In his parents eyes there was never a doubt that he had the raw intelligence and ability to excel, but like many kids his age, success in school seemed to be elusive. It was clear that after his first year in High School that something would have to fundamentally change to enable success in his remaining three years.
His parents rightly understood that the basic issues he faced were related to a lack of focus and clarity of objectives, coupled with the right incentives to help cultivate an internal desire to apply himself and perform at his fullest potential.
They were also aware of studies that demonstrated a correlation between high school GPA and success in later life. Academic performance in high school had been shown to be directly linked to subsequent success in college and the obtainment of an increased lifetime income. Higher performing students increase their probability of successfully completing a college degree college from 21% to 42%. Additionally, for every point increase in GPA a typical student in high school would expect to see an increase in earned lifetime income between 12% and 14%. (1)
With all of this in mind his parents took a step back in order to devise the best approach to help their son be successful. First they recognized that their son didn’t have the emotional maturity to cope with the distractions found in his current high school setting. Every child is different in their level of maturity and parents need to assess this realistically. Fortunately they understood that there was a difference between chronological maturity and emotional maturity, and that they needed to develop an appropriate plan that considered both of these elements.
To help bring focus and remove distractions they elected to place their son in an on-line learning environment. In this environment all assignments, grades and expectations were clear and transparent to both the student and the parents. Feedback on quizzes and tests were instantaneous.
While this decision helped in terms of focus and clarity of expectations, it still failed to address the matter of motivation of the heart which would be required for their son to succeed.
These parents wisely recognized that motivation to achieve worked best when it came from within. While some level of progress could be made by applying external pressures, the real life-long successes would only come when their child drove himself internally to achieve.
To address this they devised a simple set of rewards that provided quick feedback in practical terms. The on-line education program had a combination of quizzes, mid-terms, and finals as the principle sources for grades. For each type of evaluation his parents created a sliding scale that linked grades to tangible near term financial rewards.
The rules were simple, they were printed and placed on the wall next to his desk. Only grades “C” and above would be eligible for a payment each Friday at the end of the day for the previous week’s of work. Quizzes were worth less than mid-terms, and mid-terms less than finals.
Inside each test category, the financial rewards were structured such that a “C” grade merited a very modest payout, a “B” grade was considerably more, and an “A” would be exponentially more. (Typically 2X the “B” grade.) This model recognized that it would take considerably more effort to move from a “C” to a “B” then likewise from a “B” to an “A,” but the rewards were structured to reflect the commensurate effort required as the student advanced to the next higher level of grade performance.
In the first year under this approach his parents saw modest yet consistent improvements across the board. Not only in grades, but in their son’s level of self-direction and discipline to get things done. During this time trust was built as he found that the payout was real each week. He readily spent his earnings on lots of little things and found himself wanting in terms of needing additional cash.
During the second and subsequent years until he graduated from High School, the strategy changed by his own volition. He recognized how much money he was leaving on the table by settling on “C” and “B” kind of performance and started to aim for “A” level performance.
Interestingly by his own request he elected to not take cash each week, rather he wrote his cumulative earnings on a white board that hung on the wall next to his desk. The growing balance soon became its own source of encouragement and the grades he earned were no longer the goals, they simply became a by-product of his focused efforts, discipline, and perseverance in studying. At the end of each school year his parents gave him the full balance of his reward and the process repeated itself the next year.
During this period his parents no longer had to manage his homework assignments at a tactical level. He was able to manage his own time and meet all required deadlines on his own. They told him that if he needed help to study or needed to escalate something beyond a teacher to get resolution on any matter, then they were there for him to help him succeed. In the last two years he operated at a near 4.0 GPA!
In some ways many believers and followers of Christ are a bit like that high school student.
In our case God serves as our heavenly parent and much like this boy’s parents, God deeply loves us and desires for us to be in a healthy and successful relationship with him.
The wonderful news is that once we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ we are adopted into God’s family forever. Our salvation is secure, even if we subsequently elect to live a life that’s less than honoring to God. Our eternity is covered by God’s grace and not subject to revocation. No where in the scriptures are there cases where believers are “un-adopted” by God.
Given the certainty of our eternal security, what then is our motivation to honor God in the way we live out our lives in the here and now? Why should we be good?
The answer lies in God’s own reward system for us.
Much like the young high school student who watched his rewards grow on his white board as he made healthy choices to do what was right in school, similarly we can be assured that God is keeping our treasure in heaven stored up and safe as we do the right things for God’s kingdom.
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20, NIV)
It turns out that God has devised a means of rewards that will directly impact our standing and scope of responsibilities throughout eternity. The scriptures tell us that he maintains a record of all of our deeds in this life, and that God knows our hearts and the purity of our motives in the things we choose to do.
The bible speaks of a time when each of us will come before God to be judged. During that time God will first check to ensure that our names are written in the “Book of Life.” It’s here that the names of every believer are recorded. Those whose names appear are granted to join God in eternal life. If not, then they will be forever banished from God’s presence, sentenced to a place that the bible calls Hell for all of eternity. For those of us that are listed in the “Book of Life” there will also be a review of our Earthly lives and how we lived them out.
The Apostle John mentions in the book of Revelation of other “books” in addition to the “Book of Life:”
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.” (Revelation 20:12–13, NIV) –Emphasis mine
Unlike the “Book of Life,” these “books” have recorded within them all the deeds we have done in our lives. These deeds will be evaluated to determine the type and quantity of our reward that God will give to each of us.
It’s critical to note that with respect to this part of judgement, where God looks at the deeds of our life, that our eternal standing is never in question. Once our names are written in the “Book of Life” they are never erased. Our God is thankfully a God of grace beyond our own understanding or comprehension. We cannot loose our salvation because we dropped the ball in terms of how we lived out our lives after receiving Christ as our savior. Rather God’s review of our life deeds will be used solely to determine the type and amount of our eternal reward that God will give to each of us. The apostle Paul spoke of this idea in his letter to the church in Ephesus:
“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.” (Ephesians 6:7–8, NIV)
Here we see the idea of God rewarding believers no matter their social standing or occupational standing in this earthly life. Notice too that the rewards given are given to the the individual. That each person will be evaluated based upon individual conduct. There are no group or team rewards given.
In another letter, Paul writes to the church in Corinth where he shared additional details regarding the day of judgement that each of us will one day face.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10, NIV)
Observe in this passage that the tone continues with the idea of rewards for conduct. No where does Paul suggest that a believer’s salvation is contingent upon our conduct. This makes perfect sense if we understand our salvation to be entirely based upon God’s grace and not on any contribution on our part:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV)
Paul speaks of God reviewing both the “good” and the “bad” things that we did while alive in our bodies as believers. He never states that our salvation might be in jeopardy based upon the “bad” things we might have done as believers.
Matthew recorded Jesus’ comments on the subject of rewards:
“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” (Matthew 16:27, NIV)
Here we can see that those who honor God and who properly use their gifts and resources in this life to further God’s kingdom will be rewarded in his future kingdom.
When speaking on the topic of living out our lives in righteousness, Jesus warned that our motives for doing good things must be pure. God will not reward those whose motives and hearts are not genuine:
“ ‘Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.’ ” (Matthew 6:1, NIV)
Jesus spoke again as recorded in Matthew on the topic of rewards. In the following statements we can see that not all rewards are equal.
“ ‘For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.’ ” (Matthew 25:29, NIV)
Charles Stanley in his excellent book, “Eternal Security: Can you be Sure,” shared the following:
“The kingdom of God will not be the same for all believers. Let me put it another way. Some believers will have rewards for their earthly faithfulness; others will not. Some believers will be entrusted with certain privileges; others will not. Some will reign with Christ; others will not (see 2 Tim. 2:12). Some will be rich in the kingdom of God; others will be poor (see Luke 12:21, 33). Some will be given true riches; others will not (see Luke 16:11). Some will be given heavenly treasures of their own; others will not (see Luke 16:12). Some will reign and rule with Christ; others will not (see Rev. 3:21).
A careful study of these passages reveals one common denominator. Privilege in the kingdom of God is determined by one’s faithfulness in this life.” (2)
Several points come from Stanley’s observations:
- Some believers will be very rich in God’s kingdom and others will be comparably poor. (Although even the poorest in God’s Kingdom would be better off than anything they might imagine in their Earthly life.) “ ‘This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.’” (Luke 12:21, NIV) “ ‘Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.’ ” (Luke 12:33, NIV)
- Some believers will be given true riches because they have demonstrated that they were responsible for all that God gave them when they lived out their lives. “ ‘So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?’ ” (Luke 16:11, NIV)
- Some will be given “heavenly treasures” to own themselves and others will not. “ ‘And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?’ ” (Luke 16:12, NIV)
Given God’s perspective and his revealed reward plan for each of us, it’s pretty plain to see that it’s in our best interest to seek genuinely from the heart to honor God in all the ways of our lives. He will reward those that truly seek to place him first in this life. The good news is that it’s never to late to start.
Perhaps you surrendered your life to Christ many years ago and have since not lived a life that you know best honors the Lord. If that’s the case, then come to the Lord in prayer, confess, and then renew your heart. Purpose to live out your life in a way that best reflects God in all that you think, do, and say each and every day.
Do this with the full knowledge that you and I must ask God for the strength to live out such a life; we cannot do so of our own strength and willpower alone. There’s a strong connection between our ability to live out Godly lives and the amount of focus we expend on Christ. The more we focus and invest our lives in Christ, the easier it becomes for Christ to have control over every part of our lives.
Keep in mind that in all of this your salvation is non-negotiable. You and I worship a God that keeps his promises no matter what.
“The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 145:13b, NIV)
His grace and love are beyond anything we could possibly comprehend. The Apostle Paul reminded us:
“if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13, NIV)
When it comes to our conduct in this life, our eye should be on the eternal rewards that God has for each of us. While God will evaluate each of our lives, we can be confident that he will do so without bias or poor judgment. He will do so with all the facts including our heart motivation. He is a just God and the evaluation will be based upon his standards, and done on an individual basis. He will not compare my life choices to someone else’s, rather he will judge my heart, my actions, my thoughts as my own. In the end God wants to reward us!
If this idea of rewards is new to you or resonates in some way and you want to move forward with your best effort, then the best time to start engaging is now!
As soon as you’re done reading this devotion, take a moment and pray, commit yourself to a life that seeks the rewards God has for each of us. These rewards are eternal and everlasting in nature; make the conscience choice to stop looking to other people for significance in this life, instead seek to be significant in Christ’s eyes and in so doing build a life that allows you to store up your treasures in heaven.
===== Notes ======
(2) Charles F. Stanley, Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure? (Nashville: Oliver-Nelson Books, 1990).
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