Joy and the Christian Life, Pt. 3 – Rewards
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding
one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. – Hebrews 10:32-36 ESV
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison – 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 ESV
When I was in my early 20’s the thought that God gives people rewards seemed very difficult for me. For many years I simply dismissed it as a false teaching because afterall we have been given every spiritual blessing with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3). The thought of rewards felt like an attack on justification by faith. But yet this concept of rewards continued to turn up in different scriptures. Luther himself once said;
It is true, there will be a difference in yonder life, according as they have labored and lived here. For example, St Paul was an Apostle, Samuel or Isaiah a Prophet, etc. One will have greater brightness that the other because he worked or suffered more in his office…. Thus everyone will have his distinction and glory according to his office, and still one God and Lord will be in all, and one and the same joy and bliss…. In short, all are to be alike before God in faith and grace and celestial bliss, but they are to differ in their works and honor.
Martin Luther, St. L. VIII:1223f.
It was a humbling experience to realise I was wrong and that my thinking was not based on scripture but rather on what seemed right to me.
Paul says that this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory. Hold on to these words for a moment. There is a connection between suffering and rewards. The reward of someone who has suffered little is not the same as the one who has suffered much. This does not mean difference in eternal happiness, but it does mean difference in glory and honor. In eternity all will be blessed and live in the joy of the Lord. But the glory and honor of he who has suffered much is different from he who has suffered little.
Paul speaks of rewards in connection to suffering as did Jesus in Matt 5:2-12. The knowledge of eternal rewards is there to comfort your heart during trials. And this means that each trial you face as Christians is for your glory.
Have you suffered much? Are you suffering much now? Take comfort. Know that you have a great reward waiting for you, that this time is preparing for you a weight of glory beyond all comparison. The roads we walk under the dark of night lead to the glorious day. Don’t trade them away for temporary happiness.