Do you work out or play sports regularly? If so, you probably do it because you enjoy it. Athletes have a built-in reward—their enjoyment and pleasure in the sport. But some of us don’t enjoy these physical activities and seek a reward in a toned body, rehab, less weight, or good health. When we don’t enjoy athletic activities but do them anyway, they become burdensome duties or routines. It can be the same with mental exercises that some do because they like crosswords or Sudoku, but others do to keep their brains active. Just as exercising our bodies or brains takes work and yields results, putting our faith to work takes intentional effort, and results in its bolstering. Why does God give us the fruit of faith when we are regenerated? Well, it’s obviously something we should and do demonstrate and use, along with all the other fruits of the Spirit, according to Galatians 5:22-23.
The Lord rewards us with joy when we are faithful to Jesus Christ in our service to him. God is the source of our saving faith in Christ, and his Spirit supplies all the resulting fruit from that point forward. Christ rewards us for the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that is all from God. It’s as if we are rewarded for our salvation, which was not our doing. Exercising the fruits of the Spirit has the most significant reward—joy through intimacy with Jesus Christ. What a glorious, continuous, blessed circle: Christ calls us with faith to believe, which leads to faithfulness through him, which leads to even more devotion to him. I have chosen four passages from Scripture to consider today—from David and Jesus. “The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness…” (1 Samuel 26:23a) “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.” (Psalms 18:20) “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions…Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 24:45-47; 25:21a)
In 1 Samuel, David refused to harm Saul despite Saul’s trying to hunt him down to kill him. Here is the verse in its context: “The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the Lord gave you into my hand today, and I would not put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation.” 1 Samuel 26:23-24) David was certainly not perfect, but as John Gill points out, “this was a prayer of faith; for David doubted not that, though Saul might fail, yet God could not.” (1) David expected to be rewarded because he knew God to be forgiving and patient, and demonstrated that faith later when he confessed his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. I wonder if David’s loyalty to God with Saul helped him to trust God when he so tragically offended the Lord in his later sin. In Psalm 18, David celebrated God’s deliverance from Saul’s attacks. “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me” (v. 20). “God rewarded [David] by delivering him out of [Saul’s] hands, and setting him upon the throne, and causing his kingdom to flourish and prosper.” (2) “In these verses David claims that he has faithfully kept the ways of the Lord, and thus God has rewarded him. This could be taken as absurdly self-righteous if it were not for two obvious facts: first, this song comes from 2 Samuel, which is plain about David’s sins; and second, the ways, rules, and statutes of the Lord include provisions for receiving forgiveness of sins. Thus the claim…I…have not wickedly departed from my God, clarifies it all by saying that he has held fast to the life of faith.” (3) What an encouragement this should be for us; although we continue to sin but desire to be faithful and useful to the Lord through our fruit! And even more than that, he will reward us with joy through our relationship with Jesus—this is our greatest, eternal reward and the promise of the gospel.
The Lord called David to the biggest, most responsible role in the world as King. He did not shy away from his calling or refuse in, having faith that God would be with him. (See 1 Samuel 17.) However, many of us are overwhelmed and try to wiggle out from a promotion or challenging job. I am guilty of doing so more than once on the mission field because I feared that I would fail God and all the people under my care. But I had to repent since Christ promises that he will give the faithful greater responsibility; he obviously wants us to embrace his assignments. Here is what Jesus said about the parable in Matthew 24, “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.” (vs. 45-47) Later he repeats the blessing in Matthew 25, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (v. 21)
The rewards of faithfulness are probably more than we can imagine. In the Matthew passages, I am impressed with the truth that longing for Christ’s return is not only a characteristic of our faithfulness but perhaps also a reward of it. I know that the longer I am a Christian, the more I seek the return of our Savior. James Boice comments, “This picture provides an explanation of what being ready means. Being ready means loving, trusting, and waiting for Jesus Christ, of course. The faithful servant is faithful because he is expecting his Lord’s return. But it also has to do with faithful service, that is, continuing to carry out what Jesus has left us in this world to do.” (4) Our faithfulness leads to spiritual rewards and the ability to handle more extensive responsibilities by God’s grace, without being overwhelmed by them.
“When the master returns for their accounting and the faithful servants tell what they have done, their words do not merely report that they have doubled the amount they were given. The man who was given five talents seems to have come with two bags, each containing five talents, and what he literally says is, ‘Master, five talents you placed in my hands; look, an additional five talents I have gained.’ You can almost feel his proper pride in the achievement. Hendriksen comments, ‘The man’s eyes are sparkling. He is bubbling over with enthusiasm, is thoroughly thrilled, and, as it were, invites his master to start counting.’ The man has been waiting for this moment and is pleased at having done so well. The master is equally delighted. ‘Well done,’ he says. We might almost translate his reply as, ‘Excellent!’ ‘Great!’ or ‘Wonderful!’” (5) John Gill adds, “[They had] the joy of our Lord; not their own, or what was of their own procuring, but their Lord’s; which Jehovah the Father has prepared for his people, and gives unto them; which the son possesses for them, and will bestow on them; and which the Holy Spirit makes them meet for…which will be full and perfect, and without any interruption or mixture; will be unspeakable and glorious, and continue for ever; for when the saints shall enter into it, as into an house or mansion, they shall take possession of it, and abide in it for ever.” (6) Is this not the encouragement we need to put our faithfulness to work?
The Lord often gives us pleasure through the people, pets, and experiences of this life, but he is the First Cause of our real joy—we should never mistake the person, creature, creation, or things as the source of our blessedness. The more intimacy and dependence we have upon Jesus Christ and the gospel, the greater our joy and the more pleasure we have with him. And the greatest reward is that Jesus finds joy in our faithfulness, and his joy is ours. What could be more profitable? “All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them…Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one…now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” (John 17:10-13)
Related Scripture Passages: Nehemiah 8:11-12; Psalms 4:5b-8; 16:11; John 3:29; 15:8-11; Hebrews 12:1-2; 1 John 1:4
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” 1 Samuel 26:24, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1samuel-26.html
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Psalms 18:20-30, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 18:21, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-18.html
- Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Matthew 24:45-47, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
- Boice, Ibid.
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Matthew 25:21, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-25.html
October 2, 2020