Many aspects of our life are measured by others.
As children, we regularly received ‘report cards’ from our teachers, who were evaluating our progress with schoolwork. I recall many swimming ‘tests’ to determine whether I would advance to the next level of instruction. It is my understanding that, in the business world, annual reviews of employee ‘performance’ are the norm.
Whether formally, or informally, it seems that we spend much of our life being evaluated by others. Would it surprise you to hear me say then, that there is a sense in which God evaluates us?
I don’t mean to suggest that God is like the employer conducting the annual review. Nor do I want you to imagine God as the strict school teacher grading our every move. But, at the same time, it needs to be noted that our progress, or lack thereof, as a follower of Jesus is no small matter to God.
This is what Paul says to Timothy:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
There is a lot going on in that single verse of Scripture. Let’s unpack some of that here.
“Do your best” — If we regard ourselves as a follower of Jesus, half-measures will not do. Maximum effort is required.
Paul also says that we “present” before God for a kind of “approval”. What does this “present” look like in a relationship that is grounded in grace and not performance (see Ephesians 2:8)? Perhaps an illustration will help. A sixteen-year-old approaches their parent wanting to borrow the car. The answer/approval of the parent does not relate to the love the parent has for their child. The answer depends largely upon the teen’s capacity to operate the vehicle safely. In a similar way, the “approval” that Paul speaks of is not a statement about whether or not God loves us. Rather, we see in this text, the “approval” relates to our abilities as a “workman” for God.
Paul goes on to talk about how, in a given household, some items are used for noble purposes while other items are for common use (see 2 Timothy 2:20,21). This brings Paul’s main point into focus. If, by grace, we are a follower of Jesus, then our status as a child of God is never in doubt. In that sense there are no more evaluations. Jesus ‘took the test’ on our behalf and His perfect score is credited to our account. What remains to be seen, however, is what kind of “instrument” we will be. What remains to be seen is the degree to which we are useful for God’s purposes. In other words, What Will Our Impact Be?
According to what Paul says, our impact in this world will depend largely upon our ability to “cut straight” the Word of God. Yes, our usefulness to God is related to our capacity to think biblically. This is how Timothy will be measured. This is how every follower of Jesus will be measured.
In Christ, we have been redeemed. By grace, we are children of God. This foundation is rock solid. But how we will build upon that foundation? Will we effectively use the materials made available to us?
How we answer these questions will determine our IMPACT in this world.