2 Corinthians 5:9; 8:21; 13:11
1. One of the facts of life is that we go where our hearts have already arrived. Where we set our ambitions, what we make it our aim to do, will determine the outcome of our lives.
2. That, of course, makes what we aim for a very practical matter.
a. Some of us aim for nothing. We refuse to settle the question of what our lives are really all about. We are like driftwood carried along by the current of fashion or happenstance.
b. Some of us aim for the wrong things. Our ambitions are tuned to that which either cannot last or may hurt ourselves and others, and they will inevitably bring us to disappointment.
c. Some of us simply aim too low. It’s not that our hearts have arrived in places which are dark and destructive, it’s just that we make ourselves at home with so much less than the purpose for which we were made.
3. Second Corinthians is about surviving hardship and difficulty, soaring above criticism and opposition, and serving faithfully and fruitfully by making it your aim to do three things that will take your life where it needs to go.
1. Aim to please the Lord. “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9).
a. More important than where we go, or who we go with, or what activity we engage in, or how we do it, is why. Who is it that we are trying to please? Whose approval are we after? Who are we wanting to satisfy?
i. It could be ourselves. We are so used to having it our way and suiting ourselves that we can start thinking that’s all that counts. “I like it” can become the complete explanation of our lives.
ii. It could be the people around us. It wouldn’t be the first time. Pilate made a choice because he wanted to satisfy the crowd (Mk. 15:15). Paul made reference to the possibility of trying to please man (Gal. 1:10). We all know how strong the temptation to seek the approval of our peers can be.
b. We should, however, make it our aim to please the Lord.
i. The apostle went ahead to say it in Gal. 1:10. I cannot be a servant of Christ by trying to please somebody else. I must seek his approval, not someone else’s, and do what pleases him (cf. 1 Jn. 3:22).
ii. The context reminds us that aiming to please him is part of what it means to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). It’s what we want to do because we love him and trust him.
iii. And it’s what must be done because “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10). Then we will want to have lived with his approval!
c. The benefits of this one priority–the aim to, above all else, please the Lord–are illustrated by this letter.
i. A person who makes it his aim to please the Lord is “always of good courage” (2 Cor. 5:6,8). He has already decided what matters most to him. He can endure hardship or criticism or disappointment which he may encounter in the form of opponents or circumstances.
ii. That person’s life has a certain “simplicity and godly sincerity” about it (2 Cor. 1:12; 2:17). He is able to live out in the open because he understands that the one he wants to please already knows anyhow. He doesn’t get entangled in distractions because his focus is pleasing the one who enlisted him (1 Tim. 2:4).
iii. And that individual’s respect for the Lord he wants to please becomes a powerful motive that enables him to do so much good and to be a rich blessing in the lives of many other people (2 Cor. 5:11). The apostle explained, “But just as we have been approved of God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Th. 2:4).
d. The mention of the possibility of having such an aim has some implications we should not miss.
i. The Lord can be pleased; he is not some petty tyrant looking to fly off the handle at us. He takes pleasure in his family (Heb. 13:16).
ii. We can know how to go about pleasing him; it’s not a dark secret known only by a few of the initiated. The Lord has made himself known (1 Th. 4:1).
iii. The things that please him are not beyond us (cf. Mic. 6:7-8); they are things we can do. Aim high! Make it your aim to please the Lord.
2. Aim at what is honorable in the sight of people. “For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man” (2 Corinthians 8:21).
a. The way this is said puts some important things in proper perspective.
i. We’re not asked to have regard for how things appear to people instead of how they look to the Lord, but because of our prior aim to please the Lord.
ii. The verse is discussing, not what is to be taught or believed or done when the church comes together, but how the work is carried out.
iii. The example it sets for us is not one of “pleasing people,” but of thinking about, and taking pains to do, what is good and honest to any fair-minded person as we go about our work.
b. If it said “aim at what pleases people,” we who aim to please God would surely fail.
i. One reason is that not everyone will like what pleases God. Some even hated Jesus, the one who could say, “I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (Jn. 8:29).
ii. Another reason is that we are still people. We all know something of our own lack of ability to make things turn out like we intended.
iii. The third reason is that others are still people, too. Some of them are a lot better at identifying what they don’t like than they are at recognizing what they should respect!
c. But we can, and we must, aim at what is honorable in everybody’s sight.
i. We are to try to please everyone in the sense of not giving offense that would close their hearts to the gospel that can save them (1 Cor. 10:33).
ii. Here in 2 Corinthians, having this aim caused the apostle to arrange for the money to be taken to Jerusalem in such a manner that no one could make any allegation of impropriety; everybody would be able to see that the entire project was handled in a completely honest manner.
iii. His “aiming at what is honorable” had the effect of both encouraging the generosity of the church and discouraging the critics. Aim high! Give thought to what is honorable in the sight of people.
3. Aim for being the person you should be. “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).
a. “Aim for restoration” is a term that has not been easy to translate.
i. In this case it has been put “be perfect” (KJV), “be perfected” (ASV), “aim for perfection” (NIV), “be made complete” (NASB), “put things in order” (NRSV), and then how we have it here.
ii. The word means literally “restore yourselves” (Nestle and Marshall). It’s used of mending nets in Mk. 1:19, and it’s translated “restore” in Gal. 6:1.
iii. A dictionary of Bible words explains, “It does not necessarily imply, however, that [what is speaking of] has been damaged, though it may do so....it signifies, rather, right ordering and arrangement...it points out the path of progress...” (Vine, 174, 175).
b. We can see, then, what the apostle is saying.
i. This is a call for all who read this letter to mend their ways, to move along the way of righteousness, and become the best persons they can be.
ii. It is not an overwhelming demand for a perfection that lies beyond any of us.
iii. It is an invitation to aim at seeing to it that things are well with our souls, that we are whole people, mature in the Lord.
c. The other phrases he uses in the verse give us some idea what such a person will look like.
i. “Rejoice” (which may also be translated “farewell”)
ii. “Comfort one another” (a term which also means “heed my appeal”)
iii. “Agree with one another” (lit. “the same thing think”)
iv. “Live in peace”
v. “The God of love and peace will be with you”
1. That last phrase is an encouragement to anyone who will aim at what this letter calls for us to aim for.
a. We will experience times when we feel we have fallen short, but they does not mean our aim has been misplaced.
b. It’s just an illustration of why we so much need the God portrayed in 2 Corinthians.
i. We rely on the God who raises the dead (1:9; 4:14).
ii. He is the God who comforts the downcast (7:6).
iii. He is the God who makes his power perfect through weakness (12:9-10; 13:4).
c. Is he your God ? (Cf. 12:21)
2. Life is precious. Aim high! Aim to please the Lord. Aim at what is honorable in the sight of people. Aim for the complete person you were meant to be.