In restaurants serving cuts of beef, servers ask the patrons, “How would you like your steak prepared?” You answer with your choice of rare, medium rare, well done, or however you prefer. If it comes to your plate in any other way than what you ordered, in fine dining establishments it is taken back to the kitchen and done over according to your specifications.
In spite of this rather crude culinary analogy, we are not in doubt how God expects to welcome us to heaven when our time on earth is finished. Only “Well done!” is acceptable to Him. We don't have a second chance to get it right. God expects it to be the norm, not the rare exception. How I have lived after I became a follower of Christ determines whether God will commend me with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
It's possible that I might simply hear the words “Well! Done!” with a sense of relief that I have finally finished my life, although I might not have finished well.
I am not qualified to enter God's presence by having been good in the sense of depending on my own righteousness or good works. I cannot earn God’s commendation of “Well done!” in that way, only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.
My entrance into God’s presence will not be based on my being a perfect servant. Since we all have missed the mark of perfection and only the holy can enter into His presence, God has lovingly provided a way before I enter into Heaven to become holy and pure enough to dwell there with Him for eternity. Only then will I be perfect.
Nor is my welcome based on being a successful servant. How I define success or how society defines it may be far from how God views it; His ways are higher than our ways.
Nor will I be welcomed because I have been a well-known servant. The highest commendation may be given to a follower of Christ who has lived his or her life in relative but faithful and holy obscurity.
Nor will I be accepted because I have been an always busy servant. Being busy and active even in so-called Christian service is not the same as being spiritually fruitful, which is what the Lord is after. God defines fruitfulness, and it may not be what we think it is.
“Good and faithful servant” is God’s expectation for all of us as we live out our lives on earth. Not the rare or medium rare exception. When I am “in Christ,” God works with me and in me and through me as I “work out [not work for] my own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 1:12). God’s way is to transform me through the process of my lifetime into the image of His Son Jesus. God commends me on my faithfulness to the unique purpose for which He gave me life and how obediently I have walked in His ways throughout the seasons of my life.
(Excerpt from chapter "Launching At Last" from Leona's forthcoming book.)