1Corinthians 2:9 However, as it is written: What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived — the things God has prepared for those who love him.
I find it to be interesting that the focus of many sermons is the rewards of following God…how we will be rewarded for our behavior or our faith when we get to heaven. As if anyone who genuinely choses to follow Jesus Christ is doing so for the “rewards” that they might get! Jesus called his Disciples his friends….now I don’t know about you, but I don’t approach my friends with any thought of what “reward” I can get from them. The friendship is reward enough.
There are many many verses in the Bible that speak of God giving rewards to people, and we have many many pastors out there preaching about rewards. This verse in 1Cor. 2:9 tells us that we cannot fathom all that God has prepared for us who love him.
That means that when we think of rewards we can probably cross off things of an earthly nature, from our thinking. Not that God doesn’t care about those things that you need and desire in your life..he does. However, face the facts…not every devoted Christian becomes endowed with worldly wealth. My personal thinking is that if you need it to accomplish the purpose God has for your life, then he will provide it. The main thing is to understand that having wealth is not a sin, but misusing it, or not recognizing that it is a gift (Even if you work for it, the abilities that allow you to attain it come from God… they are a gift…there are many people who work for it and yet never have it.)
So, lets look at this reward idea from another perspective instead of the material goods perspective.
What is the reward of being a Christian? I know one of the first things we all think of is that we have been purified and salvation is ours. While that is true, I don’t think of this as a reward. Generally, we refer to that as a “gift” that Jesus gave us. A reward implies something that we worked to earn in some way. We all know that we cannot “earn” salvation, though there are many people that still try.
Proverbs 3:3-4 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
So looking at Proverbs 3:3-4 we can see that one of the rewards of following God is that you win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
Another way to put this is that you are viewed as a Godly, righteous person, both in the sight of God and in the sight of the people around you. By living in love and faithfulness you become what Jesus told his Disciples to be….followers of Jesus…Fishers of Men…representing the loving nature of God to those around you…living witnesses to the message of the Kingdom of God.
Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Luke 6:38 is many times taken out of context, but the good measure spoken of here is connected to verse 37 which speaks about being judgmental and condemning of others. We can just as well paraphrase this verse to say…”Give forgiveness, and love generously to others.”
Those who cook can understand the idea of a “good measure”…it means not to be skimpy in your measurement of an ingredient because it effects the outcome of the thing you are cooking. So being generous in our measure of forgiveness to others and in our loving of others will effect how they respond to us as people…it effects how they respond to your claim of Christianity also. God is telling us that we should be quick to forgive and generous in doing so. Looking at this from a reward perspective…the reward for this is that God will judge your misdeeds with the same measure that you judge others. If you judge others harshly then you can expect the same from God. So the benefit of being loving and forgiving toward others is that God is the same to you, and also your earthly benefit is that you will have many more friends and loved ones, and when you tell someone that you are a Christian then they will be apt to believe you and perhaps wish to find out more about your Christianity.
Face it! There is no one who has ever been hated into loving God!
Jesus is the only one qualified to say where a person is going to end up. He is the only judge. The pressure is off! You and I are not required to fix the world by standing in judgement on others! I think, what a relief! What a reward! God’s requirement for us is to love the person and show them who God is in our lives by the way we live and love others, and love God.
Please don’t confuse being the type of judgment spoken of here, (which is being condemning) and using good judgement in dealing with others.
Another reward we have from following God is to be at peace with God, and to have God’s peace in our lives. Gaining this peace comes from turning our lives over to God and submitting to him. Part of that submission which leads to earthly peace is to learn to have a habit of forgiving others. Forgiveness is like that…the more you do it…the easier it becomes…it is habit forming! The more you forgive the more peace you have in your heart.
God tells us to forgive, not for the person who has done wrong’s benefit, but for our own benefit. A horrible thing happens to us when we do not forgive….we have anger that moves through us at the thought of that person…until we are consumed with bitterness. This is unhealthy and usually doesn’t make the other person feel bad at all. We are not to wait for the person to ask us for forgiveness….we need to be working on it as soon as we have been wronged so that if they ever do ask, then we can be the person who can smile peacefully and sincerely tell that person that we already forgave them for that a while back! I can tell you that this is a wonderful feeling to have because you don’t need to worry about your expression or anything…it is a feeling of freedom to be able to forgive people readily. That is quite a reward….it leads to a peace that surpasses any worldly understanding. A peace of heart.
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
I really have no idea what reward God may have for his believers in heaven, but I can tell you that for myself, I have found that living in relationship with God on a daily basis is reward enough. It is a great reward to go through life and enjoy the pleasure of God’s company through good times and bad..to know that you are truly never alone…and also to be able to celebrate the salvation of another person as they learn and get excited to follow God..to watch their life of faith begin and continue…to be part of a larger family…as Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:48 48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
The reward that God gives us in this life is relationship…with him and with others around us. There are many small gifts along the way that God may give you (he is good to do that), but relationship is to my way of thinking the primary “reward” for following God. In short, God’s idea of a reward does not correspond to the earthly ideas of position in society, lording it over others, or monetary rewards…his idea of a reward is relationship with him and with those around you…more love in your life!
I think the reward that most of us who are Christians want from God is said very well in Matthew 25:21
“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!’