If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:19).
My friend John wondered on his blog whether it was OK to be motivated in this life to do good for the purposes of being repaid in the next. It got me thinking about how little we talk about heaven (or hell, for that matter).
A few weeks ago I was looking through one of our hymn books we use at my church and couldn’t help but notice how many of them paint pictures of our heavenly home. Most of these hymns were written in the early 1940’s, while our country, and the world, was at war. When hope in this life seemed so bleak the poets of the day turned the church’s attention towards life eternal.
My friend John is right to point out that, at least in recent times, being motivated by rewards to come seems immature. We like to think that we do good, that we obey Christ, for more noble reasons. It is as if so many of us who profess Christ have determined that the rewards which Christ himself promised are beneath us.
I wonder if the degree to which we scrub reward talk from our church’s vocabulary is the same degree to which our individual as well as corporate walks with God become laced with pride, and therefore become the very opposite of the good we think they are. The Bible has far too many references to rewards – both those we should be excited to obtain and those we should hope to escape – for us to think we do good for goodness’ sake alone.
Jesus said we should become like little children because they stand the best chance of entering the kingdom of God. Children are the most easily, and naturally, motivated by rewards.
Jesus himself was so motivated. It was “for the joy that was set before him” that he was able to endure the cross for you and I (Heb. 12:2). And it was because he knew that his Father had “given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,” (John 13:3) which motivated him to rise from his last supper and become a servant to his disciples by washing their feet.
If Jesus was so motivated by rewards – to both endure suffering and serve others – why should we think we can do without?
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Gal. 6:9)
If you are struggling with doing good, find it difficult to suffer others, or find the temptations of this world becoming too enticing to refuse, then perhaps you need to remember the harvest you will reap if you do not give up. Perhaps you need to keep before you the eternal rewards Christ has promised those who conquer.
To help aid you in turning your hearts and minds to thinking on the things which are above (Col. 3:2), here are a few reading suggestions:
Heaven by Randy Alcorn
Heaven: A World of Love by Jonathan Edwards
The New Testament – read it with an eye towards the many rewards which await those who finish the race well.
What other suggestions do you have?