I tend to shy away from placing much emphasis on the promise of rewards in heaven – especially since I am just grateful Jesus will get me there!!
Still, Jesus himself said, “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then HE WILL REWARD each person according to what they have done” (Matthew 16:27).
If we are saved by grace and upheld by grace – what then is the basis on which God will reward us?
You may remember Jesus’ Parable of the Talents (see Matthew 25:14-30). The master rewarded his servants based on two things. First, what the master entrusted to each servant and second, what each servant DID with what he was given.
In his parable, Jesus framed rewards this way, “His master said to him, ‘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.’“ (Matthew 25:23).
My nephew Luke has severe cerebral palsy. Luke has not been given NEARLY what you and I have been given.
God will reward Luke based on Luke’s response in faith and obedience to what he has been given. Rewards will not be in COMPARISON to others’ accomplishments but based on what WE did with what WE were given.
Jesus taught that a person who is faithful in a little will also be faithful in much and that a person dishonest in little will also be dishonest in much (Luke 16:10). God is after the development of CHARACTER.
My mentor, Dr. Dallas Willard, would often say, “What God gets from your life is the kind of person you have become.”
This idea speaks profoundly to rewards in the next life. If, as Dallas would also say, the purpose of this life is “training for reigning,” then the development of CHARACTER is of ultimate importance for the next life. What can we be trusted with then?
Remember the UNPROFITABLE servant in the parable of the talents? That servant was punished NOT because he did not make money for his master, but because his inaction betrayed the servant’s mistrust and laziness. In other words, the servant’s LACK of good character brought about his downfall.
“You have been faithful over a little – I will set you over much.” Notice that the reward for faithful service in Jesus’ parable is more service! That future “reigning with Christ” will derive from development of our character NOW.
What will God be able to trust us with into eternity? In other words, are we becoming the kind of person God can trust to do what WE want in the next life? What can God trust us with NOW?
No man, woman, or devil can keep you and me from becoming a Christ-like person. The resources of heaven are at our disposal for this very purpose.