Live a Rewarding Life (Part 2)
Have you ever felt “under-dressed” for an occasion? I remember a time when my friend was getting married. It was one of those weddings where they had planned a long break between the ceremony and the reception. Well for some reason or another I thought the reception was going to be casual. If ever there would have been a casual wedding it would have been this friend of mine. So, thinking lots of people were going to show up having changed their clothes, I changed into a little less formal attire. I walked into the reception and immediately realized no one else changed their clothes. Now, I was so happy that I got to go to the wedding and witness my friend’s vows, and I was so happy I got to go to the reception party afterwards. But I wasn’t quite so happy when I realized how much more thought I should have put into my attire.
What we are talking about today again are Rewards in the Christian life. You see, this is a sermon for Christians, people who will be in heaven – people who will be at the party. The question here is “what do we want to look like when we go?” In other words, when this life is over what kinds of rewards will we have earned that we get to receive when we enter heaven? I always remember the guy in 1 Corinthians 3:15 when it says, “If [what he has built] is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” Paul says the guy is going to be saved, but he will have no personal reward because nothing he did will have earned him any.
But, that doesn’t mean the guy has nothing. He is saved. He is saved because of his faith in Jesus Christ. And when someone puts their trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation, God pours out all kinds of blessings and gives all kinds of gifts to them. Not because they earned it, but, simply because they believe in His Son. So yes, And regardless of how faithful we live our Christian life, because of our faith God has been immeasurably generous towards us.
How? He has given us salvation (Eph. 2:5), forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7), justified us (Rom. 4:25), grace (Eph. 4:7), made us alive (Eph. 2:5), seated us in heavenly realms with Christ (Eph. 2:6), gift of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13) making us temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:15), co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17), child of God (Eph. 1:5) and on and on.
This is a short list. But He doesn’t stop there. These are all things that He does for us simply for trusting in His Son Jesus Christ. But then afterwards, He offers us rewards for living a faithful Christian life. And that is why our sermon title is “Live a Rewarding Life”. This title is meant to compel us to live in such a way that when we stand before Jesus Christ, and He judges our lives, it will result in rewards for us. In other words, let us each live now so that on that day we will be rewarded.
As we look at the rewards we as Christians can earn, it shows us more about who God is. For instance, rewards show us that there is more of His kind generosity. After all He has already given us freely, after we are saved He offers more as a reward for our faithfulness to Him. His riches are in exhaustible.
It also shows us He is fair, or just. Everyone who is a Christian will go to heaven, but, that doesn’t mean everyone will be “the same” in heaven. Some in heaven will have more reward and others will have less based on their faithful service to Christ. I like how A.J. Gordon says it, “I cannot think of a final divine reckoning which shall assign the same rank in glory, the same degree of joy to a lazy, indolent and unfruitful Christian as to an ardent, devoted, self-denying Christian.”
It matters how we live our Christian life. Our faithfulness now effects our eternity in heaven. Like Erwin Lutzer says, “we will differ in glory as lightbulbs differ in brightness.” I hardly can imagine it fair that a peon like myself would be given the same lot as Paul or Peter or any of the disciples or any of the vast majority of faithful servants of Christ throughout Church history. How many have sacrificed their lives by submitting to death for the Lord Jesus Christ? How many sacrificed their lives as living sacrifices and have utterly devoted themselves to faithful service to Christ? A cursory glance at what others have done and are doing today and I will be happy with a tent in heaven. The point here about rewards is that it shows God is just and that those who are more faithful will have more.
Last week we learned that our rewards will be given at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Only Christians will be at this Judgment. It will not be a judgment to find out if we’re saved or not. It will be to see what reward is coming to us, or not coming to us. We saw also that the Bible indicates several areas we will be judged on: works, words and motivation. This week, we want to learn more about the actual rewards. When the Bible says “rewards”, we want to know what it means. Does it give any indication for us what these rewards are like? I think so. Let’s look at 3 things.
#1: Praise from Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Cor. 10:18; Gal. 1:10; Matthew 10:32-33; 25:21, 23)
The first reward we will look at is praise. Praise to us from Jesus Christ. First Corinthians 4:5 says, “…….. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” When Jesus returns, we will each get our praise from Him for what we have done. He personally described the praise He would give to faithful servants of His in Matthew 25:21, and 23, “Well done good and faithful servant!” Don’t let those words become so familiar that their weight is lost on you. Remember that the reward we are working for is the commendation that comes from God. Second Corinthians 10:18 says, “For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”
Perhaps you’re thinking “Why is ‘praise’ a reward?” Because praise is very rewarding. Getting praise is a powerful motivation. There isn’t one of us here who doesn’t love to be recognized. When we are good at something or we do something well we like others to see it. We want people to appreciate us, to speak well of us, to talk highly about us. That’s why we put our strengths on pedestals and we hide our weaknesses under bowls. From the guy behind the pulpit to the kid up in the nursery, everyone here wants to be praised. So do not underestimate the wealth that comes with getting praised by Jesus Christ. Getting praised is very rewarding.
We love praise, and that’s why we’re afraid of rejection. Rejection is the opposite of praise. It’s people talking down about you. That’s why it’s hard for most if not all of us to witness to people. Or, again, if you think you don’t care for people’s praise, then how do you feel when you don’t get thanked for the job well done. After a while it starts to get discouraging and you start to lose motivation. I mean, who wants to do a thankless job? Whether it’s your boss or your husband or your kids or your parents or your church family, you want people to recognize what you do. How many children are exasperated because they’ve never been recognized? How may spouses are bitter because they’re never appreciated. How many employees are disgruntled because they don’t get the recognition for doing a good job? Have you ever said, “Can I just get a thank you for once?”
Praise is a very big reward. That’s why Jesus said about the Pharisees “they’ve already gotten their reward.” They did all their religious deeds to be seen by men, to be praised by men, and so Jesus says they’ve gotten the reward of praise from men and therefore won’t get the reward of praise from God.
Warning: If we’re not careful, though, we can become addicted to the praise of men. It can become an obsession. We become afraid of losing people’s praise. Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare.” King Saul of Israel loved the praise of men and became jealous when the people began to praise David instead. Remember last week we talked about motivation. We cannot let our motivation be the praise of men. We can’t live for and love for everyone to speak well of us. When our decisions and actions become shaped by whether or not people will speak highly of us our loyalty is shifting away from the Lord and to men. But Paul said something that we should listen to. In Galatians 1:10 he said, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men – or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” The point here is that whoever we try to please is who we are serving. So, am I trying to please men, or am I trying to please God?
Let us serve Jesus Christ so that we may win the reward of His praise.
#2: Crowns (2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Pet. 5:4; James 1:12/Rev. 2:10; 1 Thess. 2:19; 1 Cor. 9:24-27)
The second type of reward we can get is a crown. The Bible talks about crowns being awarded to us as Christians for our faithfulness. Turn to 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 with me. [Read]. Paul is referring to the Isthmian games that took place every 2 years in Corinth. He says that those athletes competed not for a gold medal like in our Olympic games, but, for a wreath. Paul says however that that crown will fade, whereas we as Christians “run the race marked out for us” to get a crown that lasts forever (Heb. 12:1).
It appears that there are different types of crowns too. For instance, in 2 Timothy 4:8 Paul mentions a crown of righteousness. Turn there with me. [Read]. Then in James 1:12 he promises a crown of life to Christians who are suffering for their faith. This crown of life is mentioned again in Revelation 2:10 when Jesus personally promises it to the suffering Christians in Smyrna. In 1 Peter 5:4 the crown of glory is mentioned and is the crown promised to faithful pastors.
Then I like how Paul talks about the Thessalonians themselves being his crown. Turn to 1 Thessalonians 2:19 with me. There is this idea here that Paul was planning on rejoicing in front of Jesus Christ because of how well the Thessalonians did. And the implication here seems to be that the work we do to help others come to faith in Jesus Christ and then grow in their faithfulness to Him will result in great rejoicing for us when we stand before Christ.
The idea of a crown shows us the recognition given to us by Christ for our loyalty to Him in this life. We are told that these crowns do not fade, which implies the honor our Lord bestows on us will never fade either for all eternity.
#3: Authority in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ on Earth (1 Cor. 6:2-4; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21; 5:10; 20:4,6; 22:5; Matth. 12:41-42; 19:28-29; Luke 11:31-32; 22:29-30; Col. 3:23-25; Talents Parable)
The Bible says that Jesus is coming back and when He does He is going to setup a worldwide kingdom on this earth. Revelation 20:1-6 says Jesus will have a kingdom on this earth for 1000 years. In those years He will reign over the entire earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords. This is the kingdom that according to Daniel 2 is cut out from rock, is not made by human hands, and crushes all the kingdoms that come before it. This is the kingdom Isaiah 2 tells us where all the nations will come to Jerusalem to be taught directly by the Messiah. It is the kingdom where Zechariah 14 says, “The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD and His name the only name.” Then Zechariah tells us that in that kingdom all the nations will come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. It is a day when the words of God Almighty from Psalm 2 will come true: “I have installed My King on Zion, my Holy Hill and He will rule the nations with an iron scepter.”
Yes, there is a glorious day that will last for 1000 years when Jesus Christ, the One crucified, buried and raised back to life will return and reign over the entire earth.
***In that day He will also have us ruling with Him in that kingdom. First Corinthians 6:2 says “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” 2 Timothy 2:12 says, “If we endure we will also reign with Him.” Revelation 2:26-27 says, “To Him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations…just as I have received authority from my Father.” Revelation 3:21 says, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne.” Then in we see the hosts surrounding the throne of God singing these words about those who belong to Christ, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and they will reign on the earth.”
Now 2 applications:
First, we must see beyond right now to what is coming. We must see that what we see right now is fading and passing. That means that we must look forward with faith in what God says is coming.
Second, we must see what God has planned for us is glorious beyond our imagination. First Corinthians 2:9 says “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” We are saved and God’s plans for us reach far, far beyond what we see right now. Our “worldview” must expand out and forward and up.
Third, if what we do now determines what we do then, how ought we to live now? The point is this: it seems almost certain that the extent of authority in this kingdom given to us by Jesus will be a reward for how we live for Him now. Remember His words in Matthew 25:21, “Well done good and faithful servant.” What did He say in the very next words? “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your Master’s happiness!”
Don’t ever underestimate the small act, or role or position you may perform. It is all carefully watched by Jesus Christ and He is ready to reward you beyond your imagination for your faithfulness. The key is this: It doesn’t matter how glorious the task, it matters how faithful the servant. God is watching for faithfulness. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord not for men, since you knw that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” And if faithfulness leads to sacrifice, Jesus will reward that too. He said in Matthew 19:29, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”
- Make a list of what you do for Christ. Think about your service, about your character at home and at work and when you’re alone. Think about how you talk. Think about why you do all these things. Ask yourself why you do them. Why do this exercise? Because to live the Christian life thoughtlessly could result in a lot of disappointment when we stand before Christ. H
- Serve faithfully now, expecting greater reward later. More than you earned.
- Go for your reward.