When we were kids, we did extra chores to please our parents and manipulate them into giving us extra allowance or permission to go to a party. At Christmas time, our behavior was as perfect as possible to influence them into giving us more gifts. God is not like that; our efforts will not gain more favor. In Matthew 7:7-11 Jesus said,
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
What I want us to ask ourselves is what is the motivation behind our service, our rituals, and even our prayers. You see if we have faith, then we know God is great, He is with us, in us, for us, works all things for our good, and wants good for us (Psalm 95:3, Joshua 1:9, Romans 8:31, Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11). It is our fear which makes us stop seeking God’s face and start seeking His rewards, gifts, blessings, and miracles. When we seek God, draw close to Him, desire a relationship with Him rather than seek the rewards, He gives rewards. Hebrews 11:1-3 and 6 read,
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
I believe in serving God but not in order to earn rewards, that is called a wage, not a gift. I serve God because I love Him so much and I am grateful to Him, but mostly I serve Him because He is making me into His image and the result, the fruit of that change means I follow Him, obey Him, behave like Him, and think like Him. It is a natural progression of my supernatural transformation. If I follow Jesus, I imitate Him. Paul said it this way in 1 Corinthians 10:30-11:1
If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
1Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
God does give rewards, gifts, and blessings. But not because we earn them, or deserve them. And we do not serve Him to earn rewards, it is because Jesus is our Lord and Master, He served, and we are not greater than He is. After Jesus had washed the feet of the twelve disciples including Judas Iscariot, He said,
You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them (John 13:13-17).
We are servants because Jesus was a servant. We are servants of Jesus because we must live out our confession that He is Lord and so follow and obey Him. We serve, not for rewards, but out of love and duty. Jesus said it like this in Luke 17:5-10
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
Jesus used the idea of us as servants many times in His teaching. Serving does not make us worthy, it is part of who we are as followers of Christ. In another parable, often called The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus told the story of three servants charged with the stewardship of money from their master. We see the money as gifts, talents, and blessings God has given us while we live on earth and wait for Jesus to return. Two of the servants took the money given to them and used it and doubled it; one buried the money given to him because he was afraid to lose it. When the master returned He told the two how pleased He was with them, He said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” The one who buried the money had that money taken from him and he was called wicked, slothful, and unworthy.
We call ourselves unworthy because we know we don’t deserve rewards just for following Christ, yet, Jesus calls us good and faithful servants and promises rewards! How awesome is that? Why do you want rewards? Do you want to hold on to them, bury them, or use them for your own joy? That is not what God has in mind for our gifts and rewards. The servants in the parable, used the money He gave them and returned them to Him. God has a purpose for gifting you. It is to edify (that is build up and encourage) the church and to fulfil his great commission to us and be Jesus to the world.
Ephesians 4:11-13 reads,
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
And 1 Peter 4:10 says,
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace
We are supposed to store up our treasures in Heaven, not squirrel them away here will they will do no good to anyone (Matthew 6:19-20). What are some of those treasures? First, there are the people, God’s treasured possession. Exodus 19:4-6
“‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 describes the people we disciple as a crown, a reward.
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.
And there is more! Here are just a few,
The Crown of Life described in James 1:12
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
And in Revelation 2:10
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
The Crown of Righteousness described in 2 Timothy 4:8
Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
The Crown of Glory explained in 1 Peter 5:1-5
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;[b] not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
These crowns are imperishable, they come from faith, humility, and perseverance. They are promised by God for the way we run the race, they are not earned. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 reads,
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
And what do we do with these treasures? What do these beautiful, rare, and priceless treasures mean to us compared to being in the presence of God? Revelation 4:8-11 describes The Elders in Heaven and what they do with their crowns.
And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”
9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
We will give them right back to Jesus! We will fall down and throw our crowns at His feet. What more could we give, we can only give Him what He has given us. Our reward is not a crown or a banner, a gold ribbon, or a boatload of material things; our reward is eternity in His presence, joy forever more. On this present earth, we seek to become the perfect image of Christ. In Heaven, in New Jerusalem, we will be completed, perfected, and united with Him. That is our reward.
Treasured, are you seeking God’s Kingdom and Righteousness or are you seeking the many blessings, gifts, and rewards that come with walking with Christ? Are you seeking God’s face or are you seeking wealth, spiritual power, and a happy comfortable life? The desire for the gifts leads to sin, the desire for God leads to righteousness and His rewards and gifts are yours already because He has already declared you righteous (Romans 5:1) and perfected (Hebrews 4:10). 1 Timothy 6:9-12 warns us against seeking the rewards.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
None of those gifts is greater than the love of God. 1 Corinthians 13 says it beautifully,
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned] but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.