Summary: A study of the ultimate reward for serving Christ the Master, suggesting the impact on our present service.
“What more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” 
“All these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised.” When the writer speaks of “All these,” he includes multiple heroes of the Faith—Patriarchs, Judges, Kings and Prophets. Thought it may be difficult to relate to them, the heroes of the Faith are not always recognised as mighty at the time they are carrying out their ministry. After the fact, religious people may honour the memory of those blessed individuals who actually did mighty deeds in the Name of the Master.
You will recall that Jesus sternly censured the religious leaders of His day when He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets” [MATTHEW 23:29-31]. Distance from the service rendered permits a more reasoned assessment of the labour provided.
Humbling though it is, we are compelled to confess that we are fallen creatures. Consequently, the most powerful of saints, the most conscientious servant of the Living God, the most blessed among the servants of God, will inevitably be discovered at last to be but a mortal. Though an individual may appear to have succeeded admirably in the cause of Christ, that one is nevertheless susceptible to error and will have exhibited foibles that did not honour Him whom we call Master.
This the unspoken message behind Jesus’ words spoken to His disciples on one occasion. “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’” [LUKE 17:7-10]. Focus on the appropriate response given by a servant. “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.”
No one among us has anything of which he or she may boast. We acknowledge that we are recipients of divine grace. If a church is recognised for advancing the Kingdom of God, it will have done so by God’s grace. If a congregation appears to be on the decline, they have nevertheless benefitted from God’s grace. It is only when we attempt to impose human reckoning on the work to which we are called that we begin to think more highly of ourselves than we should. When we adopt God’s view of matters, we realise that He has worked through multiple individuals over time to accomplish His divine plan. No man can claim to have accomplished anything through his effort—it is all of grace.
I urge the people of God to see that they have a vital part in the continuum of the Faith. We stand in a lineage stretching back to the earliest days of the Gospel and continuing forward until that glorious day when the Master shall return. Some will have ultimately been recognised for great accomplishment in the work of the Kingdom. Others will have lived without recognition, nor will they be long remembered by those who follow in the Faith. What is essential is that each has served faithfully, fulfilling the tasks assigned by the Master. We see this truth in the text before us today.