Rewards

The God-Pleasing life… (1 Thessalonians 2:1-4)

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‘People-pleasing’ is a terrible insatiable noose that breeds nothing but insecurity and robs one of joy and confidence.  And yet its such a common ‘life-operating-system’ that people function from.

Double checking everything you do or say through the grid of; ‘what will they think of me if…?’  Such a life-operating-system results in inconsistency as one always feels you need to adapt your words or actions to what will please those you’re with.  And so this life-operating-system sets oneself up for compromise and the inability to hold strong convictions.

Here in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4, Paul is looking back at his time sharing the Gospel with the Thessalonians (see Acts 17) and makes some arguments for why they can stand on, trust in the Good News He shared with them;

  1. He reminds them that he and his team had just escaped Philippi where they were  beaten up and then imprisoned for the Gospel.  People don’t tend to risk their lives for something they are not convinced of… (vs1-2)
  2. He reminds them that again in Thessalonica they had preached despite being ‘in the midst of much conflict’.  They were again risking their lives to share this Gospel news…
  3. Therefore the Thessalonians can know that there message is authentic, is not some made up story or con-man’s scheme to trick them
  4. They know that God approved them and entrusted the Gospel message to them and this is why they keep going, keep speaking the Gospel despite opposition and threat – they are living to please God and not people.

There it is, an alternative life-operating-system at work deep in the apostle Paul;

‘God-pleasing’ not ‘people-pleasing’.

What’s your current default ‘life-operating-system’?

God-pleasing or people-pleasing?

Living the God-pleasing life results in;

  • Conviction: because you’re living out of eternal truth & unshakeable relationship
  • Consistency: because what you believe is founded on solid rock not quicksand.
  • Courage: because you know the ONE you’re serving, & He promised to Help you.
  • Commitment: because you’re living to please the ONE that matters forevermore.
  • Celebration: because you will be rewarded one day into eternity for living this way.
  • Calm: because you know the ONE who loves you, the ONE you’re living for!
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More holy than Jesus!

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Surely not.  That’s not possible.  And yet Jesus unashamedly motivated His hearers, motivates us to act in this life, with the prospect of future gain, future reward into eternity when He said;

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:19-21 in NLT)

Jesus doesn’t tell people what we might think He’d say.  Jesus doesn’t discourage storing up for oneself at all.  What Jesus does do is changes the address!  Jesus changes the destination of our saving up, from this life to the next.  Jesus is motivating us by the prospect of future gain, future reward for us as a result of how we chose to live in this life.

“Scripture simply does not teach what most of us seem to assume – that heaven will transform each of us into equal beings with equal possessions and equal responsibilities and equal capacities.  It does not say that our previous lives will be of no eternal significance.  It says exactly the opposite.” Randy Alcorn 

But that’s not a “pure” motivation I hear you say; ‘because then I am only doing this thing because of what I will gain in the end!’  Admittedly, there are many motivations for godliness for living sacrificially serving others with all that God entrusts to us.  The greatest of which is surely the spontaneous response of love we have towards God that flows out of a heart that has seen the wonder, depth and majesty of God’s incredible love, grace and mercy.

But let’s not throw out what Jesus proposes as a motivation for how we should live in this life.  Let’s not try to be more holy than Jesus!  Or than Paul, or Moses for that matter.

Jesus is recorded mentioning rewards 15 times in the gospel’s as a motivation for living life now on this earth! (Matthew 5:12; 5:46; 6:1; 6:2; 6:4; 6:5; 6:6; 6:16; 6:18; 10:41; 10:42; 16:27; Mark 9:41; Luke 6:23; 6:35)

And Moses’ clearly was clearly motivated by reward:

“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebrews 11:24-26) 

Paul’s was clearly motivated by the prospect of a reward in heaven…

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) 

If Jesus encouraged you to and godly men like Moses and Paul were motivated by rewards do you not think that you should be too?

Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:19-21 mean nothing if they are not meant to motivate us by causing us to consider the eternal reality of life after death and causing us to consider how this life impacts that life forever.  Jesus was urging His hearers to consider how their use of their money, time, relationships, possessions so as to have an eternal impact by opening their eyes to the possibility of rewards in heaven.

I live my life as a love response to God, who loved me first, I live my life to love and serve God’s people knowing that as I do God feels my love for Him (Hebrews 6:10), but I also live my life here on earth to hear the words “Well done” from my Father at the end of this age for the way I lived, for the choices I made and according to Scripture what awaits me after those two words are eternal rewards in heaven with Him.

What a motivation for godliness, for serving without grumbling, for living my life and your life for Him who died for us and who is coming back for us!

By Gareth Bowley