This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:1-5 ESV)
It's always valuable to spend time evaluating where we're at. I'm not talking about something that your GPS will find. Instead, I mean the occasional spiritual check-up that we do to measure our intimacy, affection, and faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Not that we have arrived, but is there a growing hunger and thirst for God, and is this being lived out in obedience to His Word? This isn’t psychological mumbo-jumbo, it’s biblical to examine and test ourselves (see 2 Corinthians 13:5-6). This is especially effective at the end of one year and the beginning of new one.
In one sense, as we grow in Christ, we will echo the words of the apostle Paul when he writes that he is “the foremost sinner.” It’s not that we are sinning more and more—spiraling out of control. No, through viewing ourselves in the mirror of Scripture in a more consistent and deeper way, we more clearly see the indwelling sin that has been there all along. We come to despise the old man that so often raises his repulsive face within us to oppose the eternal God. A real loathing overcomes us as we grow up in Christ and we long to get out of our skin and to be clothed in immortality.
Near the end of his life, Samuel Davies, the “apostle of Virginia” of the 1700’s, wrote: “Formerly I have wished to live longer, that I might be better prepared for heaven; but this consideration had very very little weight with me, and that for a very unusual reason, which was this: - after long trial I found this world a place so unfriendly to the growth of every thing divine and heavenly, that I was afraid if I should live any longer, I should be no better fitted for heaven than I am. Indeed I have hardly any hopes of ever making any great attainment in holiness while in this world, though I should be doomed to stay in it as long as Methuselah. I see other Christians indeed around me make some progress, though they go on with but a snail-like motion. But when I consider that I set out about twelve years old, and what sanguine hopes I then had of my future progress, and yet that I have been almost at a stand ever since, I am quite discouraged. O my good Master, if I may dare call thee so, I am afraid I shall never serve thee much better on this side the regions of perfection. The thought grieves me; it breaks my heart, but I can hardly hope better. But if I have the least spark of true piety in my breast, I shall not always labour under this complaint. No, my Lord I shall yet serve thee; serve thee through an immortal duration; with the activity, the fervor, the perfection of the ‘rapt seraph that adores and burns.’”
This is a lot to try to digest. Bottom line, Samuel Davies was not content with the growth that had taken place thus far in his life … not comparing himself with his generation (he was among the elite Christian leaders of his day), but Davies took the perspective of sizing himself up to an infinite and holy God. He was 34 at the time he wrote this and only lived another four years.
So, the first step in our evaluation is to gauge how we measure up against God’s holy standard. It is a good indication of the Spirit’s productive work in us to be frustrated with and abhor our besetting sins. If we are OK with the status quo or even comfortable with our accomplishments from the year that is about to end, then I would say we are holding an inflated and inaccurate opinion of ourselves—a view that is saturated with pride.
In Paul’s lifetime he also communicated a second important truth to factor in as we consider self-evaluation and that is that none of us are able to accurately and fully judge ourselves. To the Corinthians he wrote: “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”
Paul was sure of God’s ultimate and clear judgment of us all. He was not willing to rush into pronouncing condemnation or giving praise to himself or anyone else. Paul reserved this overwhelming responsibility to the Lord and was careful to not loiter too long in navel-gazing. His recommendation was to live with a clear conscience before God, having the conscience directed and informed by Scripture, but not to obsess over it. Write down some lessons learned and areas needing improvement, and then move on.
As we close out 2011, take time to reflect over the events, attitudes, and habits that color the pages of this chapter of your life. Ask the Lord to help you evaluate all of this based on His Word. Then, with that knowledge in hand, move on into 2012 forgetting what is behind, not allowing the baggage of 2011 hinder your running of the race; AND remember “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV).