What Reward Do You Want?

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Hebrews 11:6 (NIV), “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.”

God rewards us. Pretty cool huh? There are many actions and activities that He rewards. There is a prize at the end of the race (Phil 3:14), a crown for those who persevere (James 1:12), perfect peace for those who set their minds on Him (Isaiah 26:3), and I could keep going. But according to Matthew we can either store up treasures here on earth or we can store up treasures in heaven.

Matthew 6:19-21 (NLT), “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

Jesus was probably talking about worldly goods here, because rust, moths, and thieves take these kinds of things away from us. However, I don’t think it would be stretching this scripture to include recognition of men, or self aggrandizement because if we continue to read on in Matthew, Jesus warns us of doing just that.

Matthew 6:1-6 (KJB), Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

Did you catch what kind of reward we get for wanting to “be seen of men”? Oh, there is still a reward; it’s the recognition of men. That reward lasts for a season, it is fleeting, fame is fickle. The fifteen minutes of fame that people used to talk about has now turned into fifteen seconds. The media has overloaded us with information on so-called famous people and their deeds. Millions watch “reality” tv to see every detail of someone’s life, the good, the bad, and most of the time the ugly. “I don’t want that kind of fame”, you say. Do you want the people in your life to know about all your good deeds? Do you spend more time talking about what you do than what God did through you? Do you only volunteer for the jobs that you can be seen doing? At work, do you have to take credit for everything you do above and beyond the call? At school, do you need to be the center of attention all of the time? Same thing. You may think that is a great reward, but it never lasts. Why? Because we may look good one day, then mess up the next. That perfect “hair day” is called a day for a reason.

What’s worse is that most people can’t handle being around someone like that. Those seeking fame, recognition and acceptance through their actions may write it off as jealousy, but I assure you that isn’t what it is. There is just something about a person who is so insecure, or so puffed up that they have to be in the spotlight, that turns our stomachs. On the other hand when we find out someone did something behind the scenes, whether it is simple or grand, we feel good about that. It touches our hearts. They did it because it needed done. They were motivated by love not by recognition. Sometimes they may have done it as simple obedience to God and His word. They may have had to grit their teeth and do it. It isn’t always fun cleaning toilets or dealing with hard situations, but obedience is better than sacrifice.

In Matthew, Jesus promises us that when we do our good deeds in secret that the Father rewards us openly. One day someone is going to say, “Let’s thank so and so for all they have done,” and more than likely that person will blush and be embarrassed, or maybe grin like it’s their birthday and give God the glory.

There is always something to do. We are called to do good works, and there will be rewards.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV), “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

There are two kinds of rewards: eternal or temporal. One lasts forever, the other is only temporary, fleeting.

What kind of reward do you want?

Want Honor?

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It is nice to be honored, isn’t it? In America we like to watch awards shows where they honor actors, singers, athletes and more. We have honorary college degrees, employee of the month, customer of the day, and much more. When we get a good review at work and a raise, it feels nice. As a whole we tend to think of recognition as honor, but they are two different things. Recognition means just that, you have been recognized, identified, or remembered. Picture yourself walking down the street and you hear someone call your name, you were recognized by someone. Honor includes respect, esteem, and recognition. Bonnie and Clyde received recognition, Mother Theresa received honor. So why does it seem that some receive honor and others do not. Two people can do the same job at work, with the same production, yet not receive the same reward? The Biblical answer to that is that only the humble can receive honor.

Proverbs 29:23 (NASB), “A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.”

Matthew 23:12 (NIV), “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Proverbs 18:12 (Holman Christian Standard Bible), “Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.”

Any one of us can go around “tooting our own horn” and bragging about all of our accomplishments. We could corner our bosses and demand recognition and a raise for our hard work. We could take out a front page ad to display our talents and gifts to gain fame. However, true honor, honor that hasn’t been forced or manipulated, only comes to those who are humble.

If your work, your effort, and the application of your God given gifts and talents are all used just so that you can gain recognition, then that is your reward. So, you better be happy with the recognition of men. If you want honor, which is so different than simple recognition, you better be operating out of a completely different motivation. The man who works hard on his job because he knows that his boss expects it, because he acknowledges that he is on the time clock and being paid for his time, and because he wants to represent the Kingdom well, will receive true honor. The person who uses their artistic talent to glorify God and to support their family will receive honor. The artist, who uses their talent to glorify themselves, or a certain lifestyle, may win awards, and gain recognition, but they will never have honor. It’s so easy to see the motivation in other people, sometimes harder to see it in ourselves.

We tend to want to point the finger at others and say their effort isn’t good enough, or their motivation is not right, but we want them to honor us for every little thing that we do.
Jonathan Edwards said it this way, “Some persons are always ready to level those above them down to themselves, while they are never willing to level those below them up to their own position. But he that is under the influence of true humility will avoid both these extremes. On the one hand, he will be willing that all should rise just so far as their diligence and worth of character entitle them to; and on the other hand, he will be willing that his superiors should be known and acknowledged in their place, and have rendered to them all the honors that are their due.”

Honor should never be sought after. It is earned by being humbly obedient to those in authority over us, and doing whatever our hands find to do as unto the Lord. We do our best because it is the right thing to do, because this honors God, and God will make sure that we are honored. If you feel cheated of honor, examine your heart! That is pride speaking. God will never bypass the chance to honor those who deserve it. He said in Romans 13:7, to give honor where honor is due. He doesn’t ask us to do something that He won’t do. He honors those who have a contrite spirit, a repentant heart. Pride is sin and clearly indicates a heart that has not humbled itself.

Isaiah 66:2 (NKJB), “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,” Says the LORD.“But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.”

James 4:6,10 (NIV), “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

So, this all may go against our flesh, but most good things do! We have to humble ourselves. It doesn’t matter if you ever get recognized for your hard work at your job, at Church, or at home, just work hard. Do your job cheerfully and with a good attitude. Use your talents and gifts to help others, and not just yourself, to glorify God. Don’t worry if anyone is watching or takes notice. God sees. His rewards will be so much better than the recognition of man.

Matthew 6:1 (Message Bible), “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.”

The Hall of Faith

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Hebrews 11 is known as the “Hall of Faith” where Paul goes through a long list of those who walked in and lived by faith. Forget the Red Carpet, the Packer Hall of Fame, and Forbes 500, I want my name on that list.

Hebrews 11:39- 12:2 (ESV), “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. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

They lived in such a way as to get their name in the Hall of Faith, but never saw the manifestation of those promises during their lives here on earth! Yet all were faithful until the end, they finished the race, crossed that line. I love the part where Paul tells us that God has provided something better for us. We have the shed blood of Christ, the restoration of our relationship with the Father, we have His wonderful grace, and we have the Holy Spirit. We will cross that line seeing the promises fulfilled, or we will be raptured out of here while moving towards the prize with everything we have, if we hook up with Him, if we allow the Spirit to work in us and through us.

Those Old Testament saints weren’t perfect. They messed up. For some of them, that is what disqualified them from obtaining. Moses didn’t get to walk into the Promised Land because he allowed his anger to take over at the rock. So why does he still get his name listed among the others? Because Moses, like the others, was consistently faithful, sure they had their moments, Sara laughed instead of believing, but God says that faith pleases Him. He is not looking at those few times when our faith is shaky, He is looking at the times when our faith held strong.

Hebrews 11:6 (KJV), “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

God knows our human weaknesses. That’s why He sent His Son. Moses didn’t live under grace, but under the law. Thank God, we live in grace. But, just like each and every one of those listed, we all have a choice. Grace doesn’t mean that we sit back on a padded chair and wait for God to hand us everything on a silver platter. We have a responsibility to “run the race”, for some of us it will be a full out sprint, for some a persistent plodding ahead, and for others it may be both. This race isn’t won by going the fastest, or by crossing the finish line first, Jesus already won that prize. Our race is won by simply getting to the end. Persevering, enduring, until the end. Our race can’t be won by sitting, stopping, or God forbid, turning around.

Hebrews 10:36 (NIV), “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”

Romans 2:7 (NIV), “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.”

Our persistence in doing good gets us to the finish line and God is encouraging us to seek the glory and honor in this. Some seek fame and fortune here in this life; we need to seek the immortal fame and fortune only found in the Kingdom of Heaven. We can’t lose heart.

Galatians 6:9-10 (NASB), “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

We are promised a harvest if we don’t give up or give in, if we don’t back down or sit down. I learned the hard way that when I start to feel “burnt out” it’s not because I have worked so hard, but because I haven’t pressed in. I let my work get ahead of my relationship. If we are working and listening to the Holy Spirit, He gives us rest and peace. He tells us when to speed up and when to slow down, when to give it all we’ve got and when to be still and quiet. He is faithful. We never have to do any of it in our own strength. In fact that is where “burn out” comes from, trying to do it on our own, and just like some of those Old Testament saints, we won’t see the promise, it’s not possible. Their stories are put there for our example. Every time they did their own thing, things fell apart. We have Ishmael because of that very thing. Israel consistently sinned by trying to do their own thing, or what seemed right to them, and even worse by copying what the pagan people around them were doing.

This race isn’t for the week of heart. Take courage in the promises of God! In Hebrews 12, right after the Hall of Faith, Paul encourages us to do just that.

Hebrews 12:12-15 (ESV), “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;”

Lift up those hands! What a promise. I love that God doesn’t tell us to wait for the lame parts of our body to be healed. He tells us to straighten our path so that the lame parts will be healed on the way. How do we straighten the path?

Picture a race in the natural, some are short, some are marathons, but they all have one thing in common, there is a designated path, or track. Now, think about the runners on that path. Those runners have the finish line on their minds and in their hearts and as soon as that whistle blows they are headed straight for it. How ridiculous would it be for one runner to spot the handsomest brown eyed baby sitting in his stroller and stop to do some baby talking with the handsome little man? Or another runner to notice all the garbage strewn about the side of the track and stop to pick it up? Picture a marathon in your mind and think about how foolish it would be if a runner noticed how far ahead some of the runners were in the first minute of the race and gave up?

We cannot let ourselves get distracted! And I promise the devil will throw every distraction in front of you, every stumbling block in his arsenal. So we need to make our path straight. Put on those blinders. Set your faces like flint, Paul says. (Flint is a type of stone, it is used to start fires by causing sparks to fly). We need to allow God’s word to light our path so that we can see any obstacle on the track. When you are running, even the smallest pebble can cause you to turn your ankle. Or think for a minute of all those cartoons as a kid with the slippery slide on the banana skin. We need to see what’s in the path so we can hurdle over or go around, or if the object is too big, we do what Jesus said and command the mountain to be moved.

Paul also warns about the root of bitterness. There are many ways that bitterness takes root, but one root comes from trying to do things in our own strength or getting the cart before the horse. If what we are doing isn’t really what God has called us to do, or He has called and we took off without preparing the way with prayer and talking to Him, we can get disappointed and even bitter by the lack of results, or what we may see as a lack of appreciation. We tend to look at those others in the race as I mentioned before, and they may look like they have lapped us four or five times, and we get jealous and bitter. We each have our own race. We are not racing against each other! Ever. It isn’t a competition. In fact you get farther ahead when you help others along the way. When we see another runner stopped or slowing down, we encourage them, remind them of the prize.

The greatest part about this race is that we already know the outcome. We win. We get the gold medal; we stand on the podium and hear our national anthem, the Song of Heaven. Our victory is sure. I hear stories from my husband’s sisters that he never wanted to play unless he knew he could win. In the natural we call that poor sportsmanship, but in the Kingdom of God, it’s called FAITH!

So I want to be on that list. I want someone to say of me, what John said to these believers,

3 John 1:3-4 (NIV), “It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are WALKING in the truth.”

Even better, I want to hear this from the Father.

Matthew 25:21 (NLT), “The master was full of praise. “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!”

Luke 19:17 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English), “He said to him, “Excellent, good servant! Because you are found faithful with a little, you shall be a ruler over ten fortress cities.”

So run, walk, or crawl, keep moving forward. Keep pressing in. Grow that relationship with God. Listen to the Holy Spirit and accept the Grace that God has given us all to abound in good works.