During my Bible College years, one of my favorite professors taught a class which was affectionately abbreviated “Cor and Thes” (Corinthians and Thessalonians). When we came across the passage describing the rewards for our earthly works, the professor encouraged us to think ahead to the treasures we can lay up in heaven.
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 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."–1 Corinthians 3:11-14
One student raised his hand. “It’s all well and good to do things for God in order to earn a reward,” he said, “But don’t you think it’s better to serve Jesus just because we love Him?”
At the moment, my professor didn’t have much of an answer to this noble thought. However, over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that God has good reasons for promising us rewards—and we are not more spiritual for presuming we don’t need His heavenly incentives.
Let’s bring this point home in the world of pro-life/pregnancy center ministry.
Our work is not easy. The cause is not popular. We do not win brownie points with society or earn pats on the back for what we do, as we might if we did something more culturally acceptable.
Working to rescue the preborn is not the same as funding wells for African villages, or fighting the global slave trade. It’s not the same as providing a community service which is free of controversy.
If you’re involved, you know this all too well.
At your pregnancy center, you’ve had to heed warnings about how to handle fake client calls. Perhaps you’ve even dealt with fake clients coming in and going through the whole pregnancy test process and conversation just to try to catch you doing something wrong.
You’ve helped women who just want social services and who demonstrate more entitlement than gratitude for services rendered. You’ve probably dealt with the angry boyfriends and parents of clients as well.
If that’s not enough, you have well-meaning supporters questioning why you don’t have a stronger pro-life message in your name and your approach to clients.
And then there’s the emotional see-saw of investing in the lives of people who may choose either life or death for their unborn children—children who, if they survive, may never know that you rescued them.
You labor at an emotionally, spiritually strenuous responsibility. On the surface, it may seem like offering help, hope, and compassion to those facing unplanned pregnancies should be pretty doable.
Yet often, you find yourself wondering, Why is this so difficult?
It’s difficult because you are fighting a worldly paradigm. You are upholding a standard of life in a culture of death. You are a soldier in an invisible war. And you do this for the sake of our Father in heaven, who loves and values every precious image-bearer He has created.
My husband and I have three grown sons. When our boys were growing up, we made it a point to give them lavish rewards for work well done, especially when their efforts went above and beyond the call of duty. As parents, we always secretly hoped our sons would excel at what we asked them to do. We wanted to reward them. Witnessing their joy in receiving a reward was a great joy to us as parents.
God is our good, good Father, and He wants to reward us. He is generous, lavish, and extravagant God. Our joy in receiving rewards from Him is His joy as well.
So it doesn’t really work to say we should do things for Jesus just because we love Him. Noble as that may sound, the giving and receiving of rewards is part of relationship.
There’s another side to this coin as well.
Jesus knows how hard your work is. He hears every prayer you pray, collects every tear you shed, and understands the problems you face. He empathizes with you in everything you go through (Hebrews 4:15-16).
One of the most basic principles of Christianity is this: We look forward to a future hope. We are a people occupied with waiting. We believe this life is short, and our choices will determine what kind of inheritance we will enjoy in eternity.
God promises us rewards because He knows we need the encouragement. We need help in order to persevere and endure. We need something to look forward to. We need to know that our labor and effort and sacrifices matter.
So it’s okay to remind yourself on a tough day, there’s a reward coming! It’s okay to quietly rejoice because your good Father is preparing something special for you.
He loves you. He’s for you. And He is pleased with the work you do on His behalf.
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