I. Biblical Facts about Rewards. (1 Co. 3:10-14)
We live in a reward-oriented society.
Even many church hymns speak of heavenly rewards and crowns.
But what does Scripture have to say on this subject?
Letís look at the passage given above and note three things that it reveals about rewards-specifically, those awarded by God to His servants for their faithfulness and obedience.
A. Most rewards will be received in heaven, not on earth (w. 13-14).
1. We are trained to look for our rewards in the present rather than in the future.
2. So itís easy for us to get caught in the trap of wanting our rewards immediately.
3. But this expectation is not altogether biblical.
4. Many of our rewards will be revealed to us in heaven when we stand before Christ.
5. Then He will test our works with fire to determine their value.
6. All that remains after this testing will warrant a reward.
B. All rewards are based on quality, not quantity (v. 13b).
1. Notice the last words of this verse: "...and the fire shall try every manís work of what sort it is."
2. We are often impressed with the size and physical appearance of a group, church, or individual ministry.
3. But God does not judge a ministry on the basis of quantity.
4. Instead, His assessment is founded on the motives and reasons behind any given ministry or act of service.
5. And because He is omniscient, His knowledge of these things is complete and infallible.
C. No reward that is postponed will be forgotten (v. 14).
1. We are assured that "If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon [namely, the foundation of Jesus Christ, v. 11], he shall receive a reward."
2. Not a single act done in His name and power will go unrewarded, no matter how uncelebrated or obscure it might be.
3. And even though we may get anxious and want our rewards now, we can be assured that our Lord will keep His promise to reward us for our faithful service, though He may wait until we reach heaven to do so.
II. Godís Promises to His Servants.
Someone has said that there are nearly 7,500 promises contained in the Scriptures.
These promises could be categorized into two groups: those dealing with Godís faithfulness and those dealing with our faithfulness.
Letís briefly examine each of these categories.
A. Regarding His Faithfulness.
1. The whole reward system that God has established starts with His faithfulness.
2. Oftentimes we have little more to hang onto than the promises of God, all of which depend on His faithfulness to fulfill them.
3. But what does it mean to say that God is faithful?
a. First, He is steadfast in His affection and His allegiance to His people.
b. Unlike many people, God can never be accused of being fickle or abandoning His followers.
c. The prophet Isaiah records this truth in these comforting words:
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (Isaiah 41:10)
But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. (Isaiah 49:14-16)
d. Second, He will keep the promises He makes.
e. If He says that He will do something, then we can depend on Him to do it...He always keeps His word.
f. And just so we wonít forget this fact, even in times of doubt, the writer of Hebrews penned this verse:
For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. (Hebrews 6:10)
4. Please note: This passage tells us that there are two things God faithfully remembers about His servants:
a. Their work and...
b. The love within them that prompts and is exemplified through their deeds.
c. God keeps a dependable, accurate record of the works which we do.
d. And He also takes into account the motive behind each work, whether it is done out of love for others or a desire to exalt self.
B. Regarding Our Faithfulness.
1. Temporal Rewards (2 Cor. 4:7-18).
a. There is a painful part of serving, and this passage displays that for us.
b. But this text also indicates that our earthly rewards can come through even the toughest experiences of serving.
c. Paul said that the scars and wounds received from doing Christís work actually reveal His life (v. 10-11).
d. In these verses two temporal rewards are manifested.
1) The awareness that the life of Christ is being modeled before others.
2) And the second is the realization that a thankful spirit is being stimulated in others. v 15
3) When being a servant seems thankless and unnoticed, we need to remember that serving is never insignificant or unprofitable.
2. Eternal Rewards. cf 2 Co. 5:10
a. Paul tells us that there will be a day when we shall all stand "...before the judgment seat of Christ..."
b. At that time all believers will receive there eternal rewards for their earthly works.
c. These will be in addition to some of the temporal rewards we have already received.
d. During this heavenly award ceremony, we who are Christians will want to individually hear our Lordís own words: His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. cf Matthew 25:23
e. That is when we will know the fullness of His grace and be ushered into a state of everlasting joy with God.
C. There are at least five eternal crowns spoken of in the New Testament:
1. The imperishable crown (I Cor. 9 24-27) is promised to those who victoriously run the race of life.
2. The crown of rejoicing (Phil. 4:1, I Thess. 2:19-20) will be given to those who were faithful in declaring the gospel, leading people to Christ, and building them up in Him.
3. The crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:7-8) will be awarded to those who live in anticipation of Christís coming.
4. The crown of life (Jam. 1:12) awaits those who have suffered for Christ in their earthly life.
5. The crown of glory (I Pet. 5:1-4) is promised to those who faithfully minister the Word.
D. Now in heaven His servants will not boast over these crowns or hoard them.
1. Rather, Rev. 4:10-11 reveals that they will cast their crowns at Jesusí feet and bow in worship of Him.
2. Furthermore, unlike earthly awards and trophies that, once won, are soon forgotten and eventually waste away, the crowns we will receive will last throughout eternity, never to be forgotten, tarnished, or ruined.
3. They will be everlasting reminders of Godís grace and faithfulness toward us.
III. Encouragement to Servants.
A. Every act of true service will be remembered and rewarded by God.
B. He takes special note of our heart attitude.
C. The heart of a servant is worth more than all the riches of this world.