“Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” — 1 Corinthians 4:5 (NASB)
God is so misunderstood. Many of God’s dearly loved children think that He is always looking for things that they are doing wrong so that he has more material to punish them for. They seem somehow convinced that their hearts are inherently evil, despite the Bible telling us that by turning to Jesus we have been given new hearts and new spirits (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26). In the verse above, there is an unexpected twist. The Apostle Paul tells us that there will be a time when God brings to light the things hidden in darkness in our hearts. This is where those who do not have a clear concept of God as a genuinely loving father start sensing the wrath that is about to be revealed.
But instead of talk of wrath, Paul talks of praise. And this not praise of God, but praise from God of what is hidden in our hearts. The secret motives of good that are there. Praise for the compassion we have for people. Praise for our desire to do good. Praise for our hopes of seeing God presented to others in a way that leads them to relationship with Him. What good father doesn’t look for praiseworthy things in their kids? If earthly fathers know what good fathers should do, certainly the ultimate good father does so even more.
One of the Apostle Paul’s points here is that we need to be very careful what we judge other people to be. We see what appears to be wrong motives — or perhaps we see someone who still has very far to grow in Christ-likeness — or someone who is very rough around the edges. Yet, we don’t easily see the good that is residing in their hearts. We are not to be premature in writing off anyone. Furthermore, even though we can never see inside another’s heart very clearly, we are given the hint that we are to look for the gold there — look for the good there — look for the praiseworthy there. That is, if we are actually trying to be more like Jesus.
I have grown more in my life through people calling forth the good they see in me than people yelling about the bad they see in me. By calling out the good, people help me see what I in many cases had not been able to see. And in helping me see, they help me become what God always intended me to be.
Let us be life-giving people, and let us understand our Father in heaven as really being a good and loving Father in reality, and not just in words.