Living Boldly for Eternal Rewards (Matthew Sermon 93 of 151)
March 22, 2009 | Andrew Davis
Faith, Walk by Faith, Heaven
Introduction: “He Is No Fool…” (though he may appear to be one!)
On October 28, 1949, a young man, a college student at Wheaton College wrote these words in his diary, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” You actually have a copy of it on the front of your bulletin. Came across it on the internet. It's just incredible the things you can find on the internet these days. Of course, the student was Jim Elliot. And he was meditating on the great value of appreciating heaven on earth, a heavenly mindset that would enable anyone to transcend the illusions of temporary pleasures, temporary gains, temporary treasures. To transcend that illusion, and to make the sacrifices necessary to gain eternal pleasures, eternal gains, eternal treasures.
Just thinking about that story of the unjust steward, in Luke 16, who has for just a very short time his job. And soon he's going to lose his job, and he's too proud to beg, doesn't know what to do, and so he therefore takes that very narrow window of opportunity and makes friends for himself in a very, I think, dishonest way. And Jesus tells this parable to tell us in effect, we don't have our stuff for very much longer.
We don't have our position for very much longer, we don't have anything that we have in this Earth for very much longer. Use it well. You've got a very narrow window of opportunity. And so, Jim Elliot was meditating on that and he came up with this incredible statement, “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Now, his future wife, Elisabeth Elliot, wrote of how this man, Jim Elliot, lived out that principle. “Seven years later,” she wrote, “on a hot Sunday afternoon far from that dormitory room where those lines were written, he and four other young men were finishing a dinner of baked beans and carrot sticks. They sat together on a strip of white sand on the Curaray River deep in Ecuador's rainforest, waiting for the arrival of a group of men they loved but had never met. Savage Stone Age killers known to all the world now as Aucas.”
Well you know the story, Jim Elliot and his friends laid down their lives that day, that which they could not keep, to gain many things that they could not lose, to gain an eternity in the presence of God, to gain a rich welcome from Christ as martyrs for his cause. Eternal rewards given directly from the hand of Christ to them, which they enjoy to this very day, and the eternal friendship and brotherhood of those same Auca Indians who killed them with feathered spears and left their bodies floating in the river. Through their sacrifice, and also later those of their wives and other missionaries, those same killers were led to faith in Christ. And now dwell eternally with them in heaven.
They gave that which they could not keep, to gain what they could never lose. And it's interesting how he says, “He is no fool” who does this. As though outwardly it seems somewhat foolish to live a life for Christ, and I think it does. And frankly if there's no kind of principle of foolishness to your life, you're not living properly. You need to look like you're living a foolish life for Christ. Like it just doesn't add up, it doesn't really make sense why you do what you do. You need to live for a future kingdom. And for the rewards that come for serving Christ faithfully in this life.
Now, every single person who's listening to me today has an array of earthly blessings entrusted to you by God. And you have them for just a very short time. What are you willing to do with them for that narrow window that you have those possessions? What are you willing to sacrifice for the glory of God and of Christ and His kingdom? Now this issue, this whole issue is raised by the apostle Peter in the text we're gonna look at today in Matthew 19 in verse 27. He says there, “Lord, we left everything for you. What then will there be for us?”
Peter’s Desire for Rewards
Context: Rich Young Ruler
And he asked this question in context. Now last week, we looked at the encounter Jesus has with the rich young ruler. We talked about him as seemingly the perfect seeker. He was young, he was rich, he was a man of authority and influence. He was pious, religious, seemingly humble, very respectful of Jesus and seeking eternal life. He comes up to Jesus and says, “Good Teacher. What good thing must I do to gain eternal life?” But we found in Jesus' answer that this rich, young ruler didn't really understand anything concerning this significant issue of eternal life.
He didn't understand true goodness. Really, he didn't understand God, he didn't know who God was. He didn't understand who Christ was 'cause Jesus said, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There's only one who is good.” Do you know who I am? He also didn't understand who he was, by his clear conscience as he looked at the laws of God, and he said, “I've kept all of these since my youth.” He didn't understand himself, he didn't understand his own sinfulness, and therefore in all of this, he did not understand salvation.
At core, that man was an idolater. And the real idol, frankly, wasn't money, it wasn't material possession, it was himself. He was worshipping himself above everything else. And Jesus exposes his idol with a stunning command and a promise. In Matthew 19:21, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, then come follow me.” Well, you know, when the young man heard this, he went away sad because he had great wealth. He walked away from Jesus. And so Jesus then at that moment gives an incredibly stunning warning about the danger of material wealth.
Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” So, the lesson for all of us is that idolatry is a very grave threat to our eternal souls. Idolatry is rampant, it's incredibly dangerous. And the disciples were perplexed by this 'cause they had always assumed that material blessing meant the blessing of God, that if they were wealthy, that God was blessing them.
“And they said, ‘If this is the case, who then can be saved?’ and Jesus said, ‘With man, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” Amen. What an incredible teaching that is. We cannot save ourselves. Only God can save the rich man and the poor man alike. Now rich people do have special obstacles to come into the kingdom, we should not minimize that. But God can save anyone by his power.
Well that leads to Peter's question in verse 27, look at it if you would, “Peter answered him, ‘Lord we have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?’”
He's probably stunned at the interchange with the young man, and the new insight that material wealth brought actual challenges and obstacles to entering the kingdom. At the same time he's heard Jesus make an amazing promise, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” Perhaps his ears perked up at that. He had heavenly treasure on his mind. Oh, that you might have it too. I want you to have heavenly treasure in your mind when I get done with my sermon today.
Peter Unfairly Criticized
And so he asked this question, “What then will there be for us?” The apostles had made that sacrifice. They had done the very thing that the rich young ruler was commanded by Christ to do. Peter could say, “We left our boats, we left our nets, we left our fathers and mothers, we left our tax collector booth. We left our families, our wives. We left the esteem of our neighbors, our home towns. What then will there be for us?” Now, Peter is I think unfairly criticized by many who comment on this passage. Somewhat humorously, in my family, whenever one of my kids asks me to do something for them, I say, “What's in it for me?”
They never have a good answer to that, I've noticed. “Nothing. Would you just bring it anyway?” I actually sometimes say it to my wife, “What's in it for me?” I haven't gotten any good answer, but I do it jokingly, because it's so repugnant and so opposite the Christian mentality that we're to deny ourselves and take up the cross and follow Jesus, and all of that. And so the idea that Peter would stand on behalf of us all and speaking the words we all want to say, thank you, Peter. Saying, “What's in it for me?”
And so there are very lofty commentators on this text. They come along and savage Peter for his selfishness, and his mercenary spirit, and his grabbiness at this particular moment. But let's look at some things that I think would reverse that attitude. First of all, notice Peter isn't just asking for himself, he doesn't say, “What's in it for me?” He, in effect, says “What will there be for us?” So he's not just talking about himself, but all of the apostles who had left all of the - their previous lifestyle.
Secondly, and far more importantly, notice this, Jesus does not in any way criticize Peter's question, not at all. As we will see, He's gonna modify Peter's understanding of how the rewards come, and that will go on into next week's sermon also with the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. He does want him to understand on what basis the rewards will come. But He doesn't, in any way, minimize a desire for rewards. Actually, if anything, He greatly increases it, because He lays out in this immediate text overwhelming rewards. Lavish promises.
And so the basic concept here, if it's wrong to desire rewards then why does Jesus keep tempting us so. Why does He keep laying out such incredible promises of reward if we really ought not to want any of the things he's promising? So I think Peter is unfairly criticized.
Jesus Promises Rewards
So Jesus does very much promise rewards. Look at verse 28 and 29, Jesus said to them. “I tell you the truth. At the renewal of all things, when the son of man sits on his glorious throne, then you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, and everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”
Eternal Rewards to the Apostles
So Jesus just lays out lavish promises of rewards, right here after Peter's request. He begins by talking about eternal rewards given to the apostles, and He starts with a sense of certainty about these rewards. Right away, He says, “Truly I say to you.” He gives an oath, a verbal promise. This is a very serious thing. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” In other words, you can take this promise to the bank and cash it. This promise will be good, you'll find it to be so. “Truly I say to you.”
So I was meditating on this and I want to give you a kind of a parable, or perhaps an illustration. Imagine way back when, there was a royal prince in the midst of a war. And he is captured, but he manages to escape and he's running for his life. He gets out of enemy territory, and he's crossing some neutral land in some neutral kingdom. He stops quickly at a farm house where a peasant lives with his family. He's out of breath, covered with mud, and he asks if he can borrow the family's one horse to ride away to safety. And as an inducement he writes a promise saying, “When I get back to my kingdom, I will reward you handsomely. Not only will you get your family horse back, but I'll give you 20 pieces of gold, I'll give each member of your family some royal clothing, and you will, from that point forward, be a friend of the royal family of my kingdom.”
And as he's saying this, he writes these words out and takes his signet ring, and a candle that's burning on the table, and he seals it and hands it to the man. Will our royal prince be good for this promise? What do you think? At that particular moment, the prince, running for his life, covered with mud, doesn't look like much. He doesn't look very powerful, he doesn't look very rich, he doesn't look very capable of fulfilling the written promise on the page.
And so only by faith can we perceive that Jesus will be good for this word. We just look on the page and it just looks like words to us, unless you have faith and say, “Jesus some day is coming back. And He's gonna sit on a glorious throne, and oh, would it be good to be a friend of the family then?” And how sweet would it be to sacrifice as much as I can to bring His kingdom in between now and then.
Friends, you just have a narrow opportunity to do it, make the most of it. Jesus is handing you right here a promise. And not just here, but anywhere in scripture that speaks of rewards. He's handing you a promise, and He'll be good for it. So there are two types of rewards that Jesus mentions in this encounter. There are eternal rewards and there are temporal rewards. Temporal rewards are those things we get here in this life, eternal rewards are those things that will come in the new heaven and the new earth, the future.
And so what are the eternal rewards first promised to the apostles? And by the way, those two rewards are not equivalent, they're not equal at all. The temporal rewards are significant, but they are greatly outshone by those eternal rewards, and we should set our heart ultimately on those. So, what eternal rewards has He promised to the apostles? Well first notice the time of the reward. “At the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne.”
Now, this word “renewal” is a fascinating word. It occurs only twice in the New Testament. It's made up of two Greek words, “palin” meaning “again", and “genesis”, meaning “creation”, a re-creation. Oh that makes my heart leap. I know that from Romans 8, we're living in a world that's cursed with sin. The whole world is subject to futility and frustration and decay. And so also is human history. Oh, but there's coming another world, a re-creation, a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth.
And the Bible uses this word in Titus chapter 3 to speak of what happens inside the heart of any person when they come to faith in Jesus Christ, isn't that marvelous? Titus 3 in verse 5, says, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal [or re-creation] by the Holy Spirit.” So the moment you become a Christian, you are a new creation inside you, and that new creation can never be extinguished, it can never die, it cannot perish or spoil or fade. You're a new man, a new woman in Jesus.
And nothing can change that. Has that happened to you, friend? Have you been regenerated? Have you been made a new creation by the power of the Spirit of God? Oh, that by looking at Jesus today, you might become a new creation. By trusting in Jesus, who shed His blood on the cross for our sins, yours and mine, may you become a new creation today.
But here, it's speaking, I think, not just of what happens in an individual person, but what's gonna happen throughout the universe. “At the renewal of all things,” He says here. This is most definitely speaking of the new heaven and the new earth. Revelation 21:1 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” Speaking of that new heaven where we will live with God, that new Earth where in resurrection bodies, we'll walk in glory and we'll see beauty we can scarcely imagine. That is the time of the reward. And notice the occasion of the reward, “When the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne.” Literally the throne of His glory.
Jesus in the time of His incarnation was some called “God incognito.” It was easy to miss Him. He looked like just any other man. He could sweat and he could bleed and he could die. He could suffer and he could die. He looked like just an ordinary man, he was God incognito. But there's gonna come a time when he will return in resurrection glory. And he will sit on His throne in heavenly glory and all the angels will be with Him.
So what do the apostles get? He says, “You who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Jesus sits on a throne representing his position of honor and glory and power so also these apostles will sit on thrones representing glory and honor and power. Now, what does it mean that they're gonna sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel? I really don't know. I can't wait to find out though.
I do believe there are positions of authority in the kingdom. I don't think we're all gonna be equal in authority. I think that there will be rulers in the kingdom of heaven. Of course we will lose tyranny, tyranny will be gone. Pride will be gone and if anyone's over you, a created being is over you, you will be delighted about it and you'll enjoy it and if you happen to be over other created beings you'll carry yourself like Jesus did.
But I do believe there'll be positions of authority, and so these twelve will sit on these twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. So the future glory for the apostles is established also in the Book of Revelation, in the very foundations of the walls of that city. Now it says in Revelation 21:14, “The wall of the New Jerusalem had twelve foundations and on them there were the names of the twelve apostles of the lamb.” So future glory is promised.
An answer, simple answer to Peter's question, “Lord, we've left everything. What then will there be for us?” Infinitely more than your leaving deserves. Infinitely more than you could possibly imagine. I'm going to lavish glory and honor and power and joy on you more than you can possibly imagine indefinitely by grace, more than you deserve. So that's the answer to Peter's question.
Temporal Rewards to Anyone who Follows
But then he goes on to promise temporal rewards to anyone who'll make a similar commitment.
Now, the fact that they are temporal is not so clear in Matthew's gospel, you have to go to the parallel accounts in Luke and in Mark also. In Luke 18, it says, “‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus said to them, ‘No one who has left home, or wife or brothers, or parents, or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive as many times as much,’” listen, “‘In this age and in the age to come, eternal life.’”
So he makes a division then between the things you get in this age and those things that you will receive in the future. Now the quantity of this reward, this Earthly reward, is rather staggering. Look again in verse 29, “Everyone who's left houses, or brothers, brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or fields, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much.”
Now the specific nature of the reward is clear, you get back what you gave up. Mark makes this clear. Mark, 29:30, “I tell you the truth, no one who's left home or brothers, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age, homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields.” So He's very clear what He's talking about. You leave your family, you leave your home, you leave all of these things, and you go to serve Me, you're gonna get a hundred times as much back. Now, what could this mean? Is this the foundation of the health and wealth gospel? Can we take this to the Lord and say, “Lord, You said one hundred fold. If I give $10, I'm gonna get back 100 times as much.”
That's not what it's saying here. Not at all. I think in order to understand this, you have to go back in Matthew chapter 10, when Jesus sends the apostles out and He challenges them, and he says, “Do not take any bag for your journey. Don't take any stuff, don't take any tunic, or extra sandals, or staff. Don't take anything in your hand, just go. Because a worker is worth his keep, and in whatever town or village you enter, search for a worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. And if that home is deserving, if it's worthy, then stay with them and let your peace rest on that home until you finish your work.”
And at the end of Matthew 10 He says, “He who receives you, receives me, and he who receives me, receives him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will never lose his reward.” Well, there's your hundred families.
There's your hundred mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters. As you itinerate, as you go from place to place serving the Lord, you're gonna find a whole realm of new relationships with people who love Jesus, and who open their homes to you and take you in and feed you meals and love on you, like you can scarcely believe. And no they're not yours to keep. That's okay, it's not theirs to keep either. We don't keep any of this stuff.
But through hospitality, through Christian service, we receive a hundred times as much in this age. The Apostle Paul received that again and again. In Romans 16, in verse 23, it says, “Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.” So here's Gaius, this man who's hospitable and takes the whole church in and takes care of them. Or again in Romans 16:13, Paul says, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and also his mother, who's become a mother to me, too.”
So Rufus's mother is Paul's mother, he's received back at least one more mother now. And so, it goes as we sacrifice, as we go forth to serve the Lord, we're gonna find a network of relationships all over the world and, friends, I can testify to this. I have received the benefit of this in Kenya, in Pakistan, in China. I've received the benefit of this in Eastern Europe, in Greece, all over the world that I've been, in Haiti, places all over the world, brothers and sisters in Christ have sacrificed to take us in and take care of us and love on us.
Eternal Rewards to Anyone who Follows
And so, this is a promise you can most certainly take to the bank. This is the hundred-fold promise that Jesus gives. But that's not all. He also promises in the age to come, eternal life. Eternal life. Now, that should be enough. That should be enough friends. What is eternal life? Jesus said in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou me has sent.”
So we're gonna get God, we get to know God, we get to see Him face-to-face and be in His presence, we get to bask in His glory. And we get to see his handy work, we get to see the new Jerusalem with all of its beauty, we get to walk on verdant hills. The new Earth in all of its splendor and glory and beauty. And we get to be at peace with a multitude from every tribe, and language, and people, and nation, in the age to come we get eternal life. Is that all? No, there's more. Amazingly, the Lord has promised that he will bless specific acts of service done by faith while in the body here, he will reward them on judgment day. And I think that's at least in part, what he has in mind here.
Jesus said this in John 12:26, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, my servant also will be,” listen to this, “My father will honor the one who serves me.” Now, that ought to stagger you. If you know yourself to be the sinner that you are, if I know myself to be the sinner that I am, that he would honor any of us, who are worms and less than worms, who have been rebels, that he would honor any of us is astonishing grace. But this is the very thing He's promised. He's actually going to honor people who serve Him in this life.
Oh, that you would yearn for that honor. That you would store up as much of that honor as you possibly can in the brief time you have here on earth.
Jesus’ Conditions for Rewards
Faith: All must be done for the Kingdom of Christ
So what are Jesus' conditions for rewards? Well first we start with faith. Like I said, you have to believe that the prince who has written this promise is gonna be good for it, that his word truly I say to you, you can take it to the heavenly bank, and it will be good, you have to trust that, but you have to go beyond that.
You have to believe that the rich, young ruler's question is utterly inappropriate, “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” We cannot use any good thing to get eternal life. You need to see that by faith, you are not going to be saved by your service to Jesus. You're not gonna be saved by leaving everything to follow Christ, you're not gonna be saved by giving money to the poor, you're not gonna be saved by any of your good works. So you get your rewards first and foremost, by understanding by faith that they do not earn any forgiveness of sins. You cannot pay for your sins by your good deeds.
We are justified by faith apart from works of the law. It says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are you saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast.” We were out yesterday going door-to-door inviting people to the health fair. And we keep bumping into this same false religion. The same false religion we keep bumping into it again and again, we can find it anywhere. And that is justification by works. The idea that you can do good works to pay for your sins, “I'm basically a good person. My good deeds outweigh the bad.” I hear this again and again.
And the Bible refutes it. Only by trusting in Jesus, who shed His blood for us can we have forgiveness of sins. Oh, look to Christ. A number of you perhaps were out there in the streets yesterday, you promised that you'd come to worship today, you said you'd be here, so I'm speaking to you. You'd promised you'd come and now I'm saying to you, look to Jesus and trust in Him, and His promise is to you, you'll have eternal life, but not by works.
And by faith, you also have to believe that the future is better than the present. That the best is yet to come, that when you die, after having lived a life of sacrifice and suffering for the Lord, there'll be in some sense, an outstanding balance sheet, just in terms of the works. That we do not receive in this life the rewards. The apostle Paul put it this way, “If for this life only, we have trusted in Christ, we're above all men to be pitied.” It's been a bad life if I don't get to be resurrected and I get to be taken in the glory and receive rewards for what I've done.
Randy Alcorn told the story of two farmers who owned farms side by side. One of them was a bitter atheist and the other was a devout Christian. And the atheist, constantly annoyed at the Christian's incessant references to his God and God's blessing and God's provision and all that. Annoyed by that, it was winter, he said, “I'll tell you what. If spring comes, let's each plant the same crop, the same acreage, and you pray to your God and I'll curse Him, and let's see who has a bigger harvest come harvest time.”
Well, harvest time came around that year, and as it turned out, the atheist had a significantly larger crop. And he was filled with pride. And he was filled with mockery, and he started to mock the Christian and his faith, “What do you have to say for your God now.” The other farmer replied, “My God doesn't settle all His accounts in October.” [laughter]
And so it is with rewards. He doesn't settle all His accounts here in this life. There's some people that, for the sake of Christ, they forsake their families. Their families, perhaps in the Muslim world, would like to kill them. They're in great danger even from their own families. They live a life of faithful service to the Lord for a very short time, and then they are killed for their faith. What did they get in this life for their service to Christ? There are moments of peace. There's a sense of assurance, there were some things that came along the way, but my friends, it's for the next world that we sacrifice, not for this one.
So he is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose, though it may appear to be foolish to do it. Are you appearing foolish to your non-Christian friends? One of the big fears I have for American Evangelicals is that it's generally a good deal to be a Christian in this culture and society. You don't really sacrifice much, you don't need to. You gain a bunch of earthly things, heavenly things, not really much on the mind, but we have that too. Look forward to that. Everything is good, it's all good, etcetera. Not much sacrifice and not much suffering.
But Jesus said there needs to be sacrifice. Look at verse 28, “You who have followed me,” He said. Verse 29, “Everyone who has left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children or fields for my sake,” without the principal sacrifice there can be no rewards. And to receive the reward a servant must be willing to give himself up to the will of the master.
And you have to be willing to suffer. Mark's gospel adds a single word, the word “persecutions”. So listen again, “I tell you the truth, no one who has left home, or brothers, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or fields, for me and for the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age, homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields, and with them persecutions.”
We cannot expect to be richly rewarded by Christ if we've suffered nothing for Christ. Amy Carmichael, a missionary to the orphans in India, wrote of this suffering in the perspective of coming to Christ after having lived a life of comfort and ease in the church. This is the poem, “Jesus speaks to us: Have you no scar? No hidden scar on foot or side or hand? I hear you sung as mighty in the land. I hear them hail your bright ascendant star. Have you no scar? Have you no wound? Yet, I was wounded by the archers, spent, leaned me against the tree to die, and rent by ravenous beasts that encompass me, I swooned. Have you no wound? No wound? No scar? Yes, as the master shall the servant be, and pierced are the feet that follow Me, but yours, yours are whole. Can he have followed far who has no wound? No scar? Can she have followed far who has no wound? No scar?”
What are those wounds? They might be physical, they might be psychological, mental. And we're so afraid of them, aren't we? We're so afraid to get those wounds, those scars, to be hurt in serving Jesus. Oh, that God would give us the faith to lay aside that fear, and live for the future glory of His honor and His reward.
Should We Desire Rewards?
Now the question I wanna ask is, should we even desire rewards? Should we say, “What then will there be for us?” It seems idolatrous, it seems mercenary, it seems selfish, it seems anti-Christian. Should we desire rewards? Well, I came across a C.S. Lewis quote in John Piper's book, Desiring God, that's so poignant on this very issue. This is what Lewis wrote, “If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly hope for the enjoyment of it, is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics, and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum, because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea ... We are far too easily pleased.”
Lewis went on to argue that it's not mercenary if the thing you desire is connected with the effort made to receive it. For example, a woman who marries for money, may be seen to be mercenary. But a woman who says, “I'm marrying this man because I believe with all my heart that he will make me happy as my husband, that he will bring me joy in marital bliss, that's why I'm marrying him, because I think he's gonna make me happy in this marriage,” there's nothing wrong with that.
Conversely, how wrong would it be for a woman or a man to stand before the congregation on the wedding day and say, “I want all of you to know that I actually do not believe that this person will make me happy in the future. I don't think that they're going to bring me any joy at all. I don't think I'm going to enjoy this marriage, but I'm going to do it anyway.” Would you look at that person as a courageous, powerful, loyal person? Not at all, I think of them as a fool. Why are you getting married then? You should desire your own pleasure in the wedding.
And furthermore, the Lord has after all promised us these rewards hasn't He? Is it honorable to take something that the Lord is handing us? Imagine a spouse getting an anniversary gift together and buys the most expensive wrapping paper and makes the whole thing look so beautiful, and hands it over to the spouse. It's heavy and it feels expensive, it looks expensive, and the person receives it and says, “Well, hun, I want you to know, I don't care at all about what's in this box. There's nothing in this box I want, I just want you.” That's not a good moment in the marriage, I think. [laughter]
The spouse will be deeply and bitterly disappointed. And frankly, the gift will be set aside until we get this whole gift thing worked out. I worked on that gift, I labored. I thought what you would like, I thought what you would enjoy and I got it for you. You should want it. And so it is with our rewards. Friends, you should want what Jesus wants to give you. You should labor for them. You should yearn for them. And so Jesus gives us unblushing promises of reward.
If you're persecuted for the faith, he says, “Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in Heaven.” He said don't let anyone see you're giving, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so you lose your reward, you'll have it here on earth no, no, no. When you give do not announce it with trumpets, give it in secret, so that your Heavenly Father may see what is done in secret, and he will reward you.
And when you pray, don't be like the hypocrites who are standing out on the street corners. No, no, go into your room and close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen and your Father who sees what is done in secret, He will reward you. I have come to understand that our rewards for our lifetime of faithful service to God, they're not idolatrous at all. See idolatry is worshipping something God created apart from love for God, focusing on that thing and not God, you can't do that with the rewards he intends to give you. You know why? 'Cause those rewards are relationship with Him over the thing that was done.
“Well done, good and faithful servant. I am pleased with what you did, I saw the money you gave to the poor. No one else knows what you gave. I saw it. Well done, enter now into the joy of your master. I saw that you went into your room and closed the door and prayed to your Father who's unseen for missionaries or for some brother or sisters going through some physical trial or some disease. I saw what you did, no one else knows what you did. Well done. I'm pleased with that.” That's the reward. How could that be idolatrous? And for myself, I'd like as much of it as I can. I wanna live for that.
Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, no, no, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal, for where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” So how can you store up treasure? You do it by good deeds, done, and in the humility that comes from righteousness, knowing they do not pay for your sins, your sins are paid for, by simple faith in Jesus.
But having had that matter settled, now you live in obedience to God, sacrificially willing to suffer for Him, and then you start storing up treasure in Heaven. I think you should be ambitious about that. I think you should want as much of it as you can get. And so the young man Jonathan Edwards put it this way, in one of his resolutions, “Resolved to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea even violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert in any way that can be thought of.” You know what he's saying there? “I wanna store up as much treasure in heaven as I possibly can, even if it means violence, with myself, and with my idols, and my comforts, and pleasures in this life.”
So what application can we take from this text? Well, delight, set your heart fully on this, that God would be pleased with every action of your life, that you would live for rewards every moment, live by faith, every moment, use your time wisely, every moment, set your desire on heavenly pleasure, not earthly comforts. Don't be a half-hearted creature, fooling around with sex and ambition and power and money when infinite joy is offered to you.
Let's rise up, oh church of God, and have done with lesser things, and give heart, and soul, and mind, and strength to serve the king of kings. And embrace sacrifice, assess your life. Peter said, “Lord, we have left everything to follow you, what then will there be for us?” Friends, have you left anything to follow Jesus? Has there been a principle of sacrifice? Does it cost you anything to be a Christian? Be willing to sacrifice your time, and serve the Lord.
When there's an outreach, Saturday or Sunday, or Wednesday, be there, make a sacrifice. When there's an opportunity to witness at work, then seize it. If you have a spiritual gift, then use it. If you have money, then use it. I've given you a sample of Randy Alcorn's 40 questions to ask about how you spend your money. I could just read through them now, please take this, on a yellow sheet. We don't have time to read through them now.
But I'd urge that you take these questions, and pray them back to the Lord and say, “Lord, could it be that you've given me this money for this brief time, and if I don't give it away now by faith, I'll lose it. I'll have to repair my car or some thief will steal it, or I might even die before I have a chance to give it. I have a narrow window of opportunity. Lord, help me to be generous while there's time.”
And then finally I just wanna urge, probably the most natural application from this is be willing to leave everything to follow Jesus. There's certain kind of people that literally do this. Not everyone has to do this, because there has to be some people to receive them, right, and receive the rewards that Jesus promised. But some are called to leave everything. Could it be I'm speaking to some young college student, a youth, maybe even somebody in the career stage, or even beyond. And the Lord is speaking to you today about missionary service. Many have gone from this church, this church has become a launching pad of missionaries, and I'm glad for that. May it happen a hundred times more.
But it could be that God is calling on you to lay down your life for the Muslims, or for some Indians or for people in China. It could be that the Lord is calling on you to think again about how you're spending your life.