November 3rd

Works and Rewards

5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe--as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.
10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his 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 man's work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
1 Corinthians 3:5-15 NIV 

The context of this scripture is where Paul was exhorting the Corinthians to stop acting like carnal Christians with jealousy and arguments.  Some people were declaring allegiance to certain leaders, like Paul and Apollos and were losing focus of the fact that God was the one they were to be following.  Paulís point was that we are all to be united in our service to God, not divided according to petty differences.   

As I read this passage I thought about the historical bickering in the church between the Calvinists and the Arminians.  The Calvinists followed John Calvin (1509-1564) and the Arminians followed Jacob Arminius (1560-1609).  The theological differences between the groups contributed to the formation of several major denominations among the protestant Christian church.  The debate between the two theologies continues today, long after their founders died, and the church is more divided than ever along theological lines. Just as Paul observed during his time, the Calvinist-Arminian debate shows how our focus can easily be diverted from God and to man.   

As we consider our lives on earth, it may help us to remember that God will evaluate our earthly work as Christians at the end of the age.  Paul used the building analogy to illustrate this concept. Our foundation should always be in Christ and we should be careful in building.  The materials we use to build on top of the foundation will also make a difference.  Paul mentioned gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay and straw. If we build with wood, hay and straw, our work will not survive the fire.  However, if we build with gold, silver and costly stones, itís likely our work will survive.   

The challenge for us is to determine what type of works will correspond with gold, silver and costly stones.  The secret to understanding how the analogy applies to us is to first consider how God has gifted us in life.  Then we can look at where those gifts might be best applied for Godís glory, keeping in mind that his main objective is to win as many people into eternal life as possible (2 Peter 3:9).  That doesnít mean that all of us will be street evangelists, but it does mean that everything we do should somehow point people to God.  For example, the church pianist who faithfully plays every Sunday, the honest contractor who does superb work, the loving parents who teach their children about God, and the NFL star who talks about Jesus all bring God glory by impacting others in Christ-like ways.   

Investing our God-given talents, resources and spiritual gifts for his kingdom work could be costly, whether financially or otherwise.  We may fall short of worldly objectives in order to achieve heavenly objectives, but we can take courage in knowing that God will provide for us along the way according to his riches and glory (Ephesians 3:16, Matthew 6:33).  It may be that our personal cost may determine the type of material that our works are made of (i.e. gold, silver, hay, etc.).   

We can thank God for our salvation through Christ.  We can look forward to the bliss of eternal life with the Creator and, if we live and work wisely for Godís kingdom, we can also look forward to receiving a heavenly reward.  If God is showing you today that your work may not be measuring up for the fire test at the end, I encourage you to seek God about how to change so that you will be rewarded.  Itís not too late to make changes if you act now.   

Questions for further thought:

Prayer:

ďFather in heaven, thank you for the gifts, talents and resources you have entrusted to me.  Please forgive me for squandering them in any way on worthless pursuits.  Lord, I desire to honor you with works that will endure the test of fire.  Please help me discover what you have created me to do with what youíve given me.  Please give me courage to step out in faith and risk the personal cost that may be involved.  I acknowledge my allegiance to you both as a son and an heir to your kingdom.  Please help me to live in that reality  daily.  Thank you, Lord.  In Jesusí name I pray, Amen.Ē