How do you evaluate your life and ministry? Who do you listen to? I’m sure Paul had a lot of critics, a lot voices giving him advice. But the voice he listened to the most was the Lord’s. He tried to always follow Him and do what He said. All other voices were of less importance. In the matter of faithfulness to his ministry, here is what Paul wrote to the Corinthian church:
1 Corinthians 4:3-5
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
By the context here Paul is talking about judging whether he has been a faithful steward of the mysteries of God (what the truth of the Bible is). And, as we can see, he really didn’t regard other’s criticisms of his ministry very highly. It didn’t matter much to him what others thought of him, good or bad; because he knew he was ultimately accountable only to God. I’m sure Paul listened to people, but in the end he knew that only what God would judge would be important.
Paul didn’t even regard his own opinion of himself as being important; he didn’t entirely trust it. He thought that he had done everything right, but being human, he didn’t entirely trust his own judgment.
I think the reason why Paul was saying this about himself was because he knew that we all tend to be biased: we all look at things from our own point of view, and being human we all think just a little too highly of ourselves. In the end Paul is well aware that God may see some failures that he doesn’t see, and so he thinks that it is quite possible that he may be deceived about himself.
Wow, if that is true of Paul, I’m sure it is true of how I see myself. I wonder how many wrong roads I have gone down that I thought were right. I wonder how many thoughts about myself have been totally off. Well, only God knows. But in the end we will all know.
What Paul is saying here is that God is really our only judge. What other say about us is perhaps of some value but His judgment is the only true and correct judgment—because He sees everything, every hidden motive, everything in out heart. His light sees all and we will receive what is due us whether of praise or of rebuke, of reward or of loss (1 Cor. 3:14-15).
So what should be our application to this? Here is what it is for me: it is not so important what others say of me or even what I may think of myself. It is all important what God sees in my life and what He wants to say to me. I should always listen to what others say to me, and also listen to myself, but I should always know that no voice is entirely trustworthy. In the end God alone will be my judge. And because that is true, I should do whatever I can now to listen to Him and understand what He is saying to me so that I can correct any flaws in my character.