The Bēma Seat of Christ & Habits of Highly Effective People
An enduring favorite in the library of business leadership books is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. For our C12 East Valley meeting on April 12, the first three habits provide the basis for our segment, Working on my Ministry in God’s Business. The habits are (my order):
- Begin with the end in mind
- Put first things first
- Be proactive
Great habits, but why are these principles included in a ministry discussion? When we look at the biblical text reference, 2 Corinthians 5:1-15, we see all of these principles in action! Observe Saint Paul’s application of the Covey habits:
Begin with the End in Mind
For Paul, the end happens when Christ returns and all of Christ’s followers are resurrected and appear before the Bēma Seat of Christ. For many of you, like my wife, who do not know what a “bēma seat” is, let me explain. It is a raised platform upon which a throne or chair is placed to address an assembly. In 2 Corinthians 5:10, bēma refers to the seat of judgment on which Christ will sit to judge the resurrected people of God after his second coming. That judgment will take place before the whole assembly of Christians. During Christ’s judgment, a believer’s salvation is not in question, but his works while he was on earth will be judged. All must appear before Christ. The passage opens up the possibility that a believer’s actions may displease God. In the passage, Paul asserts that what Christ judges is the believer’s response to the Gospel message. Christ judges the believer’s life, habitual action and heart towards the Gospel. The judgment is not an evaluation of all of the believer’s individual acts, but rather the believer’s reception and execution of Paul’s Gospel.
The end for Paul is the Bema Seat of Christ. Paul focuses on coming before Christ and being rewarded for his faithful delivery of Christ’s Gospel. He aligns his actions with this end in mind.
As a Christian, we are challenged by the idea of being judged by Christ. Yet, Paul welcomes Christ’s judgment. He yearns for Christ’s second coming, the Parousia, and for the judgment of those who were resurrected. Paul welcomes judgment because he devotes his life to the Gospel and he desires to be rewarded for his service. Not only does Paul welcome judgment, he is motivated by the ultimate end. He wants to reach as many people as possible before Christ returns. He desires all of the Corinthians to be present, witnessing his work being judged.
Put First Things First
Unlike the anticipated appearance before Christ, Paul is judged harshly by the Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 5:1-15 describes “super Apostles” or “super missionaries” challenging Paul’s authority to share the Gospel as an Apostle. The “super religious” consider his ministry to be second class. Then, the Corinthians challenge his authority to teach the Gospel because he cannot demonstrate an ecstatic experience of the Spirit, he is not an impressive orator, he lacks a forceful personality, he is weak personally, and he depends on others. The Corinthians do not buy Paul’s belief that in his weakness he illustrates Christ’s Gospel. The Corinthians prefer super Apostles.
How often as business owners are we challenged on our faithful execution of our commitment to Christ? Purists consider our efforts in the capitalistic marketplace to be flawed. One cannot really do ministry and business at the same time. A business leader’s call to ministry is somehow a second class calling. Then, people make the charge that your business decisions are not very “Christ like.” Paul faces similar charges from the Corinthians. Paul is not “religious” enough.
Paul’s response to criticism is to maintain clarity concerning God’s call—to put first things first.
For Paul, his ministry receives God’s approval and the valuation of men is not of first importance. His ministry is not self-authenticated or community-approved, but God-ordained. A business owner must sense a call to engage in ministry, because ministry complicates and increases the complexity of day to day operations. It is much easier to operate without a call to ministry. Self-authentication of ministry in business does not make economic or operational sense! Seeking authentication from others—fellow Christians, secular associates, employees, or society at large—seems futile and destined for criticism. Only God calls business owners into business ministry. Like Paul, we should have a clear conscience before those we serve. Author R.P. Martin speaks of this in his commentary on 2 Corinthians:
If Paul could stand before God in clear conscience, then what does he have to hide or cover up (or overcome) in the eyes of the Corinthians? Furthermore, if the fear of the Lord is well entrenched in Paul’s mind and heart, why would he do anything to jeopardize his standing before God by preaching a false Gospel before men? (Martin, 1986)
Paul’s experience with the Corinthian church is not pleasant. His interaction with them is a constant feud. He tries to correct their behavior. All he gets is push-back. Corinth is no Philippi. We would all understand Paul leaving Corinth to the “super Apostles” and retiring to Philippi. However, Paul presses ahead. With the end in sight and Christ’s Gospel put first, Paul engages the Corinth church proactively to make sure that they receive the true Gospel of Christ in spite of their obstinacy. For Paul, proactive action entails living out of God’s love, through Jesus Christ, with a total dedication to the service of others. Regardless of how difficult the Corinthians are, Paul argues, writes letters, visits, challenges, disparages false apostles, suffers trials, experiences profound weakness and inadequacy, and ultimately, suffers death to deliver God’s Gospel of salvation in Christ. Paul never lets things come to him or allows obstacles to shut him down.
In sharing the Gospel with the world, Paul takes charge in an exceptionally proactive manner.
To model the life of Saint Paul in our life and business, as demonstrated in 2 Corinthians 5:1-15, we should begin with the end in mind, keep Christ and his call on our life first, and engage in our call proactively. Perhaps we should call these, The Three Habits of Highly Effective Christians! At C12 Group East Valley, we affirm God’s call on our lives and businesses and proactively develop exceptional businesses with Christ’s Bēma Seat guiding our actions. See you next Tuesday.
 Martin, R.P. (1986). Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 40, 2 Corinthians. Waco, Texas: Word Books