A well made roadway has a ditch on either side of it. This keeps the water drained off the road for better traction and it also let’s you know where the proper road ends and the rest of the landscape begins so you can be sure to stay on the right path. The spiritual roadway that leads us toward our goal of being more like Jesus is similar to that concept in that you can stay in the center and make greater progress or you can wind up going it the hard way and make slow progress, although still moving in the right direction. For many of us as believers, we have wound up in the Ditch of Self-Reliance (Pride) or the Ditch of Self-Discouragement (Heaviness) all too often and have had our spiritual progress slowed to a halt!
People who really know me know that if I wind up teaching a group of people for very long I’m going to start talking about the fact that faithful believers can anticipate rewards in the Kingdom of Heaven. I’m especially passionate about that subject since I’ve found many Christians–even those who have been believers for a very long time–have at least some distorted ideas about it that don’t line up with the Bible! And one of the biggest areas of distortion becomes obvious when you start talking about Believer’s Rewards in the Kingdom of Heaven.
A perfect example happened one day while I was sharing about how awesome it is to pause during our day and realize that something we did for God’s glory by faith we can know caused a treasure to be placed in our heavenly account. A brother in the group looked up from staring absent-mindedly at his Bible and protested, “But we shouldn’t be serving God because we expect to get a reward! We should serve Him every day out of gratitude for what He has done for us by sending Jesus to die on the cross! If we have that attitude, we are being prideful because we are totally unworthy of being rewarded for anything!” Yes, it’s true that if we strive for vainglory we can easily wind up falling in the Ditch of Self-Reliance which Jesus warned the prideful religious of his day about (Matthew 15:14). Yes, it is true that we don’t deserve to be rewarded for anything we do in service for God. But yes, it is also true that Jesus told us, and His disciples after Him told us, that we should be going at it all day long with the attitude that we are trying to pile up rewards in the Kingdom to Come!
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.—1 Corinthians 9:24-25.
A lot of believers are very familiar with Paul’s words here on running the race, but what most don’t consider is what he is actually talking about! He is not talking as if a person could run the race of life and win their salvation, that race was run and won for us by Jesus Christ! We needed only acknowledge our own inability to obtain it, surrender our will to His will, and accept his wonderful offer of the free gift of salvation. That is not at all what Paul is talking about here. He is talking specifically about running for prizes! Sometimes, he calls these prizes crowns or the rewards of being made ruler over something in the Kingdom to Come. Other times, he calls these prizes “gold, silver, and precious stones” or other types of negotiable currency/heavenly possessions:
1 Corinthians 3:11-14
For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.
Careful reading of Scripture shows over and over again the daily battle for believers to strive in anticipation of these rewards. And Jesus specifically talks over and over again about US MAKING THE EFFORT TO STORE THEM UP! His words speak of a daily process of going out and earning the treasures and then storing them up in a heavenly hoard!
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
This is just one of the many places where Jesus tells us that we should be striving to lay up treasures, deliberately, knowingly. He even promises that when He returns with His people to establish His Kingdom He will bring the rewards with Him to pass out (2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). Sadly, “Team E” or Satan and Team Enemy want all believers to live a defeated life so as in the case of the brother above mentioned who thought it wrong to have joy in our work, Satan wants us to think we are somehow evil if we hope somehow we will enjoy a reward for that little victory we had over sin this afternoon, or that Divine Appointment we kept to share God’s Truth with a co-worker, or some other situation where we know we obeyed God’s will and produced good works. So instead of being filled with joyful anticipation over these little victories we have some folks who are painfully making there way through the ditch on the other extreme, beating themselves up mentally if they find any sense of accomplishment in their obedience. They protest, “If you have the attitude that you are expecting a reward for what you are doing then you are doing it for the wrong reason!” That would be true if we were doing it for tangible rewards now. But Jesus Himself tells us over and over again that He WANTS us to do it in expectation of a reward. Yes, a teenage son or daughter ought to want to help around the house with chores because they love their parents and are grateful for their provision. But many a parent has learned that the reward of an allowance for doing chores helps in their weakness to stimulate their motivation. And our Heavenly Father understands that principle far better than we do! So He has set up a thousand year period of upcoming history SPECIFICALLY TO REWARD THE FAITHFULNESS AND OBEDIENCE SHOWN BY HIS SERVANTS IN THIS AGE!
So we should be encouraging each other to strive for prizes and celebrating every time we fulfill our Co-Mission by choosing to work in co-operation with the Holy Spirit to overcome sin, to complete a mission, to make a difference, to win a prize!
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,