One of the things that happened after I retired nearly two years ago was that I no longer had the resources to do a lot of the things that I wanted to do. Things like travel, giving my children and grandchildren things, buying “toys” (I’m an early adopter and love technology), Mercedes, and giving more to my church and other ministries (yes that was really a goal of mine). I know that I made some poor choices over the years that seriously impacted my ability to do those things but that doesn’t stop me from time to time asking the question that’s the title of this post.
What does all this faith and belief that God keeps His promises amount to when I see others, who I know don’t love God and maybe even not believe He exists, prosper? Many of them go on extended vacations, continue to accumulate wealth, and appear to be very happy, with no thought of changing anything in their lives.
I know that I’m not the only Christian that has had those thoughts. Just two months ago I wrote the post “Why We Shouldn’t Envy Those Who Do Not Know God And Still Appear To Prosper” . In it I said…”the frustration mounts even to the point that he starts to wonder if all of our prayer, praise, service, was all for nothing.” The point of that post was to encourage those of us who become frustrated when we see the continuous prosperity of those who care nothing for God, while many of us struggle just to make ends meet.
Let me stop for just a minute to say that there are countless Christians, some of whom I know, that are prospering and will continue to prosper. Also, I’ve not found in scripture where God promised that all believers will prosper, have no sickness, no trials, and live carefree lives. In fact Jesus told His thoses closest to Him;
John 16:33 (NLT)33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
In that earlier post I urged those of us who are frustrated to read Psalm 73 where the Psalmist, after spending time in the sanctuary (God’s presence), saw and understood the destiny of the wicked .
Psalm 73:18-20 (NLT)18 Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction.19 In an instant they are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors.20 When you arise, O Lord, you will laugh at their silly ideas as a person laughs at dreams in the morning.
The Psalm is great and is very encouraging but, I know many “wicked” who have died natural deaths, who have happy homes, great children, lots of friends, great lives so, when will they reach this destiny, which in reading the Psalm is awful, happen. When will we see the fulfillment of God’s promises to us the believers?
Before we get to that there are some things we need to remember.
- No matter how wicked God wants everybody to be saved.
- Physical death is not the end. I like most people believe that my soul or spirit will continue to exist after this physical body dies and at some point in time all will be resurrected.
- God is righteous so if He says that will be punishment there will be punishment.
- This punishment is eternal (forever and ever).
Now that we know the destiny of the wicked (those who refuse to accept Jesus as Lord) what about the believer (righteous). There will be eternal rewards in heaven for all believers. Those rewards will be different for each believer and depends on what they do after salvation.
2 Corinthians 5:10 (NLT)10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.
We don’t specifically know what those rewards will be but Jesus may have given us a glimpse in His parable about the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, where the Kingdom of God is described as a man going on a long trip and leaving money with three servants and then rewarding to of them for doubling the money for him and then punishing to one who did nothing at all. The point of the parable was that the two faithful servants were given more responsibilities and nothing for the third.
Matthew 25:20-23, 28-30 (NLT)20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver.29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
I don’t believe that this parable suggests that salvation can be lost because the third servant was to be cast into outer darkness. Once God has given you the free gift of Salvation, once you have truly received Jesus as your Savior, the issue of your Salvation is no longer in question. Consequently this third servant could not represent a true believer but one who has the appearance of one. Like the tares Christ mentions in the parable of wheat and tares where the tares are allowed to grow with the wheat until the harvest when they will be separated and destroyed.
Matthew 13:24-32 (NLT)24 Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field.25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away.26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.27 “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’28 “‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.29 “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do.30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”31 Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field.32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”
Salvation is free and given by God’s grace to those who by faith believe in His Son and His work on the cross. However there are rewards for believers based on their works for the Kingdom while on earth and John encourages us not to lose them.
2 John 1:4-8 (NLT)4 How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded.5 I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning.6 Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.7 I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist.8 Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward.
While there will be differences of rewards all believers will receive crowns. Dr. Charles Stanley in a devotion titled “Our Eternal Rewards” talks about these crowns;
The Crown of Victory. To finish life well, believers need Olympic endurance. Athletes in those ancient games received a perishable circlet of laurel leaves. But when we are effective in our God-given ministry and triumph over sin, we'll be given an imperishable crown
1 Corinthians 9:25-27 (NLT)25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
The Crown of Exultation. The believers that we had a hand in bringing to Christ will be "our glory and joy" before the Lord
1 Thessalonians 2:18-20 (NLT)18 We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us.19 After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you!20 Yes, you are our pride and joy.
Just imagine how you will rejoice in heaven upon seeing and talking with the people who recognize your contribution to their spiritual development.
The Crown of Righteousness. The Christian life is not easy, but there is great reward for living righteously when facing temptation or hardship. Believers who pursue godliness are always thinking about the life to come and striving to meet God with a pure conscience
2 Timothy 4:5-8 (NLT)5 But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.6 As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.8 And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.
The Crown of Life. Heartache and pain are unavoidable in this life, but we can take heart because much spiritual growth happens in adversity. Hang in there to receive the crown of life that the Lord promised to those who love Him
James 1:12 (NLT)12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
The rewards of service and crowns are what’s in store for all believers and they are forever. On the other hand there is eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth for those who refused to believe, no matter how healthy, successful, or prosperous they were in this life. That’s why I continue to trust God and His promises while those who don’t still prosper. Our destinies are final and forever.