"Well-pleasing to Him"

Report of an address given at a gathering of young Christians at Leeds on Oct 22nd 1932 on 2 Corinthians 5

That may not appear to be a very suitable Scripture to read and speak from at a gathering of young Christians. What with the dissolution of this tabernacle, our body, in which we are said to groan, and the desire to be absent from it, and the word in the previous chapter about the outward man perishing, it does indeed seem to be an old man's chapter, and so it is, but what is good for the old is good for the young, and Scripture adapts itself to every state and phase of spiritual life and growth. Young as some of you are there is one sentence in it that I know will appeal to your heart if you love the Saviour; it is verse 9, and I will read it as it ought to be. "Wherefore we labour that whether present or absent we may be well-pleasing to Him." That is my text. The "Him" of it is the One who died for you, your Saviour and your Lord. You will all agree with me when I say that we could have no higher and more blessed aim or ambition in life than that, and also that we ought not to have a lesser one. No life can be right and successful that has not the right aim, and this is the Christian's right aim, to be well-pleasing to his Lord. The life that has this aim will be a happy life; it will be a life moreover that will be useful and full of blessing for others, and most and best of all, it will glorify the Lord. Truly this aim must be yours; you will be hopeless and miserable failures if it is not, and we do not want you to be that. You must labour to be well-pleasing to Him, there are a thousand reasons why you must.

Now Paul, the writer of the Epistle, speaking for himself and his fellows, says, We labour to be well-pleasing to Him. We realize as we read the words that this is not a mere pastime, something about which we may be more or less indifferent, and take it up and put it down as the mood takes us. Paul was zealous about it; it was his great purpose in life and to it he bent all the vigour of his saved and devoted soul. It must be so with you if you are to make anything of this Christian living, for of a truth if you are not well-pleasing to Him, you will please nobody worth considering, and if you are to please Him you will have to labour for it. And that rules out other objects and pursuits; it means a bending of all your energies to this purpose.

If you are to do this you must, of course, be free from all anxious thought about yourself. Some of you may not yet have the assurance of salvation. You are happy sometimes, in the gospel meetings for instance, when the Name of Jesus is sweetly proclaimed, but at other times you are just as miserable and uncertain. If that is the case with any of you, you cannot labour to be well-pleasing to Him, for you are self-centred and thinking of your own blessing, and quite right too, until that question is a settled one with you. Look at the end of our chapter, "God has made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." That wonderful statement ought to satisfy your anxious longings and still your fears. In amazing love to us God made Christ, our great Substitute, all that we were in our sinfulness, when He suffered for us on the cross, that we might become all that He is in righteousness now before God. He was charged with our guilt, for the Lord has laid on Him the iniquities of us all, but more than that, He was made sin for us. He suffered for what we were as well as for what we had done, that there might not remain one stroke of judgment for us either because of what we were or had done, but that we might be received into everlasting favour. And now for all who believe it is true, that though they were lost and vile indeed, to every sin a prey, and could do nothing else but sin because of the very nature that was in them, yet now as a result of and on the basis of that great sin offering they are made the very righteousness of God in Christ. God will be able to say to the intelligent universe, "If you want to see My righteousness, the way I can act in blessing in complete consistency with My eternal justice, look at those who were once in their sins and Satan's slaves, but are now in Christ before Me." If you are in Christ there is no condemnation for you, you stand in grace and favour before God, favour which is as changeless as God Himself. Consider that great statement well, pray that you may understand it, and cast away your doubts and fears for ever.

Questions as to the future may trouble you and prevent you from labouring to be well-pleasing to your Lord, you may be afraid of the changes that such an aim and purpose might involve you in. You don't know what His will might mean for you, and you shrink from wholly yielding to it. Well, the beginning of the chapter describes the greatest of all changes in our lives.

"If our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." The greatest of all changes means the greatest of all blessings, and every other change in our lives which shall be according to God's will, will bring to us fresh blessing. We speak with absolute and unshakable confidence as to the final change; we cry with exultation, "We know," and we may have the same assurance as to every other change, for it is written, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose." You then, young Christian, may look back on the past and view it in true Christian peace. You may face the future and press on to it in this blessed Christian confidence, and free from all anxiety and fear labour to be well-pleasing to your Lord,

But others say, "These are not the questions that trouble me, what hinders me, and what I deeply deplore is my coldness of heart. I never loved the Lord very well, but I seem to have lost what little love I had, and how can I labour to be well-pleasing to Him when my heart is cold and fickle." Look again at our chapter, verse 14 says, "For the love of Christ constrains us." This love of Christ only will avail to rekindle the divine embers of love to Him in any heart, but it is enough. This love constrained Paul to labour and endure the most extraordinary suffering, and it will act in like manner in you if you will let it. I hope you all read Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, especially the second part of that immortal story; in it you will find much profitable talk, and especially from the mouth of Greatheart, the warrior pilgrim. Well, when in that story old Honest desired to join the pilgrim band, he had to give an account of himself to them, and he said, "I come from the town of Stupidity, it lies about four degrees beyond the city of Destruction."

"I have often wondered," remarked Greatheart, "that any should come from your place; for your town is worse than is the city of Destruction."

"Yes," said old Honest, "we lie more off the sun, and so are more cold and senseless. But were a man in a mountain of ice, yet if the Sun of Righteousness will rise upon him, his frozen heart shall feel a thaw, and THUS IT HATH BEEN WITH ME."

"I believe it, father Honest, I believe it," cried Greatheart, "for I know the thing is true."

That is it: let but one ray of the love of Christ into your heart and it will thaw its iciness, and warm its coldness, and it will operate in constraining power, and you will not desire to live to yourself but to Him who died for you and rose again. The love of Christ! What a theme it is! How tender yet how strong it is! It passes knowledge, and you can say, He "loved me and gave Himself for me"!

Yet still you plead your weakness; you have the desire, but how to realize it you know not. Turn again to our chapter. Verse 5 tells us that God has wrought us for the glory, for that magnificent destiny that the first verse describes, and it also tells us that He has given to us the earnest of His Spirit. The Spirit of God dwells in you, to make the love of Christ a present and living reality to you and to foster your desires to be well-pleasing to your Lord, labouring with that object in view. You are not cast upon your natural powers for that would be vain indeed; the Spirit is in you as the power by which Christ strengthens you to do His will, and the Spirit does not work in vain.

Now to be well-pleasing to any person you must know him, and it is even so with your Lord, and you cannot know Him intimately and well if you do not spend much time with Him. You must live to Him and not to yourself. I am sure you will gladly admit the rightness of that, for if He died for you that you might live the life you live should be to and for Him. I am not talking now so much of your service, though He does appreciate your service. It pleases the Lord when a young brother stands up and out of a full heart tells what a dear Saviour he has found, and when a young sister gathers a few children about her to tell them of Him, but this must flow from acquaintance with Him if it is to have its full value in His eyes. Do you remember that when He chose His apostles, it was not that He might send them forth to preach, first of all, but that they might be with Him; the preaching followed that. We are well-pleasing to Him when we desire His company above all things else and when His love is better to us than wine. John was well-pleasing to the Lord when he put his head down upon His bosom, and he was not an old grey haired brother when he did that; he was the youngest of the disciples, and as far as we can make out, not more than twenty at the time. He found his solace in a time of trouble on that breast, in which the tenderest heart in the universe beats, and when the great test came and all the older brethren fled, this youth of twenty with a few women stood by the cross of Jesus. And his Lord was able to trust him, to entrust to him his mother, a most precious legacy, for to him, and not to Peter, He said, "Son, behold thy mother." Put your head on His bosom, there is room for it there and as you do you will live to Him; you will be His friend and He will be able to trust you and when the test comes you will witness, and when the opportunity arrives you will serve, and your witness and service will be well-pleasing to Him. Yes, in these smoky, sordid West Riding towns with their sin and sorrow and misery, you will be well-pleasing to Him.

Finally, the time is coming when He will show us everything as He sees it. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad" (v. 10). The review will take place and we shall all stand face to face with our Lord at last, and give an account to him as to how we have lived. And some of you say, "I don't like the thought of the judgment seat of Christ; it makes me tremble." Well it may not do you any harm to tremble a little; it may indeed be good for you and make you seek the Lord more truly now and learn the infinite efficacy of His one sacrifice that gives a purged conscience and peace with God even in view of the judgment seat of Christ. And if His love with you is made perfect, you will have boldness in the day of judgment because as He is so are you in this world.

You will see everything in that day as He sees it, and you shall know as you are known; and it will give Him great joy to show His approval of all that has pleased Him in your life and to put the crown on your brow, which you will cast with gratitude and adoration at His feet. How glad you'll be to have a crown to cast before Him then, then see to it that you labour for it now. There will be much that will not bear His scrutiny. The wood, hay and stubble will all be burnt up, and everything will be lost that has not been well-pleasing to Him. Yes, with some there may be days, weeks, months, perhaps years of life — all lost.

I was asked to visit a young man. He had professed the Saviour's Name as a boy, but when in his teens the world put in a claim for him and he yielded to it, and lived for sport and pleasure and forgot the Lord, and at twenty-nine he was dying of consumption. He was unresponsive to anything that I could say; the world had cast its chilly blight upon his soul and he seemed insensible to the Word. But that night or the next, he awoke out of his sleep in a state of great excitement. And after a while he told his wife the cause of it. He had dreamt that he was in an exhibition of wood carving work. He was himself an expert in that branch of art, and many fine pieces of his own were there. Suddenly the building burst into flames and he managed to escape almost miraculously through a window, and only just in time, for the whole structure collapsed and buried in its ruins every bit of work in it. No wonder he was excited, for he saw the meaning of his dream. His life was like that. He was going into heaven truly, his soul was saved, but all his life was lost. The thought filled him with regret. He might have lived those dozen years well-pleasing to the Lord, but he had wasted them, they were lost years. It is true that his soul was restored, for the grace of the Lord is unbounded, but the joy was mingled with sorrow. A friend called to see him and he said, "It is kind of you to come and see me, but don't stay. I am going to spend my eternity with Jesus, and I know so little about Him; I want to spend all the time I can with Him now." In a few days he went home, through the merits of the Saviour's blood, but he left his wasted years behind, all lost.

O gracious and living Lord, grant in Thine infinite grace that not one here shall have that bitter experience, but may we, whatever our past has been, live henceforth not to ourselves but to Thee, and so be well-pleasing to Thee. For Thy dear Name's sake. Amen.