Eternal Rewards for Those Who Serve God

While preparing the Twelve for a lifetime of serving others, Christ promised an eternal reward even for giving someone a cup of cool water.

Serving each other
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“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. 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 10:41–42)

Those words tell us that “improving our serve” begins with little things.

It begins with thoughtful things—an understanding embrace of one who is hurting, a brief note to one who is lonely and feeling unappreciated and forgotten, a cup of cool water for one whose lips are parched from the hot blast of a barren desert when all seems futile and worthless.

God takes special notice of all these efforts.

These words take on a new shade of significance when we read that familiar account in Matthew 25. Jesus said:

Temporal Rewards for Those Who Serve God

I’ll be candid with you. I have never read anywhere else in the Bible what God revealed to me in the latter half of 2 Corinthians 4:10–11 . . . let’s take a look!

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We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. (2 Corinthians 4:10–11 NIV)

Do you observe the temporal reward woven into the lines of those verses?

It is this: the quiet awareness that the life of Christ is being modeled.

Two Things God Remembers about His Servants

Hebrews 6:10 is my all-time favorite verse about how God faithfully takes special note of those who serve Him.

Man
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For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.

Consider that verse! God is not unjust to forget our service to Him. He is faithful. The verse goes on to tell two things God faithfully remembers about His servants:

My Advice to You This Christmas

If I may borrow from Charles Dickens’s famous opening line, Christmas can be “the best of times, and the worst of times.” As pastors, we have them both, don’t we?

Christmas

Who hasn’t cringed in September as stores drag out and display the artificial Christmas trees? Who hasn’t felt uneasy about the obligatory exchange of gifts with individuals you hardly know?

Something about those annual experiences can make them seem like “the worst of times.”

But they don’t need to be.

Looking at the Big Picture . . . and Finding Hope

Before you preach again on the birth of Jesus, it might be best for you to lay it aside and start from scratch. The Christmas story has been so sanitized and romanticized over the centuries that even Hollywood—as jaded a culture as can be found anywhere—fails to capture the gritty pathos that surrounded Jesus’s arrival.

Nativity
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Truth be told, even some churches annually idealize the birth of our Savior. Yet it was anything but ideal.

Without question, 6 BC was a lousy time to live in Judea. Herod the Great had seized the throne of Israel through bloody intrigue and with political support from Rome.

Three Promises Regarding Our Faithfulness

In several places through the New Testament, there are statements of promise from God to faithful servants. I’m thinking of three in particular: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

More Promises
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Note: “your toil is not in vain.”

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. (Galatians 6:9–10)

Note: “we will reap.”

Biblical Facts about Rewards

Scripture not only supports the idea of eternal rewards, it spells out the specifics. In 1 Corinthians 3:10–14, we find three primary facts about rewards. We’ll look at the first two today and complete the list next week.

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Before I mention the facts, let’s review the verses:

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. (1 Corinthians 3:10–14)

First, most rewards are received in heaven, not on earth. Please don’t misunderstand. There are earthly rewards. Even the world provides certain people with special honors:

Paul Was Normal, Like Us

Funny, we seldom think that a great apostle like Paul ever suffered from insomnia, but he did. He couldn’t sleep sometimes because of acute deprivations, like hunger, cold, and exposure . . . and sometimes because of his concern for the many ministries to which he had given himself.

Just like us
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“Daily pressure,” he calls it. Read his own words:

I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:27–28)

Now that’s being under pressure. Sounds like the pastorate, huh?

Our Common Struggles: Affliction, Confusion, Persecution

In last week’s post, we were introduced to four common struggles all servants of God face. Really, they’re consequences. In 2 Corinthians 4:8–9 we read them . . .

Common Struggles
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Afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down.

The first word, translated “afflicted,” comes from a Greek term that suggests the idea of pressure. This is stress brought on by difficult circumstances or by antagonistic people.

Responding to Treatment That Is Wrong

Greathearted, loving, caring, sacrificial servants of the living God have known ill treatment down through the centuries. The consequence of serving is no new phenomenon. It goes a long way back in time.

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I’m not aware of a more moving section of Scripture than these verses out of Hebrews 11, which declare the reality of the consequences of serving: