5 Posts from November 2012

Biblical Facts about Rewards, Part 1

Scripture not only supports the idea of eternal rewards, it spells out the specifics. In 1 Corinthians 3:10–14, we find three primary facts about rewards. We’ll look at the first two today and complete the list next week.

Before I mention the facts, let’s review the verses:

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. (1 Corinthians 3:10–14)

First, most rewards are received in heaven, not on earth. Please don’t misunderstand. There are earthly rewards. Even the world provides certain people with special honors: the Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Peace Prize, Academy Awards, Emmy, Tony, Grammy—and we all know that athletes win All-American honors or All-Pro or the Heisman Trophy. The military also offers medals of bravery, like the Navy Cross, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and the ultimate, the Medal of Honor.

But when it comes to servanthood, God reserves special honor for that yet future day when “each man’s work will become evident” (3:13) and “he will receive a reward” (3:14). Most of the rewards God’s servants will receive will be given after death, not before.

Second, all rewards are based on quality, not quantity. Did you notice this principle in those verses from 1 Corinthians? “The fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work” (3:13, emphasis added).

We humans are impressed with size and volume, noise and numbers.

  • It is easy to forget that God’s eye is always on motive, authenticity, the real truth beneath the surface, never the external splash or surface impressions.
  • When He rewards servants, it will always be based on quality—which means everybody has an equal opportunity to receive a reward.

The dear older lady who prays in private will be rewarded as much as the famous evangelist who preaches to multiple thousands. The quiet, faithful friend who assists another in need will be rewarded as much as the strong spiritual leader whose gifts are more visible. A cool cup of water given to a hurting soul, bruised with adversity, will be rewarded as much as any act of sacrifice on the mission field.

God, our faithful Lord, promises to reward the quality of our work.

The glory may be postponed until eternity, but it will come, which leads me into the third fact about rewards. Stay tuned. . . .

—Chuck

Biblical Facts about Rewards, Part 2

Based on 1 Corinthians 3:10–14, I see three facts about our eternal rewards for serving God. Let’s review the first two facts I mentioned last week, and then I’ll complete the list with the third.

First, most rewards are received in heaven, not on earth.

Second, all rewards are based on quality, not quantity.

Here’s the third: no reward that is postponed will be forgotten. Make no mistake about it, the Bible clearly teaches that each of us “will receive a reward” (1 Corinthians 3:14). God doesn’t settle His accounts at the end of every day. Nor does He close out His books toward the end of everyone’s life. No, not then.

But be assured, fellow servant, when that day in eternity dawns, when time shall be no more on this earth, no act of serving others (be it well-known or unknown) will be forgotten.

A nineteenth-century senator, Benjamin Hill, spoke with eloquence when he made this fitting tribute to General Robert E. Lee (a great man with a servant’s spirit):

He was a foe without hate, a friend without treachery, a soldier without cruelty, and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices, a private citizen without wrong, a neighbor without reproach, a Christian without hypocrisy, and a man without guilt. He was Caesar without his ambition, Frederick without his tyranny, Napoleon without his selfishness, and Washington without his reward.¹

And the marvelous part of it all is that you don’t have to be a Robert E. Lee to be remembered. You don’t have to be a courageous soldier in battle or a statesman who graciously accepts defeat. You can be a “nobody” in the eyes of this world, and your faithful God will, someday, reward your every act of servanthood. Rewards may be postponed, but they will not be forgotten forever.

Unlike many people today, God keeps all His promises.

—Chuck

 

Endnotes

  1. John Bartlett, ed., Familiar Quotations (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1955), 660.

A Season for Humble Gratitude, Part 2

Sometimes it can be a challenge to give God daily praise, even when we possess the knowledge of His love and faithfulness. If you find yourself in this situation, the Psalms are often a great source to get you back on track.

Psalm 116 is an extraordinary expression of love—addressed to God. “How do I love Thee, God?” It reminds me of Browning’s poem: “Let me count the ways.” In counting the ways, the psalmist sets forth several magnificent truths about God's goodness and deliverance.

I love the LORD, because He hears
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.
The cords of death encompassed me
And the terrors of Sheol came upon me;
I found distress and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, I beseech You, save my life!”
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
Yes, our God is compassionate.
The LORD preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. (Psalm 116:1–7)

How do we love our God? We love Him by counting the many ways He has been good to us and, as the psalmist did, by sharing His goodness with others. What does God desire? Our humble thanks. Our heartfelt gratitude. He wants us to be hungry for life, to treasure every day He entrusts to us. When you have a quiet moment, read the entire 116th Psalm, and pause several times to express your own heart of gratitude to our loving Lord.

Let the wonder of the season wash over you again. God loves you and me with every bit of His heart, to the extent that He gave us the very best gift: life, wrapped up in the form of His one and only Son. It's this life—the abundant life—that Jesus promised. This is the true spirit of the season.

Let’s be humbly grateful.

—Chuck

A Season for Humble Gratitude, Part 1

It's baaaack!

The age-old yuletide season is about to slip in the door once again. Better not shout, better not pout, for the malls will be playing “Jingle Bells” several thousand times between now and December 25. If you're not careful, the crowds and commercialism will weigh you down like that fourth helping of stuffing at Thanksgiving dinner. And there's nothing worse than a jaded attitude that resists the true spirit of the season.

Although this has been a challenging year in numerous ways, we have a practical reason to look back over it with gratitude for God's protection and grace. This reflection sets in motion the ideal mental attitude to carry us through the weeks ahead. In other words, a sustained spirit of humble gratitude will make the period leading up to December 25 an integral part of the Christmas celebration rather than a dreadful marathon run toward the finish.

We live in a world fraught with evil—one in which innocent people are gunned down as they go about their business, where world governments seem powerless to stop those whose intent is to control through fear. But we cannot afford to end the year in frustration. I—like you—have seen and experienced God's hand of protection and mercy, even in the toughest moments.

During this holiday season, let's pledge not to let ingratitude become our creed or allow cynicism to cause a stumbling block. As we consistently remind our flocks (and ourselves) of God's provision in our lives and the lives of our loved ones, the holidays will become a special time of spiritual enrichment, personal renewal, and genuine gratitude.

—Chuck

The Rewards of Serving

Serving God by serving others definitely has rewards, and they are numerous. They far outweigh the consequences. When we think about them, they motivate us to keep going.

One of the great doctrines of Christianity is our firm belief in a heavenly home. Ultimately, we shall spend eternity with God in the place He has prepared for us. And part of that exciting anticipation is His promise to reward His servants for a job well done. I don’t know many believers in Jesus Christ who never think of being with their Lord in heaven, receiving His smile of acceptance, and hearing His “well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21 NIV). We even refer to one who died in this way: “He has gone home to his reward.”

A lot of strange opinions (some weird and wild ideas) surround this subject. But the Bible is fairly clear regarding the rewards of serving. First and foremost, we need to hear what it says.

I remember as a little boy in a South Texas Baptist church, singing the words:

I am thinking today of that beautiful land
I shall reach when the sun goeth down;
When through wonderful grace by my Saviour I stand,
Will there be any stars in my crown?
Will there be any stars, any stars in my crown
When at evening the sun goeth down?
When I wake with the blest in the mansions of rest,
Will there be any stars in my crown?

—Eliza E. Hewitt, “Will There Be Any Stars?”

I wondered about that. It seemed spooky, almost unreal. How could stars be in a crown I wore?

Many years later, I learned and loved another piece of church music. It came from an old volume of devotional verse bearing the title Immanuel’s Land and Other Pieces by A. R. C., the initials modestly representing the name of Anne R. Cousin. When she was only 32, the author composed her best-known hymn, “The Sands of Time Are Sinking.” The original poem contains nineteen verses. The concluding stanza will always be one of my favorites:

The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory,
But on my King of grace:
Not at the crown He giveth,
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel’s land!¹

Both those old songs speak of heavenly crowns. They sound interesting, but what does the Bible say? Are they literal crowns? Does Scripture support the idea of tangible rewards?

We’ll begin to tackle that topic in three weeks, after Thanksgiving.

—Chuck

 

Endnotes

  1. Richard H. Seume, comp. and ed., Hymns of Jublilee (Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, n.d.), 49.