Summary: If you will live for Christ like no one else, later you can live with Christ like no one else.
Today I speak to you as a free man. School is out for summer. I haven’t had this much freedom since I was a teenager.
It’s been a good year, though. Not only have I learned to rely on God and witnessed more of His faithfulness, I learned a lot about my subject areas. I was truly challenged by the subject of economics. The subject sounds complicated but the concepts are simple to understand. I told my students that economics is common sense with complicated vocabulary. There’s a single idea that underlies all of economics and it’s this: every decision you and I make, whether large or small, is based on whether or not it will make us happy. In other words, our personal happiness is what determines every single choice that we make. We choose what we believe will bring us the greatest happiness.
Let’s be brutally honest for a moment. Every time you and I are faced with a decision that’s going to require something of us, there’s a question that arises in our minds: What’s in it for me? A few years ago I read that that’s the most selfish, immature question a person could ask, but as I’ve lived a little more, I find that everybody, at all stages of life, all levels of maturity ask it. What’s in it for me?
As a pastor, I found this concept to be troubling. How do we call Christians to a life of commitment and sacrifice if they’re internally asking: What’s in it for me? Jesus said “take up your cross and follow Me.” In other words, throw your life away for Him. The person carrying their cross was headed for certain death. If I stand and say Jesus calls us to offer up our lives for Him, and people are asking “What’s in it for me?” what incentive could I possibly offer? Salvation is a gift by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, so that incentive is gone.
After a person comes to faith in Christ, why would they trouble themselves to do anything for Him? What possible motivation is there to do more than respond to an alter call or raise your hand during a prayer?
We’re all asking, “What’s in it for me?” Why should I pray? Why should I serve? Why should I study the Bible? Why should I share my faith? Why should I go to the trouble to lead? Why should I do anything further than sit on my blessed assurance and wait for heaven? What’s in it for me? As it turns out, there is something in it for us. Even more startling it’s a question that God wants us to ask and that He desires to answer. Let me show you a clear example.
Jesus encountered a rich, young ruler and told him to sell all of his possession. The disciples were blown away when Jesus said that it was hard for a rich man to get into heaven. At this point a question arose in the mind of Peter. He, like the rest of the disciples, made it through Jesus’ sifting process and made serious commitments to follow Him. They understood that they weren’t going to be powerful or wealthy or famous by following Christ, so the next question by Peter is obvious:
Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 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. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” Matthew 19:27-30 (NIV)
Did you notice that Jesus did not rebuke Peter for asking a selfish and immature question? Instead, He eagerly listed the benefits the disciples could expect for their commitment and sacrifice. I think it’s important to understand the heart of God before we go any further. The Lord wants to reward us. He is a generous giver and rewarding His children is sheer delight. (Please understand that I am not talking about salvation. Eternal life is a gift, but rewards are earned.) God wants us to have faith and to go after His rewards:
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6
God wants you to ask, “What’s in it for me?” He wants to reveal His rewards to you. He wants you to seek them by faith. You will demonstrate more faith and actually produce more for God if you have His incentives in mind.