The Reward of Our Risen Lord

Jesus spoke often during His earthly ministry about His intention to reward His followers. For example, every one of the Beatitudes speak of the rewards Jesus desires to bestow (Matthew 5:2-11). Further into the Sermon on the Mount, He spoke of the rewards connected to unselfish love (5:46) and purely motivated giving (6:4), prayer (6:6), and fasting (6:18). His parables spoke of His intention to reward. Gary Thomas writes, “As Jesus calls his disciples to a higher way of living, he freely uses reward terminology to do so.”[i]

Our God “rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). In the final chapter of the Bible, Jesus declares, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12 NASB).

It is important to note that God is not obligated to reward us at all. He chooses to reward us as an act of His unmerited favor, pure grace.

It is important to note that God is not obligated to reward us at all. He chooses to reward us as an act of His unmerited favor, pure grace.

God’s infinite superiority to us, his absolute proprietorship in us as our Maker, and sovereignty over us as our moral Governor, necessarily exclude the possibility of our actions deserving any reward at his hand. No action of ours can profit God or lay him under obligation to us. All that is possible to us is already a debt we owe him as our Creator and Preserver. When we have done our utmost, we are only unprofitable servants.[ii]

We do not serve a miserly, begrudging, or unobservant Christ. We faithfully love and labor, knowing it was always and will always be His good intent to reward His faithful ones in order to share in His eternal glory.

We do not serve a miserly, begrudging, or unobservant Christ. We faithfully love and labor, knowing it was always and will always be His good intent to reward His faithful ones in order to share in His eternal glory.

A STORY OF REWARD

My parents owned multiple restaurants as I was growing up. As the only child still at home (my brothers are eleven and fifteen years my senior), I was regularly tethered into child labor, either as host, dishwasher, custodian, server, and (eventually) cook. Family-owned restaurant work is all-consuming. I disliked my required participation in the domestic business most days.

Midway through my sophomore year in high school, we moved to a resort area in southern New Mexico known as Elephant Butte Lake, where my parents built a restaurant, laundromat, and boat-storage facility. The closest high school was in the booming metropolis of Truth or Consequences, five miles away. This turned out to be a gift as, during the next two years, I was able to get a fresh start in my walk with the Lord, eventually starting a student-led prayer group and a chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes that resulted in scores of the students coming to Christ. I ran track and played football, eventually receiving all-state honors as a wide receiver. I studied hard, gaining National Honor Society recognition. But, on top of it all, there was this restaurant that seemed to consume all of my free time.

My senior year in high school, I competed in a program known as Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA). I took first place at the state level in the category of “restaurant owner-management,” which sent me to the national finals. The competition was a grueling, competency-based evaluation involving role-play and various real-life scenarios under the scrutiny of established restaurant owners.

I will never forget the moment when the awards were announced on the Landmark Stage in downtown Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre, before a mostly full house. You saw it coming. I was declared as the first-place winner. You might say that I had unintentionally, and at times begrudgingly, been preparing an entire lifetime for this moment.

I still remember the lights, the applause, the gold medal, the huge trophy, and the joy of excelling to a level of extraordinary reward. Back home, young Danny Henderson made the front page of the Sierra County Sentinel. It was one of the bigger events of the year in our remote, sleepy little community.

THE FOGOTTEN FACES OF A FADED REWARD

But I do not remember who gave me the award that day in Chicago. I cannot picture the faces of any of the judges. I hardly remember the details of the contest. I have no idea what happened to the trophy or the replica gold medal. If required, I might be able to find a clipping of the front-page story somewhere in a storage box. This was a perishable crown. Still special to my heart as I think about it—but perishable.

But those long days standing over a sink in the back of a restaurant, those grueling late nights vacuuming food scraps dropped by messy customers, those holiday weekends I never got to enjoy because I was cooking up endless servings of some “special” my mom had placed on the menu—they all paid off. My labor was not “in vain.”

WORTH IT ALL

My friend, your payoff is coming. You may feel like a high school kid trapped in a family restaurant today as you loyally fulfill your calling in some obscure setting. You may wish you could be somewhere more “significant” or doing something that might seem more “satisfying”—like those other well-recognized leaders. But wait for it. The Day is coming. And, please, do not serve Him begrudgingly but in full hope. “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). His reward is with Him to repay you for all of your deeds (Revelation 22:12).

Unlike “dazed Danny” many years ago in Chicago, you will never forget the face of the One who gives you your reward. His face will be your joy, your satisfaction, your eternal glory—forever.

You will never forget the face of the One who gives you your reward. His face will be your joy, your satisfaction, your eternal glory—forever.

NOTHING BETTER . . . FOREVER

J.I. Packer noted, “Hearts on earth say in the course of a joyful experience, ‘I don’t want this ever to end.’ But it invariably does. The hearts of those in heaven say, ‘I want this to go on forever.’ And it will. There can be no better news than this.”[iii] No better news indeed.

“Hearts on earth say in the course of a joyful experience, ‘I don’t want this ever to end.’ But it invariably does. The hearts of those in heaven say, ‘I want this to go on forever.’ And it will. There can be no better news than this.” J. I. Packer

Today you may be overwhelmed with great anticipation about a long-overdue vacation, the conferring of a degree, an eventual retirement, or the cashing out of your paid-for home. You may be looking forward to seeing someone you love—the reunion with a best friend from college, the arrival of your first child, or a visit with your grandchildren.

But there will be nothing, nothing, nothing like that moment when you see Jesus. There will be no joy in all of your existence like the joy of His reward and the eternal glory that follows. Could there be any greater purpose or passion in life than living in such a way that the rewarder of your ministry and the lover of your soul will say to you, “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)?

There will be nothing, nothing, nothing like that moment when you see Jesus. There will be no joy in all of your existence like the joy of His reward and the eternal glory that follows.

Copyright © 2020 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.

[i] Gary L. Thomas, Authentic Faith: The Power of a Fire-Tested Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 215.

[ii] A. A. Hodge and Charles Hodge, The Confession of Faith: With Questions for Theological Students and Bible Classes (Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation, 1992), 321

[iii] Quoted by Alcorn, The Law of Rewards, 50.