2 Corinthians 5:10 – For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (NIV)
It began with a typical Sunday afternoon in 1959 when I was 12 years old. We had company, and the house was bustling with noisy children playing and adults talking, women's voices in concert with the men's. At some point amid the fun and laughter, I suddenly froze with the sickening realization that I had forgotten about an essay that was due in the morning — a character study from the book Treasure Island — an assignment that I had put off and was now facing the consequences of going to school with my homework not done!
I knew I couldn't do it after our company left, because staying up past bedtime was not allowed. So, I did the only thing I could do: I got a sheet of paper and a pen and sat down at the kitchen table. Trying to ignore the noise and movement and interruptions around me, I dashed off a character study of Long John Silver.
I didn't have time to polish it or edit it, and I felt guilty handing it in the next day, knowing how little time I had spent on it.
On Tuesday, I sat in my English class, waiting for our teacher, Mr. Robert Robertson, to come in. The minute he stepped through the door, the class hushed its chatter. We could see we were all in trouble. Instead of his usual smile, there was a set jaw and a very stern expression on our teacher's face.
He strode into the room and dropped a pile of papers on his desk; we recognized them immediately as our essays.
Without so much as a "good morning", he started berating us for our lack of effort. He was a beloved teacher, and his keen disappointment in us was deeply felt!
After scolding us until we were all shrunk down into our seats, he paused and picked up the top paper. Without changing the tone of his voice he said, "Let me read you one of your essays!"
He began reading, and to my utter humiliation, it was my paper he was reading.
I hardly heard the words that I had so hastily written. I wished the floor would open up and swallow me. I wished I were invisible. I wished I had never been born! I felt ill. My head was filled with ice. My emotions washed over me in sickening waves!
When finally he had finished reading, he slapped the paper back down on his desk and exclaimed, "Now, if one of you can write like that, there is no excuse for the rest of you!"
I could never put into words the emotion I felt then, from utter humiliation to bewildered exaltation!
It was a worst/best moment!
I was recently reminded of this childhood experience and the teacher I loved, who taught me more about writing than any other. And then I thought about that day when we are all going to be waiting in another "class", waiting for our name to be called to stand before the Judge on the Great White Throne, knowing He is about to read our "works" aloud for all to hear.
I know we will wait, full of trepidation, wishing that we had put more effort into our "works of righteousness". How we will wish that we could boast of great and mighty accomplishments!
Our hearts will faint within us when we see His glory and majesty, and we will be filled with humiliation, knowing the small offering we have to bring before Him. We will hang our heads in shame that we did not put more effort into our earthly walk, that we did not focus more on what was of eternal value, on what great things we could have accomplished for Him!
The things that we did that seemed praiseworthy in the eyes of men — even the things that gave us a feeling of satisfaction or pride of accomplishment — are not the things that will be praiseworthy in that divine courtroom.
I believe that it will be things that we did out of obedience to His divine promptings, even things we said and did that we forgot as soon as the moment passed, that He will approve of. I think we will be astonished when God looks at us and says, "This, this, is what I praise you for! This is what pleased Me! This is what made you a good and faithful servant!"
That moment truly will be the worst/best moment of our lives!
Prayer: Lord, enable us to live whatever we have left of this life in such a way that we will be able to hear Your words of commendation: "Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord." In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.