Heaven and Rewards
God’s Way of Rewarding
Note: many of the thoughts were taken from Randy Alcorn’s book, "In Light of Eternity"
Two men owned farms side by side. One was a bitter atheist, the other a devout Christian. Constantly annoyed at the Christian for his trust in God, the atheist said to him 1 winter, “Let’s plant our crops as usual this spring, each the same number of acres. You pray to your God & I’ll curse him. Then come October, let’s just see who has the bigger crop.”
When October came, the atheist was delighted because his crop was larger. “See, you fool,” he taunted. “What do you have to say for your God now?”
The Christian replied, “My God doesn’t settle all His accounts in October.”
The Lord demonstrates great patience & mercy even towards the ungodly, but a day is coming upon all people, when the announcement from heaven will ring out, “The time has come for judging…and for rewarding” (Rev.11:18). There will be an appointed time for this as 1 Corinthians 4:5 states.
God has his appointed time for judgment but He also has an appointed time for rewarding. Let me mention a few things about God’s rewarding. I’m not sure we comprehend just how much God speaks of rewards in the Bible.
§ God will judge/reward us fairly
Acts 17:31 states, “He has set a day when he will judge the world with justice.”
Jeremiah 17:10 states, “I the Lord search the heart & examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”
The answer to Abraham’s rhetorical question in Genesis 18:25 – “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” is clearly “yes.”
There is built into every person, in every society & religion, a basic belief that good deserves reward, evil deserves punishment, & eventually both will get what they deserve. Scripture confirms that God gives all people an inner awareness of His moral law: “The requirements of the law are written on their hearts” (Romans 2:15).
In our day when we see such abuse of justice, in fact injustice by the judges of our land, the Bible declares “He will judge the world w/ justice.”
§ God will judge/reward us with total knowledge
Hebrews 4:13 – And there is no creature hidden from His sight but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
1 Corinthians 4:5 - …the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts…
Ecclesiastes 12:14 - For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.
As someone has said, “There’s no such thing as a private moment.”
We champion in our society the right to privacy. There is no right to privacy w/ God.
Since God’s knowledge is total, therefore his judgment will be comprehensive & detailed. In fact, Matthew 12:36 states, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.”
§ God will judge/reward us with complete understanding
God knows our innermost intentions & will judge us in light of them.
1 Corinthians 4:5 - …the Lord…will…disclose the motives of men’s hearts…
With this as in introduction let’s look at the topic of rewards. God promises to grant you, His faithful child, rewards in light of many different things:
§ God will reward generously
Jesus promised a return of “hundred times.” "And 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" (Matthew 19:29; Mk.10:30).
This is essentially a promise of infinite return, a return far out of proportion to the amount originally invested.
In our society today people are always looking for a deal like this – where their return is out of proportion to their investment. Scams abound promising this sort of thing. Our junk e-mail folder receives numerous solicitations for this sort of thing. 99.9% of them are scams but when Jesus promises a 100 fold return it cannot be a scam because He is holy & truthful. He cannot lie. And so Christians ought to be scampering after an investment like this. We certainly due concerning earthly gain; should we not even more for heavenly gain!
§ God rewards what we do, not what we believe.
For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. (Matthew 16:27 NKJV)
"God will give to each person according to what he has done." (Romans 2:6)
"Because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free." (Ephesians 6:8)
§ God rewards even for the smallest acts of thoughtfulness. Mark 9:41 - “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.
§ God rewards us when we care for those too poor or incapacitated to pay us back. "Then Jesus said to his host, ’When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’" (Luke 14:12-14).
§ God rewards us for kindness to the undeserving. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked." (Luke 6:35)
§ God rewards us for wise and productive use of the resources and opportunities he has given us. "The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ’Master,’ he said, ’you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, ’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’" (Matthew 25:14-23).
§ God rewards us for identifying with those suffering for Christ, and for taking material loss. "You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." (Hebrews 10:34-36)
§ God rewards us for being persecuted for Christ. "Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets." (Luke 6:22-24)
Paul said, “Our light & momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Paul’s troubles certainly weren’t light by our standards. But they were the raw materials God used to forge eternal rewards in heaven.
Every trial we face, every pain we endure, God can use to multiply & enhance what awaits us in heaven. This is why after talking about how momentary troubles achieve eternal glory, Paul says,: “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
§ God rewards great service on earth with greater responsibility in heaven. "His master replied, ’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.’" (Matthew 25:21)
§ God rewards faithfulness in the "small things" of this life with leadership over big things in heaven. "Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ’Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’" (Luke 19:17)
§ God promises great reward for those who have served him faithfully. “The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great…" (Revelation 11:18).
§ God rewards every servant for this life’s labor. "At that time each will receive his praise from God" (1 Corinthians 4:5).
But this is not all the Bible says about reward. In addition, the Bible speaks of crowns which will be given to us. Five crowns are specifically mentioned as rewards:
§ 1. The Crown of Life - given for faithfulness to Christ in persecution or martyrdom.
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12)
"Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer . . . Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelation 2:10)
§ 2. The Incorruptible Crown - given for determination, discipline and victory in the Christian life.
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
§ 3. The Crown of Glory - given for faithfully representing Christ in a position of spiritual leadership (1 Pet. 5:1-4).
"To the elders among you, be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." (1 Peter 5:1-4)
§ 4. The Crown of Righteousness - given for purifying and readying yourself to meet Christ at his return.
"The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Tim. 4:6-8)
§ 5. The Crown of Rejoicing - given for pouring oneself into others in evangelism and discipleship.
"For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?" (1 Thessalonians 2:19)
". . . my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown . . ." (Philippians 4:1)
These are all graciously given by the Lord Jesus, & earned through the faithful efforts of the believer.
But we need to remember that our rewards are given not merely for our recognition, but for Christ’s eternal glory:
"The twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: ’You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.’" (Revelation 4:10-11)
Now you must admit – that is quite impressive.
And it is important for us to grasp that God doesn’t just give us permission to get excited about future rewards – he delights in our wanting them. In fact, he says anyone coming to Him “must believe…that he rewards those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). God is by His nature a rewarder & calls upon us to seek the rewards he offers. Yes, seek Him but He does not divorce that from desiring His rewards.
There persists among many Christians the belief that desire for rewards is heaven is wrong & ungodly & that to pursue rewards from God is selfish.
It’s like we have the attitude of, “Yeah, we know those verses about rewards are there but we don’t talk too much about them. When we get to Heaven then we can get excited about them.”
And so we feel it is wrong & ungodly to pursue rewards. The problem w/ that is the Bible teaches otherwise.
Paul ran his race w/ his eyes on heaven’s prize (Philippians 3:13-14), which motivated him to run hard & long. He was unashamedly motivated by the prospect of eternal reward & acknowledged it freely & frequently (1 Cor. 9:24-25; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 5:9-10; 2 Tim.4:7-8). “Run in such a way as to get the prize,” he said, & on the verge of death he spoke longingly of the crown the Judge would award him in heaven.
Paul encouraged this same motivation to good works for all believes. Slaves are told, “You will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward” (Colossians 3:22-25). The rich are warned not to put their hope in wealth, but “to be rich in good deeds.” Why? So they can “lay up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future…” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
We’re used to the idea that Satan tempts us by offering us power, possessions, & pleasures. But we forget it’s God who made our desires for these things, not as part of our sin nature, but as part of our human nature. That’s why Satan tempted the sinless Jesus w/ pleasure, power & possessions, just as he tempted Adam & Eve.
Did you know that God himself appeals to each of these 3 desires in us.
§ He offers us reward of power in his eternal kingdom - "Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ’Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’" (Luke 19:17) (Matthew 20:20-28; Luke 12:42-44; Luke 19:15-19)
§ He offers us possessions in his eternal kingdom "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy. . ." (Matthew 6:19-21) "Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys." (Luke 12:33); (Matthew 6:19-21; 19:16-22, 27-30)
§ And He offers pleasures in his eternal kingdom - (Psalms 16:11 – “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
God appeals to our natures as people, not as sinners. Power, possessions & pleasures are legitimate desires he has instilled in us, & by which he motivates us, but we cheapen these desires by pursuing & grasping for power, possessions & pleasures here instead of Heaven.
Our goal is to attain these treasures in heaven, not on earth, & to attain them through humble acts of service & generosity, not selfishness & lording it over others.
In offering these things, God does not tempt us. It’s not wrong for us to be motivated by the prospect of reward. Indeed, something is wrong if we’re not motivated by reward. To resist wanting rewards is pseudospiritual. It goes against the grain of the way God created us & the way he tries to motivate us.
Suppose I tell 1 of my sons, “If you do a full day of yard work Saturday, I’ll pay you $50 & take you out to a nice dinner.” Would it be wrong for my son to earn the $50? Would it wrong for him to look forward to going out to a nice dinner? Of course it would not be wrong. I made the offer, & I want him to want those things.
“But God doesn’t owe us anything. He has the right to expect us to work for him w/ no thought of reward.” True, he owes us nothing. And yes, we should be willing to serve him w/ no thought of payoff, simply because it is our duty & we are unworthy servants. So, if we were the ones who came to him & said, “God, we’re not going to serve you for nothing; you owe us for this. We expect some rewards” then we would be dead wrong. But here’s the point – our receiving rewards for serving God is not our idea. It’s His idea!
If my son did the yard work joylessly, then said, “No, Dad, I refuse the money & I don’t want to go to dinner w/ you” how would that make me feel?
Too many of us consider incentives to be “secular” or “unspiritual.” But God made us the way we are. By His own design all of us need incentives to motivate us to do our jobs & do them well.
§ He’ll reward the child who gave to the mission offering the money he’d saved for a baseball glove.
§ He’ll reward the young person who kept himself/herself pure despite all the temptations.
§ He’ll reward the man or woman who tenderly cared for their mate w/ Alzheimer’s, the mother who raised the child w/ physical and/or mential challenges, the child who rejoiced in his heart despite his handicap.
§ He’ll reward the unskilled who were faithful & the skilled who were meek & servant-hearted.
§ He’ll reward the parents who modeled Christ to their children & the children who followed him despite the bad example of their parents.
§ He’ll reward those who suffered while trusting him & those who helped the suffering.
“For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what he had done” (Matthew 16:27).
I did not give you much commentary on these verses tonight for 2 reasons:
1. because we would have been here for a couple of hours or more;
2. because I simply wanted to overwhelm you w/ how frequently God, through His Word, speaks on this subject of rewards. It is found all through the NT.
John Calvin - "It is my happiness that I have served Him who never fails to reward His servants to the full extent of His promise."
John Bunyan - "Whatever good thing you do for Him, if done according to the Word, is laid up for you as treasure in chests and coffers, to be brought out to be rewarded before both men and angels, to your eternal comfort."
Martin Luther said that on his calendar there were only 2 days: “today” & “that Day.” May we invest all that we are & have today in light of that Day.
John Tillotson - "He who provides for this life but takes no care for eternity is wise for a moment but a fool forever."