Heaven’s Reward Program
Cause and Effect
It’s funny how life has consequences; how what you do now in the moment can start a ripple effect that has consequences forever.
It’s interesting how an action is never just an isolated action but starts a process that determines a certain course and direction that can shape an entire destiny.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Who would have thought that when Leonard Kleinrock wrote his paper on “packet switching” in 1961, that Larry Roberts would use it four years later to create the first long distance computer network between two universities? Those actions led to the social phenomenon we now call the world wide web or the internet.
Neither Kleinrock nor Roberts knew that they would change the world!
Did Gavrilo Princip know that his bullet that killed Archduke Ferdinand of Austria would start events that would lead to World War 1? Or that these events would eventually create the conditions for World War 2?
Did Sir Frank Whittle know that when he invented the turbojet engine that he would usher in the jet age, which makes long distance travel and space travel possible?
If this is true for actions that lead to big consequences, it is equally true of every action regardless if the consequence is big or small.
Friends, what I am talking about this morning is a law called cause and effect. Every action causes an effect.
A deed or a behaviour, even a reaction, never happens in isolation and is never an event by itself that quickly fizzles away.
Every action has consequences both in this life and in the life to come.
In particular, it’s this idea of how I live my life affects my future forever that is both revolutionary and life altering.
Do you realize how you act and react actually shapes your eternity? I am not making this up, folks.
Jesus linked the rewards in the next life to our actions and reactions in this life. For example, in Luke 6 he links enduring suffering and persecution in this life with the rewards of the next life.
“Blessed are you when men hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and cast out your name as evil for the Son of Man sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy for indeed your reward in heaven is great.” Luke 6:22, 23
The leaping for joy has to do with the thrill of anticipating the rewards in the next life, which are linked to enduring persecution and suffering in this life.
Lest you think this is just an isolated reference, the promises of a reward in heaven for how you live your life in this world are everywhere in the New Testament:
“He will reward each according to his works.” Matt. 16:27
“You will have treasure in heaven.” Matt. 19:21
“You will be blessed for you shall be repaid at the resurrection.” Lk. 14:4
God keeps track of what you do for him, with an eye toward an eventual reward.
Cause and effect, that’s what this is, where what you cause here and now affects things then and there.
The Timeline of Your Life
To appreciate the enormity of this celestial cause and effect interplay, we need to take a second look at the timeline of your life.
The real timeline, that is; since most assume their timeline is life between birth and death.
Well, what if I were to tell you that your birth and your death are only two points on a much bigger timeline of your life?
What if I were to tell you that your life will not end at your death and that, while you had a definite beginning, you will have no definite end.
Would you think me crazy if I were to suggest to you that yours is a ‘forever life’; and that in this ‘forever life’ there are not two markers (birth and death) but multiple markers that include these two?
That is looking at things a little different, isn’t it?
The markers of your forever-life are actually birth, death, destination, resurrection, reward and eternity.
Bruce Wilkinson, in “A Life God Rewards”, articulates six markers along the path of your forever life.
Every one of us had a definite beginning and we live on earth as body, soul and spirit: “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Gen. 2:7. That’s the first marker.
Secondly, every one of us will some day die; it will be a physical death but not a spiritual death. Your soul and spirit will live on!
Paul talks about this reality: “We are confident and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 2 Cor. 5:8
Most people would then stop and say, “That’s it! That’s your life and that which happened between birth and death was your life”.
The shocker then is when you realize there is more to life than just this life.
Upon your death, you will live on, either with God in heaven or without God in hell. Destination is the third marker.
The story is told of two men who upon their death woke up in the next life: “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with (the beggar) by his side.” Lk. 16:22, 23
The difference between the two that determined eternal destination was not riches nor poverty but belief and unbelief, as it says in Jn. 3:18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
Therefore what you believed on earth in terms of Jesus as your Lord and Saviour determines your eternal destination.
The fourth marker is resurrection. You will be resurrected in the next life. Those with Jesus will, at the end of the ages, receive a new body:
“We eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
Phil. 3:20, 21
Next, rewards! What you will do with your new life in your new body will be determined by the kind of rewards you get, which in turn will determine your position, your assignments and your responsibilities.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Cor. 5:10
Let me explain that: This is not the tribunal that determines your entry into heaven. That was settled at your death, based on whether you believed and called on Jesus.
Nor is “Receiving what is due us” a reference to punishment (‘receiving your due’).
But instead, this is about the talents that will be given to you based on how you lived your life as a believer and whether you pursued worthwhile or worthless things (which is what “whether good or bad” means).
Finally, eternity! That is the beginning of your real life. Your never-ending life. Not just a state of mind; a real life in a real place.
In fact, Jesus will say to those in his heaven: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Matt. 25:34
This kingdom will never end. This is our eternity. We will live in this kingdom forever and ever. This will be our never-ending life.
So again, the timeline of your never-ending life starts with birth and quickly goes to death and destination and then moves into resurrection, rewards and eventually eternity.
Belief Determines Destination
Looking at the timeline of your never-ending life, can you connect the dots to see which stage of your never-ending life makes the greatest difference?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the time between your birth and death is the most critical part of your never-ending life. Your physical life, this teensy-weensy little period, determines everything that comes beyond death!
Your life here and now determines your destination, the kind of resurrection, whether you receive rewards which in turn determine your position, responsibilities and the kind of life you will have for all eternity!
It’s crazy but true! How can a few short years on earth determine so much beyond this life?
As you ponder that, don’t confuse destination with compensation both of which are determined by your decisions and actions in this life.
What do I mean? Your destination – heaven or hell – will be determined by whether you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ or not.
When the jailer asked what he had to do to be saved from going to hell, he was told, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Acts 16:32
That word ‘believe’ is loaded! It’s not passive but active. It means to trust in and to call on and it always carries the idea of relationship. That’s what ‘belief’ means.
Believe in the Lord Jesus means to call on him and reach out to him with everything you have, and it always ends in a close relationship whereby you end up with Jesus living in your heart!
So your destination is determined by whether you have called on the name of Jesus in this life.
If you have and He is in you, then you are going to heaven. If not, then you’re not.
That is what settles your destination! (BTW, have you settled this all-important matter?)
Actions Determine Compensation
So, if your belief determines your destination, then your actions determine your compensation.
What do I mean? Listen to what Jesus said to the host of a party:
12 “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Lk. 14:12-14
This is more than just a lesson on social etiquette or the do’s and don’ts of hosting a great party.
In Fact, this isn’t actually about a party but about doing things in this short little life that will bring great rewards in the next life.
Do things and live your life in such a way that you will be “repaid at the resurrection of the righteous”!
In this case, if you are going to throw this kind of a party, invite people over not to impress, to play favorites, or to have the favor returned but to serve and help those who are without and cannot help themselves.
So look for the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind – those who cannot help themselves – without passing comment on why they are poor and crippled or how they deserve being lame and blind.
In other words, serve the least and the lost, without judgment nor anticipation of being paid back.
Do your deeds of kindness anonymously, without expectation of a return, from the goodness of your heart and out of your love for Jesus.
For if you do, great will be your reward in heaven!
“You will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Vs. 14
Folks, connect the dots: Your loving, kind, compassionate and sacrificial actions on earth will not be repaid in this life but in the next, which will determine your standing, stature and level of responsibility for all eternity.
When you connect the dots that way, it is mind boggling to realize how I live my very short life determines the shape of my eternity.
The blessings, the benefits and rewards will come in the next life. There is nothing promised for this life.
He doesn’t promise that if you work for him now that you will have riches and ease in this life!
To be sure, God blesses us here on earth out of His unmerited grace, and he might provide temporal rewards for right choices.
But if the truth be known, the rewards Jesus most often talks about are those given to us in the next life.
You earn them now; you cash them in there. You earn them now and they will affect your life far into eternity!
Mindboggling, isn’t it? It makes you want to live your life completely differently, doesn’t it?
Let me go one step further. These things which we call rewards are actually much more than rewards.
When we think of rewards we think of a bonus, a tip or a nice gesture. But it is actually much more than that. It almost borders a legal transaction of a debt outstanding that is paid.
I once worked for a man who upon my employment termination decided not to pay me out my final wages and related expenses. He not only deprived me of what was owed to me, but he actually stole my wages.
I want you to know that the rewards that will come to you for your deeds in this short little life are a legal transaction akin to wages.
When Jesus said: “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.” Lk. 6:23, the Greek word He uses for reward (misthos) literally means wages.
That’s what it is. These are your wages. It’s neither a tip, nor an appreciation for service rendered, but these are the wages owed you for the work you have done for Him.
No deed is too small. Even something as simple as giving a cup of water will be repaid: “Anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.” Mk.9:41
In today’s terminology it would be mean that even a cup of coffee given to someone in need, a kind word spoken to a stranger, a child sponsored somewhere, will all be repaid!
You know what else? Your prayers will be repaid. You may not have the stamina any longer to provide physical support but you can pray!
Every prayer is recorded as a wage to be repaid. Did you know that?
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matt. 6:6
Even your prayers will bring you a reward, friends. Your service, your faithfulness, your perseverance, your sacrifice, your sharing of talents, all of it and much more will be repaid!
These rewards are our eternal wages that will be repaid in full! Can you imagine how much must be stored up in heaven’s bank for you?
I want to finish this morning with the idea that there is no sense of entitlement or somebody owing me something in how we go about this.
We serve Jesus and those around us with no expectation or desire for rewards or repayment.
That’s not the nature of the beast. We do it because we love Jesus. We do it out of a grateful heart. None of us are in it for the rewards.
Friends, listen to me, this is not about our motivation nor is this about rewards because we are inclined this way. This is not about us.
This is about God’s incredibly generous heart! There is nothing that you could ever take away from what God’s heart is really like.
If you were to say no or turn down his rewards, if you were to downplay his desire to reward you, or somehow be embarrassed about it, then you would actually insult God’s very generous, giving nature and show how little you really know Him.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Heb. 11:6
You want to please him? Then you must believe that God is a rewarder! Believing who God is includes believing that He is a rewarder.
So revel in His desire to want to reward you. Don’t take that away from him and don’t try to make Him stop.
Let God be God. Let him be the rewarder that he truly is!
Scott Street MB Church invites you to write your reflections and thoughts about the weekly messages shared by lead Pastor Jurgen Rausch.