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Why do Christians rarely talk of heavenly rewards?

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An interesting question was asked this week by Michael J. Kruger, president of Reformed Theological Seminary, in Charlotte, N.C.

“When is the last time you heard a sermon that suggested that a motive for our obedience should be the rewards we receive in heaven?” he wrote on his Canon Fodder blog.

The story caught my attention because I was listening to an audiobook a short time ago that discussed the same subject.

It’s part of the Believer’s Judgement that all Christians will experience upon their death. Hebrews 9:27 promises everyone is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.

People who did not accept the invitation to develop a relationship with Jesus while they were on earth will find themselves confined to spend eternity in hell. (Matthew 13:49-50)

However, people who have put their faith in Jesus will also be judged, and rewarded based on what they did on earth. In Matthew 16:27, Jesus says, “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.

Kruger wrote that while he was working on a commentary on the book of Hebrews, he was struck by the role rewards have played in the lives of God’s people.

“If rewards are clearly presented as a motivation in the Christian life, why don’t we hear more about rewards in our modern pulpits? I am sure there are many answers to that question, but let me suggest one: we have been convinced that our obedience doesn’t matter,” he explained.

And it really should. Think about it. The thief on the cross became a believer shortly before he died. Billy Graham led millions of people to Jesus. Both were believers on earth, but should the ability to live in heaven be their only reward — something both share in equal proportions?

It wouldn’t make sense.

Apostle Paul explained it this way in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15:

“If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.

“If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved — even though only as one escaping through the flames.”

I sincerely believe that many Christians, myself included, settle for too little during our time on earth. Perhaps we should start paying closer attention to how we are investing our time on earth with eyes toward receiving a reward from Jesus himself.

“This recognition that God’s delight in the works of his people is not, as some might think, a recipe for pride, but rather a tremendous (and much needed) encouragement to those of us who are laboring in ministry (whether we are pastors or laypeople),” Kruger wrote.

“Truth be told, ministry can be difficult. Our efforts can seem futile. We often find ourselves spent and exhausted,” he added. “What a refreshment to our souls to know that our father in heaven actually delights in these labors.”

…and that we will be rewarded for those efforts — if not now, then certainly in the life to come.

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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