Or, are you ready for a reward?
When I wrote my book, Ready for a Reward, I examined verses that were related to the end times which also mentioned a character value. That is, the verses had two aspects:
1. A time frame of just before, during, or just after the Lord’s return
2. A value that pleases the Lord
For example, in Matthew 25:21 we read: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” Both key aspects are in this verse. These words will be spoken after the Lord returns, when He rewards His servants. Plus, this verse emphasizes the Lord’s values of faithfulness and a job well done. So I can be confident of a joyful meeting when I follow through to the end on the task the Lord has given me, and do it well. This is a person who is ready for a reward.
Many of us already have a sense that we need to “be ready” for the Lord’s return, but I’ve seldom seen clear instruction on what the readiness looked like. Regarding the end times, I read more about prophecies on the last days, not preparing for the Second Coming. In each of these chapters I found plenty of Scriptures on the subject of what readiness should look like in our lives. Jesus wants a prepared bride who is ready to reign with Him, and has given her a book to help her get ready:
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7).
I made an interesting observation about these values: they are not strange or unusual traits, but universally recognized in many religions and in atheism as marks of good character. They are not super-spiritual qualities like becoming a monk or nun, or fasting and praying regularly for weeks at a time.
The quality of faithfulness, for instance, is good in every religion. It’s sought after in any secular endeavor, such as in business, school, government, and church. And it is highly prized by God. Faithfulness indicates that one can be relied upon to do the task dependably to the end.
We learn faithfulness when we are given a task to perform (but only if we are willing to learn – complainers are unwilling to learn). First we may find that we don’t feel like doing the task and slack off. Then we are convicted and return. Again, we war against our feelings or other weaknesses until we gain the upper hand, and find ourselves able to stick with the task, triumphing over our weaknesses in it. We have continued in a work and through it God has gained a disciple who is faithful.
None of these traits are developed by reading books, but by facing adversity and enduring it (Romans 5:3-4), such as with faithfulness in the previous paragraph. There are no shortcuts to character development; you can’t sit through a lunch hour every day flipping through images and texts in Imgur, Flickr, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, WordPress, Reddit, and so on, and expect to grow in the faith. I have accounts in all of these; they all have their place, but I’m honest enough to know that none of them aid my faith.
The development of these character traits is proof that the believer is pursuing his or her salvation to its fullest measure with the Spirit’s leading (Galatians 5:22-24). They are taking hold of the grace of God to experience victory over the world, the flesh, the devil, and over their fear of death. They believe in more than “I’ll go to heaven when I die.” They are not trusting in their church membership or attendance or having believed on Jesus some time in the past. Their faith prompts them to work, to action, now. At the judgment seat, the faithful will be rewarded for their work, not their faith. Their faith will be seen by their works. Their trust in God will have compelled them to act upon what they are believing.
The mere thinking positively about our faith will not be rewarded.
Why is character important? Because who we are when we die is who we will be when we appear before the Lord. In the case of faithful vs. unfaithful, we see in several of Jesus’ stories that the faithful were rewarded at the Lord’s return while the unfaithful were not. Who they were when their master appeared mattered more than what they used to be. How they ended their employment mattered most when it came to rewards.
I am not talking about rewards versus losing one’s salvation. If you are saved, you cannot lose your salvation at the judgment seat, but you can lose out on something of surpassing greatness that the Lord wants to give you.
I don’t talk about character here because it is the most important thing in the Christian life. No; but because it is a neglected thing. These passages extolling character values expose the lie that it’s enough to merely “be saved” and be a member of a church.
If you had an empire to run and wanted help over smaller parts of it, would you choose the first people to come along and give them awesome responsibilities immediately, or would you have them tested in smaller capacities first to see what they are made of? As I mentioned earlier, the qualities Jesus is looking for in His church when He comes again are not weird or unusual. They are well known and highly valued. Even mobsters and gangs value trustworthiness in the ranks. Jesus is looking to staff positions of power in His coming kingdom. Putting Him first is a key value He is looking for.
If you have been spending more time in these last days gathering intellectual knowledge about prophetical events rather than in development of character, please read the book Ready for a Reward. It is never too late to turn your life around for God — or to let Him do it through you. Nothing is more important than how you will stand before God. Nothing. All that we have will turn to dust. The only thing that will be left will be what you have made of yourself. Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection won salvation for your soul, not for your business, home, job, spouse, reputation, or stuff. You are His prize at His return. He is coming again — this time for you — and His reward is with Him (Revelation 22:12).
Ready for a Reward by Steve Husting