You have probably heard the phrase about the performance of Christian service that says, “the work may be of little earthly value, but the rewards are out of this world.” Indeed they are! The Great Story Book says in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” That is quite an assertion to say that no mind has ever conceived how awesome it is… I don’t know about you, but I think my mind could conceive of some pretty good stuff!
There has always been a hesitance in evangelical circles to talk much about heavenly rewards. The thought is that such a mindset is a sort of spiritual materialism. But the Scriptures do talk about it without shame. Jesus in fact told the disciples to work toward such, with such a perspective in mind…
MT 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
What comes first, the heart or the treasure? Jesus says your heart will follow that which you treasure. That is true. We find time and energy for the things most important to us. It seems to me he could have just as well said it the other way… your treasure will be where your heart resides. The heart is at the center of our values system. We might see it as like two sides of a coin.
Those who have a lot of things in this world need to focus a lot of concern on the things of this world, using a lot of energy to assure they are not stolen. When I was a seminary student in Dallas in 1982, I had a swimming pool cleaning business. Being a poor student, I was driving a rusted old car my dad had cast off… a 1967 Pontiac Bonneville. So on one particular day, I drove my bucket of rusty bolts around to the back side of a client’s especially luxurious home and went to work on their pool. It was not long before a Dallas police car came roaring up the driveway. The officer got out, looked into the windows of my car, saw my golf bag with a Dallas Country Club logo (a Christmas present Diana got me from another seminarian’s wife who worked in the pro shop there) and said, “So, you’re a member of the Dallas Country Club, eh?” I had to explain a lot to him about that, and finally convinced him that not many thieves were likely to clean their victim’s pool before leaving. He told me a neighbor saw my quality car and called the police. Do you worry about what cars go in and out of your neighbor’s house?
The things of this world truly do become hindrances as well as blessings. I always admired a former associate who lived with the belief he was eventually going to serve in missions, and accumulating a lot of stuff would only make too much work disposing of it someday. So, when he moved to a new ministry, he was able to put his whole household into a single, small U-Haul. He had the flexibility to go and do whatever God directed at practically a moment’s notice.
There is a faithful God who is faithful to reward a faithful life. And so we labor on, encouraged by the fact that our Father does not forget our diligence in serving Him in this Christian life.
Heb. 6:10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
That is such an encouragement! Everyone else might forget (if they even notice in the first place) but God always remembers, and he is faithful and just. And the future is bright and full of encouraging thoughts.
1 Thes. 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.
Every great story ends with some version of… “and they lived happily ever after.” So does your story, the story God is writing that includes your life, your epic journey.
REV 21:22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
REV 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.