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NOVEMBER 13 2016 REWARDS

Rewards

 

Edward Steichen, who eventually became one of the world's most renowned photographers, almost gave up on the day he shot his first pictures. At 16, young Steichen bought a camera and took 50 photos. Only one turned out -- a portrait of his sister at the piano. Edward's father thought that was a poor showing.  Wouldn’t it have been easy for Edward to get discouraged? But his mother insisted that the photograph of his sister was so beautiful that it more than compensated for 49 failures. Her encouragement convinced the youngster to stick with his new hobby. He stayed with it for the rest of his life, but it had been a close call. [Show slides of his photographs.] If he had given up the world would have lost many beautiful and moving photographs.

 

It is easy to get discouraged. Our failures loom large and our successes seem to wane with time. Many times it is not even our failures that can get us down. It can just be the sameness of our daily routine and the conjecture of whether what we do and say makes any difference or does any good.  The apostle Paul was aware of this.

 

            And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

(Galatians 6:9-10 ESV)

 

Paul writes, “Let us not grow weary of doing good.” When Paul asks us not to grow weary, what does this imply? Answer: That we have a tendency to grow weary! When you grow weary of something you stop doing that thing. I fear that some of us have ceased to do good.

 

When Paul writes the words, “doing good,” what does he mean? “Doing good” is a synonymous expression for good works. Although our good works have nothing, zero, to do with receiving eternal life – it is a gift – they have much to do with how we are called to live once we have come to Christ for salvation. We have been called to good works (Eph 2:10). And, they have everything to do with our Judgment when the Lord returns to the earth.

 

  [I.] So, what is doing good? What are good works? The most helpful way to answer this question is to begin by saying what are not good works.

            [A.] Good works are not: staying married, treating your spouse with dignity and respect, remaining faithful to your husband or wife, raising your children, teaching your children the ways of God, (and, if you are single) avoiding fornication, not using the Lord’s name in vain, not smoking, not getting drunk, putting in a good day’s work at your job. Now, these are all good things. In fact, I would argue that anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ and does not observe a significant change in the areas I just mentioned has not experienced the rebirth that Jesus taught. For, when the Holy Spirit comes into a person, there is a new life and a new power that changes us.

     Not only are these good things; but they often require work. Therefore, in a general sort of way you might say that these are “good works.” However, this is not what the Scriptures usually mean when it mentions good works.

     Luke records Jesus’s words:

            “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’? 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’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 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.’”     (Luke 17:7-10)

     You see, staying married, treating your spouse with dignity and respect, remaining faithful to your husband or wife, raising your children, teaching your children the ways of God, avoiding fornication, not using the Lord’s name in vain, not smoking, not getting drunk, putting in a good day’s work at your job: these are nothing more than our duties. You are not getting rewarded for these things. We are God’s servants and doing what God has commanded us is the only right response. Further, we CAN do all these things because He empowers us supernaturally to not only do them, but joyfully do them.

            [B.] We have said what are not good works. What are good works? Good works are those things that we do (and who we reflect in our speaking and demeanor) that cause a person to give glory to the Father in heaven. In other words, what you do so impresses others that they recognize that there is something different about you.

   Primarily, this will be others who, at least at some low level, are themselves trying to do well. But many good works will even touch complete heathen. For example, when someone takes care of the elderly, or children without active parents in their lives, or helping the poor and the disabled, these acts touch others. Some good works are not appreciated by others until they are enlivened by God. For example, those who are aliens to the commonwealth of God’s promise often resent sharing the gospel; but when they receive the gospel, there is an appreciation that arises in the heart that is beyond words.

   When I was 20 years old in the military, I sat in my private room feeling quite miserable in my sin. Two Navigators came to my door, one of whom did all the talking. I actually became somewhat annoyed at his words and asked them both to leave, which they did. But moments after they left I sat back down and considered his words. I realized that what he had said was true and I came under the conviction of the Holy Spirit that I was a sinner in need of great help from God. That same night I turned my whole life over to Christ. I have such an appreciation for that young man that spoke to me that night and I have tried to find him over the years but unsuccessfully so. I will not be able to tell him how much I cherish his words to me that night until I see him after his life. I think that then I will be able to tell him and embrace him. His outreach to me on that night so long ago causes me to glorify God.

   Good works are these: the things that we do that lift others up with no immediate benefit to ourselves. People who observe them then realize, even if at an obscure level that God’s hand is upon you.

  

   [II] How may we not grow weary? Paul gives the answer in the second half of verse 9: We will reap something in due season.

 

The Lord knows that we are a weak and selfish people. Therefore, he has given several motivators in order to encourage us to live for Him and to engage in expanding his kingdom. There are four primary motivations for us to live for him. The first and greatest of these is love. When we love someone it is an easy thing to do those things that please the one we love. We have spoken often of the love we have for our Lord. We ought to nurture this love by spending time with him, especially in the Word.

 

The second motivation is joy. The Holy Spirit has worked in our hearts in such a way that when we live in accordance with his will we are filled with joy. There is nothing quite like the enjoyment that comes from doing the will of God. Jesus called this joy his food.

 

Another motivator is the fear of God. All of God’s servants feared God in the Bible, including Jesus Himself. It is a good and healthy thing to fear God. We ought to fear Him because He has the authority to cast into hell. That is the reason that Jesus gives for fearing Him. More, we feared our parents when we were young because they could administer discipline that was painful.  Show me a child who does not fear his parents and I will either show you parents who are living in disobedience to God for not disciplining their children or I will show you a child who has deep-seated rebellion in his heart and who hates God. Those of us who were disciplined by our parents feared them. Even those who have God as his Father (not everyone does!) need to fear Him for the same reason.

 

The fourth motivator is rewards. This is that to which Paul refers when he writes, “in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” The doctrine of rewards is an important and neglected doctrine of the Bible. Two years ago we had a Pastor Evaluation survey for our church. Overall, your Pastor received a very high rating. I thank you for your high level of discernment! The survey allowed for comments. One comment was “too much preaching about rewards.” If a person is serving the Lord with a deep love for Him or with much joy, or both, then I can see how occasional visits to the beloved doctrine of rewards can seem to be superfluous.

 

If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that our love for the Lord wanes. If we lack in outreach and other good deeds then this is prima fascia evidence that our love has waned. If we are honest with ourselves we will admit that we find joy in other things besides the will of God. Now, God did create all things for our enjoyment. Our trouble is that we too often choose lesser joys rather than the best joys.

 

Now, fear is a good motivator. This is why the Lord uses it in civil government, in family life, and in our initial repentance. However, fear has more to do with obedience or, more accurately, a lack thereof. A disciple of the Lord Jesus can lead a relatively obedient life – the things we just spoke about: treating their spouse with dignity and respect, remaining faithful to husband or wife, raising children, teaching your children the ways of God, avoiding fornication, not using the Lord’s name in vain, not smoking, not getting drunk, putting in a good day’s work at your job, etc. When a Christian lives in relative obedience then the fear of God is at a low level, as you would expect.

 

The other three motivators can fail us and they have failed us, not because they are inadequate, because we are inadequate, selfish, and weak. Because of this we need to be reminded often of the rewards that await us.

 

Paul, in our passage, is speaking about not growing weary in doing good. The remedy he provides for those who grow weary is rewards!

 

When is the “due season?” The due season is when the Lord returns to the earth to judge his own people. Then he will distribute rewards or administer discipline. In verse 4 Paul writes:        But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.

(Galatians 6:4 ESV) Boasting is not to be done in this life. It is reserved for the next. Our boasting now is inappropriate because we do not know our own hearts well enough nor our own achievements well enough to take any confidence in them. But, when the Lord Himself rewards us and gives us glory (Yes! He will give glory to the faithful!) then the true condition of our hearts will be revealed not only to others but even to ourselves! At that time boasting is appropriate.

 

So, we see that the due season is at the Judgment Seat. However, the rewards are not solely for that day.

 

In verses 6 through 8 Paul speaks of sowing and reaping. The principle of sowing and reaping is not only for the next age, but it applies to this age as well.

 

            For they sow the wind,

                        and they shall reap the whirlwind.

            The standing grain has no heads;

                        it shall yield no flour;

            if it were to yield,

                        strangers would devour it.

            Israel is swallowed up;

                        already they are among the nations

                        as a useless vessel.

(Hosea 8:7-8 ESV)

 

 

Note that the sowing and reaping for Israel takes place in this life. As one man of God has written concerning the sowing and reaping in Galatians:

 

“The beginning of the reward is seen here. The payment of interest on the principle begins here, but the full payment is to be in the day to come, the day of judgment.”[1]

 

Hence, the rewards to which Paul refers is primarily in the next age, but we will see some even in this life.

 

[III.] What are the rewards that we will receive? Time prohibits us from examining each reward, but we may at least mention them. Our reaping, our rewards, are also called prizes and crowns in the New Testament. Each one is imperishable (I Cor. 9:24-27). This means that once we receive them they will never be taken away.

 

[A.] There is the crown of righteousness (2 Tim 4:5-8). This means that we will receive an abundance of rightness in our being.

[B.] There is the crown of glory (I Peter 5:2-4). This means that we will receive an abundance of glory as part of our reward.

[C.] There is the crown of life. This means that we will receive an abundance of life even beyond the already abundant life that each genuine believer in the Lord Jesus possesses.

[D.] There are other glorious rewards promised to the overcomers. These can be read for encouragement in the letters to the seven churches of Asia in Revelation chapters two and three.

[E.] There is a “payment of interest” now. There is a small measure of reaping that we experience in this age.

 

  • We must wait for the Lord’s return to receive the crown of righteousness. Yet, as we serve him we discover that we gain personal righteousness even now. We do not boast in it. Neither do we look down on others because of it. Nevertheless, we see ourselves changed.
  • We must wait for the Judgment Seat to receive our crown of glory. Yet, as we serve one another we discover that we are transformed from glory to glory even now.
  • We must wait for the crown of life. But the abundant life that the Lord promised can be experienced in the here and now.

 

You are like the photographer. If you listen to one voice you will find discouragement. If you listen to another voice you will find encouragement. God’s voice is the voice of encouragement. He is speaking to you today. Did you know that you can produce photographs of quality and inspiration? They are photographs of yourself. Photographs of righteousness, glory, and life that picture what you will be!

 

These are the photographs that we can have if we do not give up. Don’t give up! If Ed Steichen had given up we would never have those marvelous pictures. We will reap if we do not give up. Don’t give up!

 

[IV.] What are we to do? Paul writes, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

 

Let us do good to all but especially to the lovers of Jesus. When you do, there will be a harvest waiting.

 

Have you grown weary? Look ahead to the rewards that await. Keep pressing on! I find great encouragement in the promises of God. When I don’t want to give, I think, “This extra $10 will reap a harvest one day.” When I don’t feel like helping, I think, “My life is going to be reviewed one day.” When the opportunity presents itself to share the good news and I am reticent about saying something, I think, “There is glory in this that I do not want to miss!”

 

When our love wanes, when our joy fades, let us remember the Day of Recompense that we all will experience. Live with that day in your vision! And find divine motivation.

 

“Lord, we have grown weary. Move us by your promises and by your Spirit! Even today. Amen.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Govett, Robert, Robert Govett on Galatians, Schoettle Publishing Co, Hayesville, NC, 220.