Cast not away your confidence because God defers his performances. That which does not come in your time, will be hastened in his time, which is always the more convenient season. God will work when he pleases, how he pleases, and by what means he pleases. He is not bound to keep our time, but he will perform his word, honour our faith, and reward them that diligently seek him.
- Matthew Henry
Our God is good and wise and infinite in understanding. And one of the things He well understands is that we His servants get weary and discouraged from time to time. He has many ways of lifting us up out of that discouragement. One of them is by encouraging us with the promise of rewards – both in this life and in the life to come.
I’m well aware that there are those out there who speak and write as if we should not look for or expect rewards. An example of that would be these words from Thomas Merton, “Love seeks on thing only: the good of the one loved. It leave all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward.”
As spiritual as that sounds, the clear testimony in scripture is that while rewards perhaps should not be our primary motivation for serving God, looking for and expecting rewards is a legitimate Biblical motivation for persevering and laying our lives down for Christ and for the brethren and for the lost.
So in this post, I would like to make this abundantly clear biblically, hoping that this will be a needed shot in the arm for those of us who could use some encouragement about now.
Jesus Himself a handful of times in the gospels speaks of promised rewards as something His disciples should look for and expect. The first few examples of this are found in His sermon on the mount in Matthew. Starting with, “"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ... " Matthew 5:12 This command and promise is for those who are being persecuted because of their righteous living among the unrighteous. (See also Luke 6:22,23).
Later in this same chapter, in the context of commanding His disciples to love and pray for their enemies, Jesus states, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Matthew 5:46 (See also Luke 6:35). The implication being rewards are promised when we love our enemies and those difficult to love.
Do you ever get weary of giving to the poor, whether in person perhaps to a homeless person, or to one of the multiple ministries that minister to the poor? Jesus has some helpful instruction and encouragement along these lines, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. "So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4
Ever get weary of praying? Wondering if it makes a difference? "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:5,6
Need some more motivation to fast and pray? "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18
Do you strive to honor and learn from and heed instruction and counsel from Christ’s servants, be they prophets or whatever their calling/gifting? Did you know rewards from God are promised to those who do so? "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward." Matthew 10:41
Do you ever find yourself extending hospitality to Jesus’s disciples/servants? Perhaps doing something practical for them? Maybe meeting some material or physical need? The term “little ones” in the following passage at first glance might seem to refer to children, but the context is a discussion of how God rewards us according to the way we respond to and treat His servants. It is possible He could be referring to younger leaders/servants, whom we might not be so quick to minister to left to our own devices, "And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward." Matthew 10:42 (See also Mark 9:41)
After watching their Master’s shocking treatment of the rich young ruler, Peter reminded Jesus of their devotion to Him and then asked a question, “Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” Matthew 19:27
Jesus’s response is instructive and encouraging for those who have truly layed their lives down for their Savior, then and since “And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon 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 farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:28, 29
Now you may have never responded this way, but I have at times kind of internally thought, ‘Well all these wonderful rewards in heaven are great, but should I expect anything in the present – in this life?’ Mark & Luke's version of this conversation answers that question, “but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age,…” Mark 10:30; "...who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life." Luke 18:30. Matthew for whatever reasons left that line out.
The apostle Paul in seeking to help the church in Corinth be more God/Christ centered and less man centered, and in seeking to encourage those who were trying to serve Christ in some degree of sincerity speaks to the promise of rewards for their service, “Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. ... If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.” I Corinthians 3:8, 14
Whether you are in the marketplace, at home raising and perhaps homeschooling children, serving in the Military, or whatever you are called by God to give your hands to, the following instruction and promise is crucial for us to live by, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Colossians 3:23, 24 Even if we receive a salary or pay from whatever organization we work for, God promises a reward when we do whatever it is as unto Him.
The writer of Hebrews was specifically speaking these words to those who had endured great suffering and persecution, “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” Hebrews 10:35, 36
Do you realize that you cannot please God if you do not believe He will reward you for your seeking of Him? Isn’t’ it encouraging to know He will reward us for seeking Him? “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 Andrew Murray puts it this way, " Let it be your business every day, in the secrecy of the inner chamber, to meet the holy God. You will be repaid for the trouble it may cost you. The reward will be sure and rich."
The apostle John exhorted the believers under his care to, “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.” II John 1:8 This is one of many passages in the New Testament that exhorts we believers to give more attention to our own growth and progress in the faith. And when we do it comes with a “full reward”.
There are a couple of more promises of rewards in the book of Revelation, and this morning in Matthew 25 I was reminded of Jesus's promise to those who prove faithful in the little or "few things" (see vs. 23 & vs. 29), but I didn’t want this to be this long. May these wonderful promises be a great encouragement to you today!