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Is It Right to Yearn for Heavenly Reward?​

Regarding heavenly reward, it is common to hear believers say, “Salvation is sufficient a reward.” Others say, “Eternal life is the goal.” Yet others say, “I want a big house in heaven as my reward!”

The New Testament (ESV) contains more than 20 references about a reward the faithful will receive from the Lord for their earthly deeds in His service.

In Matthew 16:27, Jesus 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.” Here, “reward” is clearly not a reference to salvation, for salvation is a grace gift (Eph 2:8-9), not a reward. Instead, “reward” as used here refers to a wage earned for work done. Accordingly, each believer will be rewarded by the Lord “according to what they have done” during their lifetime as Jesus’ disciple.

What works will earn a reward from the Lord? Eph 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Out of His love and grace He chooses to involve His disciples in His Kingdom work. Jesus, the King has prepared specific tasks for each of his subject to do – different tasks in different seasons. It is therefore incumbent on each subject to actively seek and discern what these are each season of their lives, and after that to prioritize and do them. Because Kingdom work is spiritual work, Kingdom tasks always require faith in action (see Heb 11). These faith actions done in response to His call, prioritized in life’s deeds and pursued with reliance on God’s unseen yet powerful presence, will earn the Lord’s reward.

When my children were little toddlers, I recall doing a stars-chart reward scheme for them during their school holidays. The goal was to inculcate certain habits (e.g. reading) and/or personal responsibility (e.g. making their own beds in the morning). Each action would earn a certain number of stars. At the end of the holidays, the stars would be counted and rewards would be given based on the stars tallied. While higher achievements earned more valuable rewards, I observed that the joy from receiving parental affirmation far exceeded   the reward’s value. We were also so joyful and proud of them for their accomplishments. However, if our children had shown disinterest or were non-participative, it would have caused us great sadness and disappointment.

Jesus has prepared different Kingdom tasks in different seasons for us to do and He will reward each according to what they do. The focus is not on amassing rewards, the value of the reward nor the reward itself, rather it is in the joy of collaborating with Jesus in the Kingdom work. When we have completed the tasks assigned, each work will be tested and each will be rewarded accordingly (1 Cor 3:12-15, Matt 25:14-30). If done faithfully, the joy at that time of both the faithful and that of Jesus will be so great when He says, “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” (Matt 25:21, 23). The alternative is regret and much sadness because there will be no turning back then.

As we serve Jesus, our King, on top of a heart of gratitude and worship, will we also nurture a heart’s longing for His heavenly reward He yearns to give us? Today, how eager and expectant are we for His reward? At the end, will our lives bring joy or disappointment to Jesus?

by brother Sam Tan