Building With Gold, Silver, and Costly Stones (1 Corinthians Sermon 12)
December 16, 2018 | Andrew Davis
1 Corinthians 3:10-15
Eternal Rewards, Good Works
Only What is Done for Christ Will Last
Please turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians Chapter 3. We will be looking again morning, again, at verses 10-15. Now, two summers ago, I had the opportunity in my service as a Trustee to the International Mission Board to be in London and I was meeting with some missionaries there, and I find myself during that time, walking through Trafalgar Square in London. And there was a huge crowd gathered. There's a lot of things going on in Trafalgar Square all the time, but these individuals are gathered around an artist who is using chalk to draw a picture on the sidewalk.
And I couldn't really get close enough to see what he was drawing. So I went up the steps of the National Gallery right there, near where he was drawing and then I could gain some perspective. And as I looked down, I almost caught my breath. I couldn't believe how amazing this sidewalk chalk drawing was of St. Paul's Cathedral and it was just architecturally correct. It would seem to be three-dimensional, seem to almost be alive. Like you could kind of dive right in, which would have been a bad idea because it's still a sidewalk but it was just amazing the skill that this artist had and people were putting money in his bucket. So it seemed that this is something that he did regularly.
Now a year later, this past summer, I had the chance to be in London again and walked through and in that exact area where that incredible drawing of St. Paul's Cathedral had been, there was a group of jugglers. And there was not a trace under their feet of that magnificent drawing. Now, I don't want you to think I was shocked by that. I knew very well we were talking about sidewalk chalk. My guess is that feet walked across it later that evening, or when the dew settled, it had already started to smear and certainly by the next time there was any kind of downpour, which is a regular thing in London, it was gone entirely. The Bible reveals that that's what it will be like for everything that we build with our hands on Earth. All of the glory, the physical glory of the world, all of the kingdoms and splendor of this world will one day be blown away like chaff on a threshing floor, in the summer.
That's the image in Daniel Chapter 2. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, and a statue, head of gold, and chest and arms of silver, and belly and thighs of bronze, and legs of iron and feet partly iron and partly clay, and the stone was cut out but not by human hands struck this statue which represented the sequence of empires, one after the other, and the whole thing became a pile of shrapnel, of shards, that then a wind came and blew away without leaving a trace. But the rock that was cut out, but not by human hands, grew and became a huge mountain that filled the whole earth. And then this incredible dream, that's really just a picture of all of human history, which will someday be swept away like chaff on a threshing floor, in the summer. Represents the temporary nature of all the kingdoms of the world in their splendor. As one poet put it a number of years ago, "The lesson is clear, only one life 'till soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last."
There is a building being built. There is a structure rising, but you can't see it with your eyes, it's a spiritual structure. And we've spoken of it many times. It is the church of Jesus Christ. It's not the building in which the church, local church is assembled to meet. That's not what we're talking about. We're talking about a spiritual temple rising, being built with living stones that are quarried out of Satan's dark kingdom day after day after day, by evangelism and missions. And that structure will last for all eternity. And this text that we're studying here, calls on us to be active in building it. And it's amazing, the grace of God, that He's given us to not just wash away all of our sins in the blood of Christ that we would someday stand before His judgment throne blameless, and unafraid, cleansed of all of our sins by the grace of God, through faith in Christ, not by works, but by His work by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, that we would stand blameless and unafraid.
But not only that, that we actually have the privilege of not wasting our lives on things that will be like sidewalk chalk, washed away without leaving a trace. And that's incredible grace that we have been forgiven of our sins, and reconciled to God, by faith in Christ, not by works as Ephesians 2:8-9. So clearly says, "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it's a gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast." But then the next verse says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God ordained or prepared in advance that we should walk in them."
The Ministry of the Apostle Paul
So this is the very life that the Apostle Paul was living, after God called him out of serving Satan and serving darkness and sin, though he's a very morally upright and righteous and energetic zealous religion, religionist in the spirit that he understood in Judaism, advancing in Judaism, beyond any of the other Jews of his day, still serving Satan and attacking the Church of Christ that God called him out of darkness into light on the road to Damascus, famous, the most famous conversion story in the history of the church and set him working. "Get up and go into the city," Christ told him, "and you will be told what you must do."
And what he must do is build the church of Jesus Christ and so in 1 Corinthians 2, he talks about how he did that in Corinth. 1 Corinthians 2:1-4, "When I came to you brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God for I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I was with you in weakness and fear and much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power." And so in that way, Paul says he laid a foundation, he laid a foundation for that local church, but then in time after he had done some discipleship and leadership training and development and setting that local church up, God called on him to continue his overall ministry of being a trail blazing frontier missionary, apostle to the Gentiles, to go to another place and leave the work at Corinth in the hands of others.
In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, it's his call to those that he had entrusted the work to be faithful and to be careful how they build. Now, he had already said in the earlier part of the chapter, we are "only servants. What is Paul? What is Apollos? We're just servants. "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants and he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow." He uses that agriculture analogy and then he shifts, "You are God's field, God's building," so he goes over then to an architectural image, but he says, "Look, we are servants, we are nothing. God is everything, God's work is everything, but still, you human servants need to be careful how you work." It actually matters how you live, it matters how you do the work.
And so he says in verse 10 and following, "By the grace that God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder. And now someone else is building on it, but each one should be careful how he builds, for no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the day will bring it to light. It will be a revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each one's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive a reward, if it is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved but only as one escaping through the flames."
Now, last time that we looked at this a couple of weeks ago, I focused more negatively on the warning of wood, hay, and straw, urging you negatively don't waste your life. Don't just do sidewalk chalk art, that gets swept away and there's nothing left, and so, wood, hay and straw is anything that would be burned up on Judgment Day, is of no value at all, clearly sins. But even those things that really are fine morally, but they're just a waste of time in the end that we indulged in too much. And Paul says that when Christ tests all of our life's work, some of it's proven to be wood, hay, and straw, it's going to burn up.
The Reality: Every Christian Must Give an Account
Now this is what I believe: every true Christian that stands before Christ gives an account for everything done in the body, whether good or bad. Many Christians don't know this. They think that we get to skip Judgment Day evaluation of our lives because there's no condemnation for those are in Christ Jesus. It is not true, you will give an account to Christ for everything done in the body, whether good or bad.
And there will be good and bad. And you know that this is true, there will be gold, silver, costly stones and there will be wood, hay, and straw. If there is nothing of value to your life, you're not born again. If there is nothing that survives, you're not alive. If you are a branch in Christ to some degree, and you bear zero fruit, you're cut off and those branches are collected, and burned in the fire, John 15. But the question is proportions. How much of your life will survive the Judgment Day testing? That's what's in front of us here. And so my task is to minimize your loss and maximize your return on investment. I feel like a financial advisor, spiritual financial... I want you to minimize your loss. Want you to maximize your retirement portfolio, for your eternal retirement.
And so I'm going to be advocating some blue chip stock this morning that I think you ought to invest in that will survive and give you a very good return on investment. Enough of that, I'm way out of my depth in this, alright? If I keep talking like this, I'm going to make some mistakes. Paul wants us to be aware of the possibility of wood, hay, and straw, loss. What are you investing your time, your energy, your money in? Do they have eternal value? If they don't, they will burn. And you need to know that now so you stop, like the saying "Don't throw good money after bad." You can't do anything about the waste of last year or 10 years ago, but you can learn the lessons and say, I'm not going to keep doing that, I don't want to throw good money after bad. Let's shift it. I don't want to throw a good time after lost time, good energy after lost energy, good money after lost money. I want to invest my resources and things that matter for all eternity.
I. Why Should We Desire Rewards?
So what I want to do now is talk about the gold and silver and costly stones. I want to give you a theology of rewards. So that you'll understand what is going to survive the fire. Now, in order to do a theology of rewards, first of all, I have to just make a case for it at all, period. Christians seem squeamish about this. "Oh, you know, I don't need anything, I don't want anything, I just want to serve Christ." I understand that, that's a good attitude, but you should not despise rewards. You should not think it's a bad thing to want rewards. I'm actually urging you to be rich in good works, to be rich in things that Christ will reward and not be squeamish about it at all.
Rewards Clearly Taught In Scripture
Our passage clearly teaches it, look at verse 14, "If what he has built survives, he will receive a reward." It's right there in the text, in verse 14. It's earlier in the same chapter, in verse 8, 1 Corinthians 3:8, "The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his labor." So twice in the same chapter, we have the promise of rewards for faithful service. This is all over the new testament. I could multiply scriptures on this. I don't think we realize how many verses there are on this topic. Ephesians 6:8, "The Lord will reward each one for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free." Ephesians 6:8. Colossians 3:23-24, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for people, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward, it is the Lord Christ you are serving." And the implication is, and it is the Lord Christ, who will reward you.
Jesus taught more clearly about rewards than anyone, and I would commend Matthew 6, as the most in-depth treatise on how to protect your rewards so that you will not lose them. Jesus said in Matthew 6, "Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
He's very clear about this. And then after all that he sums it all up. I think you need to see it in context. People often, too often, just go over to the financial side or the materialism side. But in Matthew 6:19-21, He says, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal, for where your treasure is there, your heart will be also." In context. He's talking about rewards. Very clearly, store up heavenly rewards. Have as many heavenly rewards as you possibly can. Be rich in heavenly rewards, so there should be no squeamishness about rewards here at all. Jesus openly teaches this in the Sermon on the Mount. So this is what the goal, the silver and the costly stones are, that we're storing up by our faithful service to Christ.
Now, we need to be clear, I have to be so clear about this. This storing up has nothing to do with your sins at all. You can't store up righteousness in order to pay for your sins. That is the essence of legalism. That's the essence of justification by works, that is something we absolutely deny. You can never use your good works to pay for your sins. That is something you are not storing up in treasure in Heaven. That's not happening. We maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law, Romans 3:28. It's very clear, we're justified by faith in Christ, not by works, or Titus 3:5 say, "He saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of His mercy." Now rewards come therefore after justification by faith. Every human being on earth is storing up something. Before you are converted, you are storing up wrath for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
All of that wrath that you've stored up by your sins, the moment you come to Christ, the moment you're born again, in God's mind gets poured on Jesus, at the cross, and He died under the wrath of God for our sins, and at that moment you begin storing up treasure. Storing up treasure in Heaven. And so that's what we're talking about here. But that is... Do you not see it? By grace, it's lavish grace that you even get to do this. God didn't have to include us, He did not have to entrust the ministry of reconciliation to sinners like you and me. It's incredibly inefficient. It really is. We are inefficient evangelists and inefficient missionaries and inefficient laborers. We don't do a great job. Angels, awesome. They get sent, they work, they get it done.
All by the Grace of God
But He's entrusted to us over 20 centuries, the ministry of reconciliation and God, by His grace, has called us. Look at verse 10, Paul says, "By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder." I am doing this work, by the grace of God. He says later in the same book, 1 Corinthians 15, he says, "I am the least of the apostles, and I don't even deserve to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God, but by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace, to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them, yet, not I, but the grace of God that was working in me." So all of this rewards it's all by grace.
We don't deserve any of it, as servants Luke 17:7-10, says, when we're working in the field working hard when we come in. He doesn't say, "You sit down and I'm going to feed you." No, he says, "You get yourself ready, and you cook for me, and you give me my meal. After that, you may eat." So also, Jesus said, "When you have done everything you were commanded to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants, we have only done our duty.'" So that's a good attitude to have but yet, for all of that, He has promised to reward you. So do you not see how much grace that is? Lavish grace that we get to do this? Furthermore, our works are imperfect.
Anyone of you ever want to say? "Yeah, but that one afternoon that was a perfect afternoon that was a perfect work when I did that." It could have been evangelism giving to the poor, needy. Maybe you serve some people. That was a perfect work. Do you really want to say that? The gold, the silver, the costly stones have to be passed through fire to make it into Heaven. And so the fire doesn't just burn up the wood, hay, and straw. It purifies the gold. And it purifies the silver, it even purifies the diamonds. Because we don't do anything pure. And so it says in Malachi 3:3, that Christ will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. He'll purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.
So our best works need to be purified, and so they will by grace. So we should desire rewards because Jesus commanded us effectively to store up treasure and to want rewards. Paul is telling us, that we'll be rewarded, we should want to have a life rich in good works and be rich and heavenly treasure. And we should build on the foundation that we inherited from previous generations of Christians. We should build on it in our generation and be faithful to do it, until we die, and hand it off to the next generation. This is our time to build on this foundation that we inherited.
II. What Is the Reward?
Okay, so that's the theology generally, what is the reward, what are we talking about here? Well, in the very next chapter, if you look over in 1 Corinthians 4, I think verse 5 makes it very plain. What I think is the simplest answer to that question, what is the reward? And in 1 Corinthians 4-5 says, Wait 'til the Lord comes to evaluate my ministry. "Wait until the Lord comes, He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time, each will receive his praise from God." So those three words in English, that's the essence of reward. Praise from God, not praise for God, or praise of God that's something we will do in Heaven forever and I'm looking forward to that. Just Worshipping Christ, but this is something that's turned around where the throne... The one seated on the throne God, praises us and commends us, that's the essence of the reward praise from God.
The more famous passage is Matthew 25, 21 and also 23 which are identical. In the parable of the five talents and the two talents and the one talent. The one with the five talents, goes out, works with it, gains five more his master says, "Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your Master." So I take that whole thing as the essence of reward, commendation from the Lord well done. And then enter into the joy of your Master. Now, that could be just the general joy that God has in being God and He's a very joyful God. He enjoys being God, He's a God of pleasure and delight. And in His presence, is fullness of joy. So it could be just that general pleasure of being near Him, and that's fine.
But I think in context, it might be... I want to let you know how much joy I had in your five talents that you gained. I want to talk about each of the five talents you gained and how much joy it brought me. So it's a shared relational experience over your good works. I want you to know the delight I had in you, my child. When you went into your room and closed the door and prayed to your father, is unseen. Or when you gave to the poor and needy and nobody knew what you did or when you shared the Gospel. I want to share my pleasure with you over that good work.
More Than a One-Time "Well Done"
Now, when I first heard the statement, "Well done, good and faithful servant." And then I realized, people know that and they talk about it a lot. I always kind of pictured it and then when I heard people talk about it, it was almost like something said just at the beginning, and that's it, kind of like it's written over the entry to Heaven. "Well done, good and faithful servant." And then you go and then you spend the rest of the time bowing down before the throne praising God, and that's fine. But then it kind of struck me that it's deeper and richer and fuller than that and more eternal. It's not like the husband who says, "You know, the day I married you, I told you, I love you if anything changes, I'll let you know." "I was pleased with your good work. If anything changes, I let you know, enjoy Heaven." No, I want you to know forever how much I delight in your good works and not only that, I want you to know how much I delight in his good works, and her good works and whatever, and you'll delight in them, too, so we end up delighting in everyone's good works. Because when one part of the body is honored, the whole body is honored with it. And so we will delight in each other's good works, as much as Him. That's why it's much to my benefit that you all ratchet it up and have as many good works as you possibly can. Because I want to have as much heavenly joy in you and with you as we possibly can. I am totally off my outline here, so let me find out where I am.
Crowns of Honor
Alright, another is the symbol and we hear much about this, crowns. This is related very much to rewards. The idea of crowns that created beings wear in Heaven. I'm not speaking of the crowns that Jesus wears as it says in Revelation 19, on his head are many crowns. But the crown symbolize honor and glory and authority. And it is spoken of in many places that servants of Christ get crowns for example, 1 Thessalonians 2:19, Paul says, to the Thessalonian church that he planted. "What is our hope, our joy or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes. Is it not you? Indeed you are a glory and joy." We have glory in the fact that you are Christians, and we planted that church. You are my crown. Paul said that to the Thessalonians.
He speaks in 1 Corinthians 9, about runners that are training for a race, and they get it... They do it to get a crown that will not last like a wreath, you can imagine of olive branches or something like that, that they wore, but it would fade and wither. But we do it to get a crown that will last forever. So Paul says, "Therefore, I don't run like a man running aimlessly. I don't fight like someone beating the air, but I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I preach to others, I won't be disqualified for the prize." Philippians 4:1, "Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, this is how you should stand firm in the Lord dear friends," and many other verses.
Of course the most famous of this is in Revelation 4:4, where it says, "Surrounding the throne were 24 other thrones and seated on them 24 elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads," and they would continually cast them down the casting crowns." But it seems, also, there was a rhythm to that, where they would take them back up and put them back on, and then in pulses and rhythms, they would cast them again. And by the casting of the crown, they were saying to Christ, "Every glory, and honor, I have in my life is due to you. All of my good works, You work them in me. I don't deserve a crown but I have one." And it represents a life of faithful service to you, but to God be the glory, all of my honor goes to You. But they're our crowns to cast and we get to cast them whenever we want in Heaven.
So these crowns represent honor that come to us. But also, heavenly authority, there are different positions of authority in Heaven. There are. So we will actually have works, we'll have authority in heaven. Different ones. And so, the 24 elders with their crowns on thrones represent individuals created beings that have positions of authority in heaven. As a matter fact, James and John were very well aware of this at least at some level, because they finagle their mother. You remember this, to go to Jesus and say, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other your left in your kingdom." Jesus said to them, "You don't know what you're asking." Amen, hallelujah. You don't have any idea what kind of glory and thrones and crowns we're even talking about. You don't understand what you're asking. "James and John, "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink." "We can." they said. I believe they had no idea what that cup was. They were just so fixed on the glory of the crown... Of the throne. Jesus said, "You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit in my right or left is not for me to grant. Those places belong to those four whom they are prepared by My Father."
III. What Will Christ Reward?
So he doesn't deny that there are thrones and crowns in heaven. He doesn't criticize James and John for seeking it. He didn't say such places don't exist. What he says is, I want you to know the rules by which those places are given. First of all they're given by predestination and the ordination of my Heavenly Father. But beyond that, He'd already asked them one question, and then He teaches them another lesson. The first question He asked is, "Can you drink my cup?" And what is that cup? It is the cup of suffering for the purpose of God, for the glory of God. We will not drink Christ's cup itself, that's a cup of God draft what he drank down to the dregs for our salvation, but there is suffering that spills out from Christ's cup that they will drink and He said, "You will drink from my cup." Well, you remember what happened? The 10 disciples when they heard about this were indignant with the two disciples James and John and were pretty upset. Why? Because they wish they thought of it themselves.
And now they've been maneuvered and angled out of position in the coming kingdom and they're frustrated about that. Jesus said, "You're thinking about this whole thing wrong." "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercised authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave, just as the son of man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." So there it is, those are the rules. Cup and service, put it together. Suffering servanthood for others to the glory of God, those are the rules. The more you suffer, and the more you serve, the greater your reward will be.
Are there any other criteria? Yes, 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." So what that means is, little things and big things whatever it is, eating and drinking is a little thing, big things, do it all for the glory of God. What does that mean? Put God on display as a great glorious God by everything you say and do, and He'll reward you. Or Romans 14:23, "Anything that does not come from faith is sin." Turn it around, anything that does come from faith, He will reward. And that involves obedience, obey His commands. "If you love me, you'll obey my commands." So by faith, obeying his command, if you obey any command by faith, He will reward you. And then finally, 1 Corinthians 13:3-5, Paul says, "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames but have not love, I gain nothing." In other words, I won't get rewarded for that.
That's incredible. Here's an individual who gave everything he owned to the poor, and he laid down his life as a martyr, and he gets no reward for it. Why? Because he didn't have love. "Love is patient, love is kind. It doesn't envy it doesn't boast, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, it's not self-seeking." That's a demeanor, it's attitude of love. Did the people you gave all your money to feel loved by you? Did they sense that you did it in love? Heart of love. Is there a tenderness and a humility and a love in your service? So putting it all together, when Christ test our works and there's gold and silver and costly stones, that's what we're talking about here. Anything done for the glory of God, done by faith in the word of God in obedience to His commands, large or small. Anything done meeting those criteria with a loving demeanor, for God loves a cheerful giver, not a grumpy giver. That's going to survive Judgment Day.
Now you're saying to me that is a high standard. Yeah, but you can meet it by the power of the Holy Spirit. We're not going to be empty-handed, we're going to have gifts. So yes, our gifts will need to be purified, but you can do it.
IV. How Are Gold, Silver, and Costly Stones Different from Each Other?
So, now final question, how are gold, silver, and costly stones different from each other? Are they all the same thing? No, they're not. Gold is more precious than silver. In Solomon's day, the silver's like stones on the street, they didn't even look at it, there was so much of it. So, gold is more precious than silver, and costly stones like you can imagine diamonds more precious than gold. So it's just a hierarchy of value. So, as I said, it's the level of sacrifice and suffering.
Can you drink the cup I'm going to drink? And are you a servant or slave of all? Now, the cup of suffering is not given equally to all and sacrifice is not equal for all. Think of the widow who put in her two copper coins and she put in, Jesus said, more than everyone else because she put in everything she had to live on. Her level of sacrifice is something Christ alone can measure. He knows what it cost her to do that, and she's going to get rewarded more than anyone else who gave that day, because there's a level of sacrifice. Now for us, we are never going to measure up to the level of some of our brothers and sisters in suffering for Jesus. Well, let's start with the Apostle Paul. We can't carry his shoes. Five times he was beaten with a 40 lashes minus one. Three times beaten with rods, that's eight severe beatings for Jesus. I've not had one and don't expect ever to have one. Once he was stoned and left for dead. Shipwrecked twice, started at least three riots in which everyone there would like to have killed him. In prisoned more times than we even can count. The Holy Spirit warned him in every city, prison and hardships were facing him.
Do you not sense that he should have a greater reward than you or me? I feel like it would be unjust for him not to and there's not just him, but there are brothers and sisters for 20 centuries as the church advanced who laid down their lives, whose blood was shed for the spread of the gospel it's going on right now in other parts of the world. There are pastors in China right now, some of them we even read about this week who are incarcerated for their faith, who are taken away from their families, they're taken away from their ministries, threatened with physical further bodily harm. We don't know if they'll be tortured or killed but they might be, you don't know. Then there are Christians in the Horn of Africa and other places where radical Islamic fundamentalism mobilizes people to hunt down Christians and kill them. Such as in Somalia, or in Sudan, or other places. So not everybody's going to get equally rewarded.
For over a year, I read of Adoniram and Nancy Judson who laid down their lives for the gospel. They weren't murdered, but Judson buried two wives who died of tropical fever, and two children, which they would not have faced if they stayed in Massachusetts, and had a country parsonage there. And he was arrested during the war with England, just cause he was a Westerner, it wasn't direct religious persecution, but because he was white, because he was a Westerner, they arrested him and shackled him and hung him upside down by his feet and he was bitten mercilessly by mosquitoes. In some ways, his wife suffered more because she continually every day made intercession for him to the authorities to let him go, and she was starving to death. So I just have a feeling, I just feel like I would like it to be that Adoniram and Nancy Judson get a higher reward than me, I don't know what the rest of my life holds, maybe a comparable suffering, maybe no. But when you talk about gold, and silver, and costly stones, there's different levels of lives.
For all of that however, even a cup of cold water given to one of the Lord servants, you'll never lose your reward. So, that's silver. So I have lots of silver. You can say pastor, "I'm just an average Christian. I'm just living here in America. What should I do?" And I understand that and I wanna talk about that.
So by way of application, let me just begin by going back to the gospel. I want to appeal to all of you who came in here outside of Christ, who are not yet Christians. Like I said, you are storing something up but it's not rewards, it's not gold, and silver, and costly stones. Not at all. You're storing up wrath. But the good news of the gospel is Christ wants to take all of that wrath that you deserve for your sins on Himself, and He then wants to make you rich in heaven. As 2 Corinthians 8 says, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake, He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich." That's really what Christmas is about.
And so, I'm begging you, while there's time repent of your sins, and find salvation through faith in Christ. He died on the cross for sinners like you and me, He was raised from the dead on the third day, He ascended to Heaven, and now sits at the right hand of God. He is the only Savior there is, trust in Him. And then once you do, all your sins are forgiven, you begin storing up treasure gold, and silver, and costly stones.
Alright, "So, Pastor, I'm already a Christian. I've been a Christian for a while. What do I do?" Well, I want to begin by just urging you to redeem the time, redeem the time. That's from Ephesians 5:16. Usually a translation these days don't stick with literalistic translation, only the KJV does, King James Version. "Redeeming the time because the days are evil." Usually they just say, making the most of every opportunity, but I like the idea of redeeming because it's the idea of buying a slave or a kidnapped victim out of danger by the payment of a price.
So what that means is time is kidnapped, time is in chains. You need to get up and seize the day, like they used to say, "Go rescue the day." Don't be a sluggard. Redeem the time because the days are evil. So what that means to me is that every day start straw. It just starts straw and just like that, weird tale, Rumpelstiltskin. I tell you the Grimm brothers were weird. Every one of their... How did we ever tell these stories to our children? They're weird. But you remember the story about the Miller boasting to the king of his daughter? "Oh, my daughter can spin straw into gold." Do you remember that story? And like the king is not going to test it out. "Great to hear, bring her in." So she gets locked up in the room. How she has to pay for her father's loose tongue… It's just so unfair. But there she is in a room, stone room, with a room full of hay, and a spinning wheel. Weeping her eyes out then suddenly some weird imp gnome shows up and he's willing to turn the straw into gold for her necklace.
Stop right there, weird. Dude, if you can do that to straw, you don't need a necklace. But anyway, not the question. Alright. Just, I'm not supposed to be deconstructing these Grimm fairy tales, but this is what happened, and he had the ability to spin straw into gold and then just kept going. I'm not going to tell you, because it's just so weird. I won't tell you what happens. But to some degree, we need to be... Don't quote me on this, but spiritual Rumpelstiltskins.
Alright? You need to take today's straw and spin it into gold. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, as for the Lord and for his glory, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do. So your everyday life, your secular job, your education in college. Whatever you do, your ordinary life, do it all for the glory of God. Be filled with the spirit, see the moment as a gift from God and enrich all of your normal everyday life actions for the glory of God. So start there, but that's not enough. Secondly, ask God how you can move into a higher investment bracket. Find some ministry that will cost you time, energy, money, and sacrifice and start doing that. It could be a whole new thing, it could be an entire life change. Some of our members of our church left us recently to go live in Morocco to start businesses there for the glory of God, and the spread of the Gospel in Morocco. You know, most of you who I'm talking about. You don't have to, however, be a missionary and go oversees. Very few are called to do that, but you can hold the ropes for missionaries by giving sacrificially, by staying in touch with them throughout the year, asking how you can pray for them, step up into a higher bracket.
Look at your life and change it. Whatever you can do to pour out service to God and sacrificial love to others, do it. It's going to be different for all of you. It might be mercy ministry, something here in Durham. It might be an evangelistic ministry, it might be a series of smaller good works. Use your spiritual gift, have a spiritual gift ministry, make that the center of your good works. It could be hospitality, it could be prayer. But whatever you're called on to do, do it with all your might, and you will store up treasure in Heaven. And some day, the Lord will reward you. Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank You for the time we've had to study. We thank You for the mercy that You've shown us in Christ. And Father, I just want to thank You for forgiving us our sins, we are such sinners, and it's revealed day after day. And we just want to thank You for the grace of the Gospel, the simple grace of forgiveness through faith in Christ. Lord, I also want to thank You for the grace of being able to store up gold and silver, and diamonds. And I pray that you would enable us to, with faith, be more courageous and more faith-filled and more... Have a greater heavenly perspective than we've ever had before. For Your glory and the building of your church worldwide, in Jesus' name. Amen.