Love Is The Reward
Fifty years ago, in the first ever live-streamed satellite broadcast for television, the Beatles debuted a song that captured, not only the voice of an era, but the essence of an eternal truth so often understated or ignored. The title of that song was this:
“All You Need Is Love”
Driven By Eternity
So what does a fifty year old secular song have to do with my practical spiritual experience as born-again believer and follower of Jesus Christ? Great question!
I recently heard John Bevere—the well-known leader of the missions and discipleship driven Messenger International, and author of Driven By Eternity, Good Or God?, and The Bait Of Satan—speak on a the topic of eternal rewards. He said,
“Live in such a way that you’ll get the reward.”
Living for the Reward
Essentially, his point was that our faith in Christ determines where we spend eternity (we don’t earn salvation, we inherit it through grace), but how we live our lives as born-again children of God will determine how we spend eternity.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” – 2 Corinthians 5:10
Hearing this message stirred up something on the inside of me. I don’t want to be one of the lazy, complacent Christians who gets saved “by the skin of his teeth.” I also don’t want to be deceived by a works-mentality mindset that is focused on trying to earn what Jesus already paid for believers to receive by grace. To confirm what Paul says, Jesus Himself says this,
“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to each person according to what he has done.” – Revelation 22:12
At the same time, Jesus also spoke about those who will come to Him on that day looking to gain entrance to heaven and receive a reward for their work.
“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’…” – Matthew 7:22
But then, we hear Jesus make this profound statement:
“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” – Matthew 10:42
Clearly there is a disconnect between the kind of works we think should be rewarded and the kind of works Jesus will actually reward.
What Kind of Work Qualifies for a Reward?
In modern church-culture, some of us tend to glorify the glorious manifestation over the simple demonstration. Remember, there will be people who were able to “perform many miracles” that will be driven away, while whoever performs something as simple as giving a cup of cold water to a disciple “will by no means lose his reward.”
So what kind of work qualifies for a reward? How do we know whether or not we are working in vain? Let’s find out, but first we need to understand how the quality of our work will be determined.
“If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, his workmanship will be evident, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will prove the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as one being snatched from the fire.” – 1 Corinthians 3:12-15
As believers, we are each building upon the foundation laid down by the Chief Cornerstone. Paul reveals through this metaphor that some of us are adding to Christ’s foundation using “gold, silver, precious stones, wood hay, or straw,” and that only the kind of work that passes the test will survive and be worthy of a reward.
So how do we know whether or not we are building our lives upon the rock of Christ with the kind of materials that will survive the “fire test?”
Work That Survives the Test
Paul himself answers the question later on in the same letter to the Corinthian church. In this same passage, he reveals why there will be those who will “prophesy…drive out demons and perform many miracles” in Jesus’ name, but fall short of the grace of God.
Most of us are very familiar with this passage, but before you read it once more, I want you to be thinking about it in the context of eternal rewards. Here it is, you guessed it. Paul’s famous chapter on love:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a ringing gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have absolute faith so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and exult in the surrender of my body, but have not love, I gain nothing. – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
The spiritual gifts are not the problem. In fact, they are extremely important. In the very next chapter, the first thing Paul tells the Corinthians to do is “earnestly pursue love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts…” The problem is—without the love of God at the center of everything we’re motivated to do—we will “gain nothing” from all of our works, even if we were able to move mountains with our faith.
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10
Here we discover the kind of works that will be “burned up.” Anything that is temporal will not carry on into the long light of eternity. Even language as we know it (how we comprehend and communicate) will not last forever. But what will survive? What kind of quality must the works that survive have to be worthy of a reward?
But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13
Faith, hope, and love are the “gold, silver, and precious stones” that will survive revelation’s fiery light and merit a reward from the the Son of God on “the Day” that He returns. Everything else will be found futile in the fire.
Greater Works Than These Shall You Do
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” – John 14:12
I’ve heard so many sermons and messages (all of them good by the way) talking about how Jesus intended us to go beyond Him by doing even greater works than He did. This is great (because Jesus did say that), but nearly every message I’ve heard has focused on the miracles, signs and wonders of Jesus’ ministry as a way of saying we should be performing even greater miracles, signs and wonders, etc.
While I believe this is true (and has been demonstrated by many saints throughout history), we have to remember that Jesus considers giving a cup of cold water (with love) to someone who is thirsty greater than performing many miracles (without love).
Remember the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Jesus didn’t say to them,
“I was sick and you healed me. I needed to hear from the Lord and you prophesied over me. I was demon-possessed, and you cast that sucker out of me.”
This is what He actually says,
“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ – Matthew 25:35-36
All You Need Is Love
To love is the greatest work of all, and the center of it all. Love itself is its own reward, and it is the greatest reward the Creator Himself can bestow. If you are driven by eternity, if you would receive the highest reward that Christ can offer when He returns, do this one thing as much as you can.
Let this one thing be the guiding star, the foundation of everything you do with your life—to love well. Whether you prophecy, give to the poor, perform miracles, or feed the hungry, do it all in love.
Let the Lord who is Love abide in you in such a way that His nature moves in and through you without any resistance. Then your life will be defined by the love of God, and your reward will be greater than you could have possibly imagined.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
1 John 4:15-17
If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have come to know and believe the love that God has for us. God is love; whoever abides in love abides in God, and God in him. In this way, love has been perfected among us, so that we may have confidence on the day of judgment; for in this world we are just like Him.