like perseverance, compassion, prayer, faith…
And this is what Paul is reflecting on as he feels his age. He knows that he can’t give up; he is going to be held accountable to the very end.
2 Corinthians 5:11 says, “Since then we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God.”
This verse holds three keys to living a life that outlasts us.
1. The first key is “to fear the Lord.” Not fear like dread, but of jaw dropping awe…
I heard a pastor give an illustration about this. He told how he knew a man who claimed to be an atheist say that when he dies and if there is a God, the first thing he is going to do is have an argument with Him. He planned on saying, “God, you never gave me proof!”
But the Bible says there will be no arguing. Atheist, demon, and believer alike will all bow the knee when confronted by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Philippians 2:10).
A healthy awe-inspiring fear born of love of God keeps us motivated to pursue a lasting legacy that will be rewarded by God.
2. The second key communicated in this verse is in the phrase “we try to persuade men….”
Persuade implies a passion for ministry and kingdom living. This passion comes from the conviction that what we do truly matters.
Susie Larson says, “There’s not a moment of your life that has escaped His notice. That time you sobbed on the bathroom floor? He was there for you. And when you got up … and headed out the door to face your day? That’s called perseverance, and He rewards such things.”
3. Finally, this verse speaks of the importance of authenticity in our lives.
In Hebrews 4:13, the Bible reminds us that everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of God. We are fully revealed in all we are, and Paul remarks that nothing is secret before God. This propels him to live life with a clear conscious and nothing to hide.
Unfortunately, there have been many ministers of the Gospel who have fallen from their reputation. They have had their damaging secret sins exposed. If this has not ruined their ministry, it has ruined their legacy. In order to leave a legacy of righteousness, we must live authentically before God and man.
I don’t know about you, but as I get older the Apostle Paul’s words and experiences motivate me and push me beyond discouragement and defeat: Fear God in love, believe and be passionate about God at work in your life, and live in authenticity.