Rewards come in many forms for many different things. There are trophies, ribbons, certificates, rings, plaques, belts, and medals, and they’re given for achievements in sports, music, science, business, and other areas.
For those who served in the military, there are many different kinds of ribbons and medals. There’s the Good Conduct Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, the WWII Occupation Medal, the Vietnam War Medal of Sacrifice, the Kuwait Liberation Medal, the Purple Heart, and many others.
All of these have a value that transcends the cost of the materials that make them. Rewards are not jewelry. They may look good, but they’re not there to make someone look more beautiful. Instead, they symbolize the honor given to the recipient for deeds done in the past. If you know someone with a Lifesaving Medal, you know that person got it by saving someone else’s life. That person’s heroism was appreciated, recognized and made public by the giving of the reward.
There will come a time when you will appear before the judgement seat of Christ. You will be judged based on what you have done. If you haven’t put your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, the results of that judgement will be an eternity spent in separation from God in hell ( Revelation 20:11-15), but if you have been saved, your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life and the results of your judgement will be seen in the rewards you will receive ( 1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
I think love for Jesus Christ is the best motivator for serving Him, but rewards are also good when seen in the right light. I used to think that serving for rewards is serving for the wrong reasons – it just sounds greedy. But when you think about heaven with its foundation of precious stones and streets of gold, personal material wealth will have no meaning. There will not be the “haves” and the “have nots.” There will be no buying and no selling. The God who supplies all our needs here on earth will certainly supply everything we need up there. So what value will our rewards have? The value will be seen in what those rewards symbolize. They represent what we will have done for Jesus Christ.
Have you ever thought about the kinds of things Jesus wants to reward you for?
It’s easy to get into the mentality that service for Christ is a chore. Just keep working at it and eventually we’ll get paid. But is just doing our job any reason to get special commendation? Jesus said:
In the same way, when you have done all the things which are given you to do, say, There is no profit in us, for we have only done what we were ordered to do.
– Luke 17:10 (BBE)
Going to church, putting in your ten percent into the offering plate, just going through the motions is nothing to be rewarded for. We will have done only what was expected of us. But the things we have done for Christ , the ways that we have expressed Him to others, these things we will be rewarded for. Think about Jesus’ picture of the final judgement and His description of those who He will honor:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
– Matthew 25:34-36 (ESV)
These are all personal investment things. They require self-sacrifice, going the extra mile, to help someone else who cannot repay. They’re expressions of God’s character. They’re the spiritual fruit we should be bearing for God’s pleasure (Galatians 5:22-23). Serving Christ by serving others is what God is looking to reward us for, not so much the outward success of ministries and programs.
it’s easy to look at a large church or prominent ministry and think, “With all the people coming to Christ in that ministry, someone sure has a lot of treasure being laid up for them in heaven!” But the outward success of one ministry does not mean a greater reward than that of a small struggling ministry. The world’s idea of success is different than God’s. We like to think in terms of statistics (i.e. the number of people saved, how fast the church is growing numerically, etc.), but God always looks at the hearts of individuals. Remember the widow’s mite in Mark 12:42-44. She gave her all. Even though her all was insignificant by man’s standards, Jesus said it was more than anyone else put in. Because she gave all she had, she had effectively given herself also.
Serving requires great love for God and the investment of yourself. Don’t just put your money in the offering plate to pay someone else to do your job. Your reward will be much greater when you offer yourself.
When you finally get to heaven, you will know that there are no awards given for “the biggest bus ministry” or “the most scripture memorized," only for how your love for Jesus Christ has been expressed. Will others be able to see your rewards and say: “That person really loved Jesus Christ?”