Sunday, 26 May 2024 04:54

Article of Faith: God’s open reward (1) - Femi Aribisala

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Femi Aribisala Femi Aribisala

There are fundamental differences between what God does and what man does. God is not a man. His ways are different from those of men. His reward is different from that of men.

Jesus insists we must choose between the things of God and those of men. We cannot have both, not the least because the things of men are the things of Satan.

Ephemeral Rewards

Jesus identifies three instances where we must seek only God’s approval, not man’s: when we do charitable works, pray, and fast. He says if we do any of these secretly, God will reward us openly. But if we do them to be seen by men, the only approval we will get will be from men. (Matthew 6:1-3/6).

When we give to men, we must do so recognising that we are giving to God and not to men. Jesus says: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 24:40).

Therefore, we must not receive glory or praise from men. Jesus says: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).

The rewards of men are ephemeral. Unlike God’s reward, they do not last. Job says of men: “Their prosperity will not endure.” (Job 20:21). Men will praise us today and abuse us tomorrow. They will end up discouraging our righteousness. We will soon become tired of doing good if we seek their approval.

God cursed the Earth. (Genesis 3:17). So, nothing fundamentally good or enduring can be dug out of the Earth. Therefore, Jesus teaches that it is more blessed to give than to receive from men. (Acts 20:35).

When we fast, we must do so because we hunger for God and not for the praise of men. When we pray, we must be careful to pray only to God and not to men. Prayer must not be designed to feed our spiritual ego. 

God’s Reward

Most Christians acknowledge that God rewards man, but we do not know how. Churches primarily recognise money and riches as God’s rewards. But these can be obtained without God. Since many unbelievers are wealthy, then wealth cannot be the reward of God.

God’s kingdom is not of this world. So, God’s reward cannot be of this world. John says:

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.”(1 John 2:15-16).

The Bible says: “(God) is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”(Hebrews 11:6).

It is only logical that since God rewards those who seek Him, their reward must be what they seek, which is God Himself.

God primarily rewards those who love Him with Himself. He is by far the most precious thing in the universe. Therefore, there can be no greater reward than God Himself. David says to God: “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”(Psalm 16:11).

Accordingly, God chose Abraham by giving Himself to Abraham. He said: “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” (Genesis 15:1).

The reward of God is God Himself, and it is an exceedingly great reward. He revealed Himself to Israel, His chosen people, as Immanuel: “God with us,” leading Isaiah to declare: “Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!” (Isaiah 12:6).

When Israel came to the Promised Land, the land was divided by tribe. Some received the highlands, some the lowlands. Some well-watered lands that rivers divide, and some coastal lands.

But the Levites were not given any land whatsoever. God declared that He was their Promised Land.

“The Lord said to Aaron: ‘You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.’” (Numbers 18:20).

Rather than complain about this seeming oversight, the Levites maintained that they received the best deal: “O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; you maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance.” (Psalm 16:5-6).

Today, we have come full circle in Christ. We are not heirs of carnal things. We are not even heirs of what God has. We are heirs of God Himself: “Heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”(Romans 8:17).

So, when a man came to Jesus to seek His assistance in getting his brother to give him his share of the inheritance from his father, Jesus rebuked him for striving for the inheritance of men and ignoring that of God: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15).

God’s Open Reward 

As observed, most Christians are socialised in churches to believe that God rewards us with carnal things. We know that God rewards good works done in His Name. But we think He does this by giving us valuable things of this world. 

However, that cannot possibly be the case. Jesus says: “What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15).Surely, God will not reward anyone with what is an abomination to Him.

Moreover, if what God gives is essentially Himself, how does He give Himself openly? Jesus says every secret devotion elicits God’s open reward. 

God does this by demonstrating openly that He approves of us. At Jesus’ water baptism, God approved of Him openly in the hearing of everybody: “Suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:17).

On another occasion, there was an open conversation between God the Father and Jesus:

“‘Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’ Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to Him.’” (John 12:27-29).  

God rewarded Jesus openly by validating His word with signs and wonders. Thus, Peter testified to the people on Jesus’ resurrection from the dead: “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as you yourselves also know.” (Acts 2:22). 

Such open validation also belongs to followers of Christ. Jesus says: “These signs will follow those who believe: In My name, they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17-18).

God rewarded Joseph openly by making him the prime minister of Egypt and then bringing his devious brothers who sold him into slavery to Egypt to bow down to him. He rewarded Daniel openly by shutting the mouths of the lions when he was thrown into the lions’ den. He rewarded openly the three Hebrew children when they were thrown into the fiery furnace. They were unscathed.

God rewards us openly by doing something extraordinary for us that shows every bystander that the hand of God is upon us. They often come in wilderness situations. They come in ways that men cannot claim the glory, but God. They are not hidden. God deliberately broadcasts them supernaturally to the world.

When God rewarded David openly, he wrote in the Psalms: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.” (Psalm 23:5).

When our cup runs over, everyone sees it, especially our enemies.

It is not only God’s peace that surpasses all human understanding, so also do His open rewards. Everyone might be going through an economic crunch, but that is when our businesses prosper inexplicably.

Thus, Isaac sowed in famine and reaped a bountiful harvest. His harvest must have been confounding to his neighbour:

“Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous; for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him.” (Genesis 26:12-14).

Every time Isaac dug for a well, he found running water and his neighbours contested with him for the well. He would move away and dig somewhere else and still find running water. He kept this up until they gave up and stopped harassing him.

“Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath, one of his friends, and Phichol the commander of his army. And Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?” But they said, “We have certainly seen that the Lord is with you. So we said, ‘Let there now be an oath between us, between you and us; and let us make a covenant with you.” (Genesis 26:26-28).

Everyone concluded that God must be the one favouring Isaac, so even his enemies came to reconcile with him. Solomon says: “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7). CONTINUED.

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