Eternal Rewards, Part 3
Bruce A. Hess
Well, if you would now, please take out your Bibles and turn in them to the book of 1 Corinthians, and chapter number 3. We are going to be covering a lot of ground today, alright? So, hold on to your spiritual hats.
You know, home building shows are very popular in our culture right now and they remind me—these home building shows—of one of the strangest home buildings that has ever occurred in America and that was the building of the Winchester House in San Jose, California.
It is an interesting house. It was built by Sarah Winchester, who was the wife of William Winchester of the Winchester rifle fortune. Sarah had trauma in her life, she lost her 6-week old infant daughter, Annie, then, awhile later, she lost her husband, William, to tuberculosis. When he died, she inherited—in today’s dollars—more than a half billion dollars, plus fifty percent of the Winchester rifle company. She moved to San Jose and bought a small farmhouse there, thinking that she would just add to it, remodel it, as time went along.
She was very obsessed with grief over losing her daughter and her husband so she decided to consult a spiritist, a medium, and that medium told her while having this little spirit session with her, that she was in danger of being haunted by spirits of those who had been killed by Winchester rifles. Also, the medium went on to tell her that as long as you keep adding to your house you will not die. So, what she did for the next thirty-six years—more than a third of a century—she invested—in today’s dollars—about seventy-one million dollars building this house, and building this house, and building this house.
Twenty-four thousand square feet, one hundred and sixty-one rooms, ten thousand windows, two thousand doors, forty-seven fireplaces, forty stairways. She became obsessed, because of the spiritism in her life, with the number thirteen. She would usually hire thirteen carpenters at a time to be building the building. It had thirteen bathrooms, many of the windows have thirteen panes in them, often the ceilings had thirteen panels in them, many of the closets had thirteen hooks in them, some of the chandeliers had thirteen globes on them. She had spider web windows. There were twists, and there were turns, and there were dead-ends all over the house. The corridors would often lead nowhere. She was partially concerned as she moved in the house about being able to avoid the spirits who might be bothering her. They had doors that led to a brick wall. One door led to the outside and a fifty-foot drop. There were secret passageways in the house. She had a séance room there. She would sleep in a different room every night, trying to avoid the spirits who might haunt her. When she died in 1923, they began to offer tours of the Winchester House.
You say, ‘Okay, Bruce, that’s a weird story. Why are you telling us that story?’ Well, there is actually some parallel, because every believer is a builder and every one of us is building for spiritual reasons, but for different spiritual reasons than she did. One of the analogies is, we are a builder. The vital question for each one of us is, how are we building what we are building?
We’ve been talking about Eternal Rewards and we’ve been using as base passages, Romans 14 and 2 Corinthians 5. We’ve been looking at chapter 14, verse 10, of Romans, “For we will all stand before the judgment seat (the bema) of God.” Then, in 2 Corinthians, chapter 5 and verse 10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat (the bema) of Christ.”
If you’ve been with us in our study so far, hopefully you are feeling that this is not an insignificant incident that is future for each one of us. Rather, it is a monumental matter that we all need to be alert to, this bema.
Now, each of our messages is building on the previous one, so if you missed the first two messages, I would encourage you to go and listen to them. But here is today’s plan. This is what we are going to cover today. We are going to be moving quickly.
We are going to look at three analogies of the Christian life.
We are going to look at some specific rewards.
Then, we are going to end with two concluding thoughts.
We gave you a preview last time of these three analogies of the Christian life. We said everyone is a builder, every one is a manager, and every believer is a marathoner. These are analogies that, no doubt if you’ve been around Scripture, that you’ve heard and seen before. But it is important to understand that these analogies of being a builder, a manager, and a marathoner, are really the basis of our evaluation at the reward seat, at the bema, of Christ.
So, we want to talk about how every believer is a builder. If you’ve turned to 1 Corinthians, chapter 3 in your Bibles, I want to read verses 10-15 and invite you to follow along as I’m reading. Paul writes,
“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, or 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 shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss but he himself will be saved, yet only so as through fire.”
Now, again, this analogy—this first one of every believer being a builder—is one that we should have a cultural affinity for because, you know, we have all those popular home improvement shows. You have Fixer Upper, with Chip and Joanna. You have Property Brothers. You have Home Town, with Ben and Erin, and there are more.
But note, this is an analogy that he is communicating to the believers in the city of Corinth. I want to just remind you that those who had come to Christ in the city of Corinth, came to Christ in a very fleshly city. We learn really from the first four verses of 1 Corinthians, chapter 3 and other parts of Corinthians, that they were struggling as followers of Jesus with carnality in their life. They were struggling with living fleshly lives. They had fallen, many of them, into periods of strife and conflict among them as believers, and they were struggling with spiritual pride.
In verse 9 he says to those believers, “You are God’s building.” And, he says, “Each man must be careful,” verse 10 (at the end), “how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one with is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” What Paul is saying to these believers in Corinth is, he says, ‘I’ve laid a foundation and that foundation–as I built this into your lives and leading you to Jesus—that foundation is Jesus Christ, Himself.’
When you come to 1 Corinthians 3, there are some very good Bible teachers who would say, ‘Listen, the people who build on the foundation aren’t really individual believers, it is the spiritual leaders who are doing the building.’ A lot of times they will point to earlier on when he is using an analogy of a field, where he says, “I, Paul, planted and Apollos watered.” Some would say it is not individual believers who build. But I don’t really think that is the case. Paul seems to emphasize here that this is something that every believer does. You see this over and over again in the passage.
In verse 10 he says, “But each man,” not just leaders, “each man must be careful how he builds.”
Verse 12, “If any man builds on the foundation.”
Verse 13, “Each man’s work will become evident.”
Verse 13, it talks about the testing of the quality of what? Each man’s work.
Verse 14, “If any man’s work remains, he will receive a reward.”
Verse 15, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved.”
So, the picture in the analogy here is that Jesus Christ is the foundation, we are the builder who builds on that foundation.
What does that mean? It means that we are going to be evaluated one day for the choices we made in our spiritual life. We will be evaluated for our faithfulness. It says there in verse 13, “Each man’s work will become evident.” Literally, will be “manifest”. So, each one of us is a builder. The question is, as we build, is what we are building worthy of reward or unworthy of reward? Are my life choices built around my will, even as a follower of Jesus, or His will? Am I building by the energizing of the Holy Spirit or am I living my life in the energy of my flesh?
In 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, [which remember, is one of our contexts for the bema], Paul draws this point, he goes on to say, ‘Here is what you need to be learning: no longer live for yourselves, but for Him who died and rose on your behalf.’ So, a legitimate question that we should be asking, really monthly, if not weekly is, am I living for myself or am I living for Him?
As a builder, there are two possibilities. Possibility number one is that I build with lasting materials. Pictured here is gold, silver, precious stones. When the bema comes, when the test comes, if what we’ve built remains, we shall receive a reward. It goes on to say there, “that the day will show it.” What day is that? The day of the bema will show it…it will be revealed with fire. What does that really mean? Does it mean literal fire is going to appear? No, it is an analogy.
We learn in the book of the Revelation, in chapter 1, verse 14 – chapter 2, verse 18 – chapter 19, verse 12, it says there that the eyes of Jesus are like a flame of fire. What does that really mean? It doesn’t mean that He’s actually got fire popping out. It means that His eyes, His perception, it is very penetrating, it is very revealing. It seems like the idea is, that He is going to evaluate how we have built. If we have built in a spiritual way, with imperishable acts and choices in our life, things will remain. When they remain we will receive a reward. That is possibility number one.
Possibility number two is that we choose at times to build with inferior materials, pictured as wood, hay and straw. As evaluation comes, those kinds of things are burned up and we will suffer loss, the loss of what? Contextually: reward. “Yet he himself will be saved.” I want you to notice that as this evaluation of fire, if you will, comes, what burns is the works, not the worker. But, he suffers loss, this builder does, and that is the forfeiture of reward. Yet, as it says in verse 15, “He himself will be saved.”
I want to say this again, when a person sees the work of Jesus Christ…what He has done on our behalf…and puts his trust and faith in what He has done and we are born again: we are brought into the family of God, our eternal destiny is settled forever. But, our spiritual faithfulness is yet to be evaluated.
The worst-case scenario, what we have built on the foundation is burned up, but we are never excluded from heaven. That is why John says in 2 John 8, “Watch yourselves…” we could use this analogy on how you’re building, “that you may receive a full reward.”
Let me just say this, does any believer out there build perfectly in their spiritual life with gold, silver and precious stones? Any believer do that perfectly? The answer is no. I mean, we all still sin. We will all still make some poor choices in how we are living out our spiritual life. We are all, from time-to-time, going to make some spiritual mistakes. From time-to-time we are all going to have some failures of faith. But the better choices that we make, the greater reward that will come to us.
Now, again, I want to go back to this common objection that I hear from time-to-time, they say, ‘Reward? Come on, that is so mercenary-like, it just has that mercenary feel to it, Bruce.’ Well, I think one of the things we don’t understand is, there are three noteworthy motivations in the Christian life. I want to talk about them. Three things that should motivate us in our Christian life.
The first one is: gratitude for His mercy and grace. That should motivate me in how I choose to live my life. We see that very clearly stated for us in Hebrews 12:28. He says, “Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Thus, let us offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe.” He says it is a good thing to be motivated by gratitude for His mercy and grace.
We see a similar argument that comes in the book of Romans. If you know your way around the book of Romans you know that he spends eleven chapters talking about everything that God has done for us. Then, you come to chapter 12, verse 1, he says, “Therefore,” in light of everything that He has done, in light of His mercy and His grace that has been extended to us, “I urge you by the mercies of God,” [that is, the first eleven chapters], “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, which is your spiritual service of worship.” One of the motivations we have for living our Christian life is gratitude for His mercy and grace.
A second noteworthy motivation is – His great love for us. We see that in 1 John 4:19, “We love,” why? “Because He first loved us.” That is a motivation for how we live our Christian life. His mercy and grace motivates us. His great love for us motivate us.
Then, the third noteworthy motivation in the Christian life is what we are studying in this series: the prospect of eternal reward. Over the years, as I have even shared some of this principle about reward from Scripture, I have had people actually say this to me, “I don’t really care about reward. This [His mercy and grace] gets me motivated, and this [His love] gets me motivated. I don’t care about this third one at all.” You know what I say to that? I say, really??? I mean, when I look into Hebrews, chapter 11, I find Moses sought the reward. He was motivated in his life by the reward. When you look at the Apostle Paul, and we are going to see some of that this morning, Paul sought the reward. He talked about it more than anybody else talked about it. We’ve already seen how the Apostle John urges us, in 2 John 8, “Watch yourselves…that you may receive a full reward.”
I realize I’m not the smartest guy in the universe, but here is the way I look at this: if God says it’s important, it’s important! He knows infinitely more about eternity than we do. We have no clue really what’s back there, except for what Scripture gives us a little bit of revelation about. He knows everything about it and He says reward is important.
So, we have these three analogies of the Christian life – the first one is that every believer is a builder. Listen carefully here, because some of us look backwards with some regret. It is never too late to build well. Okay? It is never too late to build well.
The second analogy that we have is – every believer is a manager. These second two analogies we are going to spend less time on. You can explore them more on your own. But, the key New Testament word for a manager is the word, steward. That is the term that they used in their day. We would use the word, manager. What does a manger or a steward do? They are entrusted with the resources of other people, and then they are therefore responsible to manage those resources. The key principle of a manager or a steward is from 1 Corinthians 4:2. It says, “It is required of stewards (or a manager) to be found faithful.”
Now, tune in for a moment. Every one of us in this room who names the name of Christ has received resources from God Himself. One of the resources He gives to us is the resource of time. I want to remind you that not everybody has the same resource of time given to them. A very good friend of mine here at Wildwood got cancer in his 30’s and died. God gave a greater resource of time to me than He gave to him. God gives us abilities. God gives us each spiritual gifts. God gives to all of us certain spiritual opportunities. God gives to every one of us financial resources. We all know, right, we don’t have the same financial resources. We have different financial resources that are given to us. But here is the idea: I am to be faithful with what God has given to me.
We see some illustrations of this idea of being a manager, in Luke, chapter 19. You don’t need to go there. It is the parable of the minas. You can look it up later. The m-i-n-a-s, the minas. It is a story that Jesus tells, He is making a point. He is talking about how a nobleman is going to leave, he leaves certain resources with his servants, but he is going to return. Remember, the nobleman is a picture of Christ, who is leaving and He is going to return. When he comes back, the question for he has for all of his servants is: how have you invested what I gave you? The idea there in that story is that they will be rewarded according to how they managed what the master, the nobleman, gave to them.
We see another illustration of it in Luke, chapter 16, where you have the parable of the shrewd steward. It is one of my favorite parables. It is this guy who does some things that you think might not have been totally on the up and up [honest or legal], but in the story he is commended by Jesus for this: he was shrewd enough to look to the future. He made some choices in his life with an eye to his future interests. And, Jesus says that is something we all ought to be doing.
One of my favorite verses is from Luke 16:9. This is where He is telling that whole story of that shrewd steward and He says, “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by the means of the wealth of unrighteousness.” What is the wealth of unrighteousness? It is the wealth of this world. “Make friends for yourselves by the means of the wealth of this world, so that when it fails, (it becomes worthless at the point of death) they (these spiritual friends that you garnered) will receive you into the eternal dwellings.”
That is an exciting thing. Think about it. I make certain choices in management of the resources God has given to me, in such a way that might influence some people to come to know Christ. Then when I go to heaven, I have eternal friends who are there to greet me.
You know, in Matthew, chapter 6, in verse 20, Jesus gives that command we are all familiar with, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” A command given to you and given to me. What exactly is treasure in heaven? We’re not really told precisely what it is, but here is what we are told. Jesus says it is desirable, it is beneficial, it is wise, therefore, do it. Do it. Be a good manager!
Now, I’m just going to self-confess with you and I suspect many of you are the same way. I think it is easy for all of us to play what I call the spiritual “IF” game. What is the spiritual “IF” game? Here is the spiritual “IF” game. If I had more money, wow, then I would really be investing it in eternal treasure. If I had more gifts and abilities, then I would do it, but I don’t really have that many. If I had more time, because you see, I don’t have a lot of time, but if I had more time, then… If I had more opportunities, then… But here is the thing we need to remember, each one of us is responsible for what God has provided to us. Don’t play the spiritual “IF” game. It is a spiritual “psych out” [frankly, an excuse for inaction].
All of this, by the way, that each one of us are managers and we are responsible to manage the resources that God has given to us, not the resources God has given to somebody else, is actually very encouraging. From another angle, it is very encouraging.
I like the way Daniel Henderson put it. He put it this way, “Good news! The Lord will not judge you because you did not evangelize like Billy Graham.” Wow, a little relief there. “He will not judge you because you did not teach like Tim Keller or write like Max Lucado.” I can’t write like Max Lucado. “He will simply evaluate why you were or were not the best “you” that He created and graced you to be as a faithful steward and fruitful disciple.” That is encouraging.
So, every believer is a builder. Every believer is a manager and I want to say it again. Don’t get caught just looking backwards. You can learn from the past; it is never too late to manage well. Okay?
Then, the third analogy is that every believer is a marathoner. A marathoner. This is the one maybe we are most familiar with, the idea of running a life race. We see this talked about in 1 Corinthians, chapter 9, verses 24-27. In verse 24, Paul says to every believer, “Run the race in such a way that you may win.” What am I going to win? What does it mean, “win”? It means reward. Then, in verse 25, he says, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath [this is talking about those athletic games] but we do it to receive an imperishable one.” How do we exercise self-control? How do we run well? It means we don’t get overly focused on the passing pleasures of this life. Some people who know Christ, get very, very focused on the pleasures of this life. Rather, we become focused on eternal reward.
What it means is—when it talks about exercising self-control—it means at times I sacrifice my personal desires to pursue God’s desires in my life. It is interesting, in verse 27 of 1 Corinthians 9, Paul says, “I am concerned, I don’t want to be disqualified.” He thought it was possible to be disqualified. That doesn’t mean barred from heaven, he wasn’t worried about that. But he was actually saying, ‘I don’t want to miss out on the reward at all.’
You come to his last and final letter in 2 Timothy, chapter 4, in verse 7. He says, ‘I’ve finished the marathon. I have finished the course. I’ve run the race. I am so glad I ran it well and I’m finishing well.’
So, think about this, if all the inheritance that we might receive and all the rewards we might receive are all predetermined the moment we trust in Christ– why don’t we just relax and coast? Well, it’s not all predetermined. How we run the race will determine a lot of our reward.
Our plan today was to look at the analogies of Christian life and then we wanted to look at some specific rewards. It is very important to look at these specific rewards. Generally, when we talk about the bema, I think there are two categories of feedback that are going to come to us from our Savior. The first category of feedback is going to be praise, verbal praise from our Savior. 1 Corinthians 4:5, “Then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” We are all familiar with the phrase, “Well, done good and faithful servant.” You notice it doesn’t say, good and perfect servant, because there are none of those. It says, well done good and faithful servant.
So, part of the feedback we are going to get is going to be praise from the Savior, but the other part we are going to get are rewards of honor. We don’t know exactly what all of that is, that honor is not explicitly, in detail, described for us. We do know that there are mentioned in the New Testament some crown rewards. Now, in the original language of the New Testament there are two words for a crown. One is a diadem, that is the ruling crown that we often think of when we picture a crown. But the other one is the stephanos, which is the victor’s wreath that would be handed to the victor in the athletic games. We have some of those stephanos rewards actually mentioned and I want to look at them real quickly.
One of them that is mentioned is the stephanos of glory. We find that in 1 Peter, chapter 5, verses 2-4. This is a stephanos that will be given to faithful leaders in the church. You do know, not all leaders of the church who even know Christ are faithful leaders. Faithful leaders are those who have sacrificially served God’s flock by leading and feeding, and protecting the flock, and being godly examples to the flock. Those leaders will receive the stephanos of glory.
There is a second one I want to look at really quickly and that is the stephanos of righteousness. This is what is talked about at the end of Paul’s life in 2 Timothy, chapter 4, verses 7 and 8. This stephanos of righteousness is given when we fulfil the ministry that God has designed for us. I had a ministry designed for me by God; you have a ministry designed for you by Him. When we fulfil that ministry, we receive the stephanos of righteousness. We receive that stephanos of righteousness by persevering to the end of the course. That is what Paul is talking about here, he says, ‘I’m finishing well, I’m not finishing bad, nosediving spiritually. I’m finishing well.’ And, when we do that, we receive the stephanos of righteousness.
Note: not everybody receives the stephanos of righteousness. If you go back to 2 Timothy 4 you will see one individual who is mentioned who does not receive this. His name is Demas, D-e-m-a-s. Paul says Demas loved this present world, he got off the race. I want you to know that the stephanos of righteousness—this is one of the aims of my life. I want that reward. I want that reward.
Now, I understand, and it is true for all of us, there are different times in our life where we are not always ministering and serving Jesus Christ, and other people, at the same level. So, there are times when we might be adjusting our ministry. But I always get a little perturbed when I hear from some of the older crowd who say, “Well, you know I served, past tense, it’s now the younger people’s turn. I’m retiring from ministry”’ What?!? Ministry should never cease in our life, it may adjust, but should never cease.
Look at what it says in 1 Corinthians 15:58, who do you think this is addressed to? All of us, not just to leaders! “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” How often will we be serving Him? “Always, abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain.”
Hebrews, chapter 6, verse 10, “God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name in having ministered in the past [He’s not going to forget that] and in still ministering presently to the saints.” See how that works?
A third stephanos is called the stephanos of life. This is not the gift of life, Romans 6:23, we get that when we trust Christ. This is the crown of life, the stephanos of life. By the way, this one is very, very encouraging. Anybody ever face adversity and difficulty in their life? Anyone having to deal with suffering and pain in their life? Well, this is a crown that can be earned by those who go through those kinds of things. It is mentioned in James, chapter 1, in verse 12, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under the trial (that difficulty, that suffering, that adversity we’ve gone through) for when he has stood the test (what happens?) he will receive the crown (the stephanos) of life.”
This is very encouraging because often we don’t understand some of the things we are going through. But, what it is saying is: if we will keep trusting the Lord through it, the stephanos of life will come to us. This is especially encouraging for those in other parts of the world, especially so, because we don’t necessarily experience physical persecution. But, in the book of the Revelation, chapter 2, verse 10, to the church at Smyrna, Jesus says, “Don’t fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison (I haven’t had that experience yet, I hope I don’t) so that you will be tested…be faithful until death and (what happens?) I will give you the crown (the stephanos) of life.”
In Luke, chapter 6, verses 22 and 23, Jesus said this to the disciples, He says, ‘When you are hated, when you are ostracized, when you are insulted, when you are scorned for My sake’ […you know what it says next?] It says leap for joy. When you are hated, ostracized, insulted and scorned for My sake, leap for joy, your reward in heaven is great!
See, it is the awareness of the bema, men and women, that propelled Paul through prisons, and shipwrecks, and beatings, and stonings, and perils, and weariness, and hunger, and discomfort, and ailments, and burdens of the churches. It propelled him through all those things.
Jot down 2 Corinthians, chapter 4, verses 16 and 18. The next time you are experiencing adversity, difficulty, suffering, all that kind of stuff, go right there and get some prospective about it from God’s view.
Then, the fourth one we want to look at is what I call the stephanos of delight. It is a very interesting one. In 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, he says this to them, “What is our hope? What is our joy, or the crown (the stephanos) in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when He comes?” He says, “Is it not you? Indeed you are our glory and joy.”
Then, in Philippians, chapter 4, verse 1, he says to the Philippians, “My beloved brethren, my joy… (and what?) stephanos, you’re my stephanos.”
There are only two things in this world that will last forever. Remember what they are? The Word of God and people. One of the greatest delights and rewards that we will experience is when we are greeted and we are able to interact with these eternal friends who we played a part in at various levels in having them come to Christ. Whether we are leading someone to faith, whether we are assisting someone come to faith by inviting them to things or praying for them, whether we are financially supporting others who are involved in outreach, remember again, Matthew 10:41, “He who receives a prophet (ministers to and helps out a prophet) will receive a prophet’s reward.” That is very motivating. That is why we get involved in other people’s ministries and lives, because we get to receive multiple rewards by investing in that way.
Now, here is a question for us: are these crowns going to be literal crowns? I mean, if I get more than one am I sort of stacking them on my head? We don’t know for certain, but it seems to me they are probably more tangible illustrations of rewards that we might enjoy. Will every believer experience joy in eternity? The answer to that is – YES! Will every believer experience the same blessing in heaven? The answer to that is – NO. There is a difference between them: the life choices we make in our spiritual walk.
Two concluding thoughts: First, are rewards really that important? Why don’t you answer that for me? What does the New Testament have to say? The Lord Jesus certainly emphasized it in a great way. We just don’t understand because we don’t understand what is beyond the door of death. I want to remind you of what it says in 1 Corinthians, chapter 2, in verse 9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined [what?] all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” We don’t have any real clue, He has given us some information, but oh, it is going to be far more fabulous than we can ever imagine.
The second concluding thought: Aren’t rewards going to be an ego trip? I mean, isn’t this the way it is going to be in heaven, you know? I’m going to say, “Look at me! Look at what I’ve got that you don’t have.” Is that the way it’s going to be?
You know, when I was a young boy before there was Nike and before there was Adidas, there were two kinds of sneakers that you could buy, two brands, one was Keds and the other was PF Flyers. Some of you who are younger have never heard of PF Flyers. But, if you watched the TV commercials in those day of PF Flyers, they would say, “PF Flyers, they help you to run faster and jump higher.” In the commercials you would see these scenes of kids running and jumping and doing all of these things and they would say, “PF Flyers, the shoes that winners choose.”
I wanted to be a winner, so I got myself a pair of PF Flyers and I began to run around and jump around, and you know what? I realized it’s not the shoe, it is who is in the shoe that makes the difference. The same thing is going to be true of us, it’s not the me, it’s Who is in me. It’s Christ in me, the hope of glory.
Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “It is by the grace of God, I am what I am.” Am I going to take credit for it? No. “His grace toward me did not prove vain, I labored more than all of them yet, [yet, yet] not I but the grace of God with me.” There’s not going to be any bragging going on, because what did I do ultimately? It was the one who was in me who did it.
Last week we talked about how the victor in the Isthmian games, you know, he would win that victory and he would often then go back to his hometown and he had this victor’s wreath, this stephanos, that he would win, and he would often place that stephanos on the altar of his local deity. You know what is interesting? That is exactly what we see being pictured in the New Testament.
In Revelation, chapter 4, we have this whole idea here, Revelation 4:4, then verses 10 and 11, we have the twenty-four elders there, they are a picture of the church and they are clothed in white garments and they have, on their heads, golden crowns, stephanos, plural. In verses 10 and 11 of that chapter, they cast their stephanos before the throne and they say, “Worthy are You, our lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power.”
Here is what is interesting to think about. The ability to give glory to the Lord Jesus Christ is going to be the most valuable commodity in eternity. You want as much of that as you can get, for His honor and glory.
Rewards, men and women, are a motivation for when we are being tempted, for when we are tired, for when we are discouraged, for when we are suffering, and I want to say this again, it is never too late to build well. It is never too late to manage well. It is never too late to run well for His glory.
Let’s pray together. Father, we think of this picture here in the book of Revelation, toward the end, when there are myriads of myriads of myriads gathered. And when everyone—the picture is of us being there—and we are all going to be saying…not worthy is Bruce…we are going to be saying, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” We will be saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever.” Amen.
Questions for Reflection
Eternal Rewards – Week three
1. The prospect of future reward can be very encouraging, empowering, and comforting.
How would the prospect of eternal reward impact:
– A teen, or 20 something, who is seeking to remain sexually pure?
– A person who is caring for a spouse or parent who suffers from Alzheimer’s?
– A parent who is raising a special needs child?
– Parents who are seeking to be spiritual models for their children?
– An individual who is considering downsizing their cost of living to make more
– A young person who wants to follow Jesus despite the poor example of their
– A person who has long suffered physically with disability or pain?
One thing is certain, all of our struggles in faithfully serving and following Jesus
will one day be worth it!
2. Bruce asked: Will every believer experience joy in eternity? And he stated emphatically YES!
Read I John 2:28. John proposes that it is possible for a Jesus follower to
When Jesus returns. How does that “jive” with Bruce’s statement above? Discuss.
After some discussion evaluate Samuel Hoyt’s statement: “To overdo the sorrow
aspect of the judgment seat of Christ is to make heaven hell. To underdo the sorrow
aspect is to make faithfulness inconsequential.”
3. Do you feel prepared to stand before the Bema of Christ?
Are there attitudes that should be altered?
Are there habits or patterns of sin that need to be addressed?
Are there areas where you have yet to yield your will to His?
4. List the resources God has graciously provided for you (education, abilities, spiritual
gifts, life experiences, positions of influence, finances, opportunities to serve Jesus
and others). Then take some time to prayerfully consider how you might better utilize
each of those resources for eternal benefit.
5. All of us may be in differing places in our spiritual journey:
Some may be in “comeback mode.” Maybe you’ve drifted in your spiritual walk
and spent some time off in “the spiritual weeds.” If so, always remember His arms are
ever open wide to you. Draw near to Him, and he’ll draw near to you (James 4:8).
It is never too late to build well, manage well, and run well
Others have maybe enjoyed a series of significant spiritual accomplishments
and victories. If so, stay humble, remain faithful, keep your focus on the finish line
and continue to exalt Jesus.
6. First Corinthians 10:12 warns us, Let him who thinks he stands, take heed that he does not fall.
Prayerfully read Psalm 139:23-24 and ask God to reveal any hidden issues
in your heart.
“We were made for a person and a place. Jesus is the person. Heaven is the place
– Randy Alcorn
Recommended book for digging deeper into Eternal Rewards:
Going for the Gold, by Joe L. Wall