18 February 2006

The Believer's Reward

A few years back, I met one of the parents of a friend from Bible college. After we had talked some about some plans my friends and I had for the summer, he began to tell us something about his background. He had come to know Christ through a ministry with apparently little interest in discipleship or doctrinal instruction, and he recounted how he eventually found a church that taught the Scriptures more thoroughly. The example he mentioned caught me off guard: he said this new church taught him that Christ would reward his own for their faithful service and that this should motivate his servants to vigilance and perseverance.

There is much to be said about the believer's reward on the Day of Christ. Sometime I would like to discuss the relationship between rewards and final salvation. Also the relationship between rewards and grace deserves some attention. These will have to wait for later.

What I have been thinking about recently is the relationship between rewards and the people we serve and influence for Christ. I think they are more than related. I think that in some ways they are the same thing. A text may help me explain what I am getting at:

"For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy" (1 Thess 2:19-20).

At least part of the reward that Paul is hoping for is bound up in the people that he will see there. This is not to say that rewards will not come in other forms; it is simply to point out that Paul affectionately emphasizes one aspect of a believer's eternal reward over all the others. Sometimes I have missed this aspect altogether.

Because Paul's heart was genuinely bound to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 2:8), because he had made his joy dependent in some measure on their perseverance (1 Thess 3:7-8), he would "glory" in them on that Day because seeing them meant his incessant "efforts" on their behalf had "not been useless" (1 Thess 3:5).

This is the kind of thinking that motivated Paul to "to share with [them] not only the gospel of God but our lives as well" (1 Thess 2:8).

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