Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. And because this church is already so involved in helping mission organizations, writing letters, sending money, and praying for the persecuted church, I didn’t want to make this simply a call to help. I think you are already doing a great job on that. I didn’t want to pull at your heart strings to gain sympathy for them. Our hearts are already burdened for the suffering. Nor did I want to make this a negative or discouraging sermon. Instead, I thought I would explain the positive blessings you are reaping and will continue to reap from your labors on behalf of the persecuted church. I want to remind you that your labors in the Lord are not in vain. God delights to bless His people. Verse 42 says, "he shall by no means lose his reward" - by no means.
And this has been a passage that has been very encouraging to Kathy and me. Though God has not made everyone equal in gifts and callings, He has given a way by which everyone can excel in rewards; in laying up treasures in heaven. I can no longer be on the missionfield, but by supporting missionaries in various ways, I can share in their reward. Neither of us have been able to achieve a martyrs crown, and if you understood the rewards that a martyr will receive, you might covet that crown. I know that I do. I consider being a martyr for Christ one of the greatest honors the Lord could bestow upon me. But neither of us are likely to be martyred. Yet, we have tangibly shared in the lives of those who will receive that crown. And based on this passage, we believe that we will at least in part share in their reward. This passage has given us great enthusiasm in our giving to missions and private charity.
Well, today I want to transfer that concept to show how you can be positively motivated in standing up for the persecuted. Let’s start with verse 40:
When You Serve The Persecuted, You Serve Christ (v. 40)
It says, "He who receives you receives Me and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me." The first motivation that can excite you to ministry is this: When you minister to me or when I minister to you, we are in reality ministering to Christ who is united to us. This is not just theory. This is reality. When you minister to a suffering Christian in Myanmar, Christ indicates that you are ministering to Him. He says to that believer in Myanmar, "He who receives you receives Me." And because Christ is united to the Father, He says that what is done to Him is also done to the Father who sent Him. "He who receives Me receives Him who sent Me." If you begin to meditate for a period of time on the implications of that statement it will motivate you to bless people like Jack Phillips (the most persecuted baker in America - though there are many others like him that need our prayers), or Richard and Betty Gortz, who had to shut down their florist shop and pay fines in Grimes, Iowa for not renting out their building for a homosexual marriage. It destroyed their business. Don’t think of the persecuted as being only in other countries. We have plenty right here in America. And we can become familiar with them by reading the bulletins sent out by Heritage Defense, Alliance Defending Freedom, the Rutherford Institute, and similar organizations.
Anyway, I first became gripped by this concept when I was 22 years old, reading a sermon on Matthew 25 by the Puritan, John Flavel. And he explained that passage much better than I can, but I will try.
Turn with me to Matthew 25 and look at how closely Christ identifies with His people. These people did not actually see Jesus physically. In fact, they are mystified by Jesus' words because it was merely common Christians that they had fed, clothed, and visited in prison. But notice in verse 35 Christ says, "'for I was hungry and you gave Me food." In some way unknown to us, Christ’s union with us is so real that He can say without any deceit that when these believers were hungry, He was hungry. Christ can't lie, exaggerate, or slant the truth, so we need to take this seriously. We don’t have to understand it to appreciate the fact that we can minister to Jesus physically and tangibly every bit as much as Lazarus and Mary did when they fed Jesus. I think every one of us would love to have served Jesus if we had lived in the first century. We would be excited to serve Him. Well, this is telling us we can do exactly that when we serve each other. Think of the least likely person in our church that you would want to serve, and realize that if you serve him or her, you are serving Jesus.
Some skeptical people might wonder, "How He can be hungry when we are hungry?" I don’t know. But John Flavel said that our mystical union with Christ is so real that these words are not mere figures. He in some way experiences, or identifies, or in some way suffers with our hunger.
He goes on to say,
...I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 'I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 'When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 'Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' 40 "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'
The following verses just reverse what was said here and indicate that duty to others ignored or ministry neglected means that Christ is ignored and neglected.
Now, before I go on, let me counter a heretical misuse of this passage that is very common. Mother Theresa grossly mishandled these verses by applying them to all humans as if Christ is in all men. He is not. Hers was a blasphemous misinterpretation of these verses. Now, it is true that other Scriptures call us to love our enemies and serve them - but for other reasons than this one. Christ makes clear that He is talking about something special here: service to believers - “one of the least of these My brethren.” The more you practice thinking that you are talking to Christ when you talk to another believer, the more your speech will change. The more you treat your kids as indwelt by Christ when you do the dishes and pick up after them, the better your attitude will become. Now it doesn’t mean you won’t correct them. The Christ who indwells them wants them corrected. That’s doing those kids a service. But it does mean that you will have a Christ-centered focus.
This is an incredibly life transforming thought. When I give so much as a cup of cold water to you in hospitality, I am doing it to Christ because of His union with you. Well, that makes hospitality thrilling. When I hurt you, I am hurting Christ. When I neglect you passively, I am neglecting Christ passively. When Saul persecuted Christians, what was Christ’s response? He said, “Saul, Saul. Why are you persecuting Me?” To persecute God’s people is to persecute Christ. When you go through a rough day, Christ is right there with you. The people who are hurting you, are hurting Christ. So for the persecuted this can be an encouraging principle. They are not being persecuted alone. Colossians 1:24 says that they are filling up the sufferings of Christ. That's incredible when you think about it because it implies that Christ continues to suffer when we suffer. How could that be? He’s in heaven. How could that be? Let me read that. Colossians 1:24 says, "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church." There was nothing lacking in Christ's sufferings to accomplish our redemption. Roman Catholics misinterpret that verse to mean that the merits of the saints adds to Christ's redemption. That too is blasphemous. What Paul is saying is that Christ is ordained to continue to suffer the sufferings of the church until the end of history. Every one of those sufferings is pre-ordained, which means we don’t suffer by accident. We are gradually filling up the sufferings that Christ was ordained to suffer. Is this simply empathy? We don't know, there is a certain mystery about this. But Paul was indicating that Jesus was in some way continuing to suffer for every lash that Paul received from Roman authorities. The statement that brought Paul conviction and conversion ("Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me") now brings him comfort.
So back to our passage, Matthew 10 not only indicates that we are to be received by others, but also that we are to receive all whom Christ receives - a prophet, a righteous man, a toddler. How do you treat the brethren? How do you treat toddlers? In verse 42 he says, "And whoever gives one of these little ones..." - He must have had young children around Him when He taught. And by the way, this is one of many passages that indicates that the children were not excused for children’s church. They listened to Christ’s teaching along with the whole family. It was a family-integrated church.
But notice what He says here. "Whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward." Because of the covenantal union of the child to the believing parent, and because of the covenantal union of the believing parent with Christ, our actions to the little ones of believers are actions to Christ covenantally. Christ said it would be better to have a millstone hung around your neck and for you to be drowned than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.
And there are many other implications of our union with Christ. Think of the incredible dignity this gives to common chores such as setting the table and pouring water. When its your turn to set up tables over here, do it for Jesus. When you pour water for your neighbor at the dinner table, do it for Jesus. What gives these things greatness is not the significance of water, but the significance of the Christians you are serving. When you make the beds and wash the floors; when you change the diapers and clean up spilled milk, realize that you are directly serving Christ in those tasks. Some people think it is merely covenantal language or legal language, but John Flavel thinks it is more. He applies it to our mystical union with Jesus, not just our covenantal or legal relationship - even though those are involved too.
So, let's apply this first point to the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. If you have not been motivated to do anything about the persecuted Christians in America or in other countries because of love, or because of guilt, or because of duty, begin to meditate on the tangible ways that your ministry to them is a direct ministry to Jesus who is right now in prison with them, naked, hungry, sick. Your letter writing on behalf of those in jail will take on a whole new significance. Your contributions toward those who work with the persecuted will be more filled with joy.
Ministering to the Persecuted will be Rewarded By God (v. 42b)
“Rewards” is totally consistent with the Christian life and was designed by God as a great “spiritual-capitalistic” motivator for our actions. Though there is an equality of heaven (1 Cor. 3:11) there is an inequality of reward based on our diligence and investments (1 Cor. 3:8,11-15; Matt 10:42; 2 John 8; 1 John 2:28). Of course, rewards can be lost (Matt 6:1,2,4,5,6,1; Col. 2:18; 2 John 8).
But the second motivation that is listed in your outline is that we will be rewarded for our actions. The Puritan writer, Thomas Manton, said, “There is a dispute whether we may look to the reward [in other words, be motivated by the reward. He goes]. I say, we not only may, but must.” (volume 10, p. 77). But as he notes, there is controversy on this whole topic on whether there are rewards or not. Some Reformed people believe in rewards and some don't. My dad once preached a sermon on rewards that hugely impacted me, and I have definitely taken sides on this issue. But there are some good people who don’t believe in that.
So I want to spend some time demonstrating that every believer can lay up treasures in heaven no matter what his gifting or calling may be. Verse 41 speaks of a prophet’s reward and a righteous man’s reward. Verse 42 speaks of a disciple’s reward. And the last phrase says, “I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” For thousands of years, Christians have been motivated by the rewards that God gives. Some people say there is no more reward than simply heaven. They claim that anything else is contrary to grace and they think that there must be an equality of grace. But that is the importation of a socialistic concept. There is no socialism of grace since God created us with different in body, intellectual abilities, monetary status, and social skills, and He even explicitly says that He has given a different measure of grace by way of gifts. Why does there have to be a leveling of distinctions in terms of reward?
If the only reward is heaven, then everyone comes out the same no matter what his actions were on earth, and it is just as demotivating to action as socialism was in the former Soviet Union. And I want to give several reasons why our actions in time will have a profound affect upon what rewards and responsibilities we will have in the new heavens and new earth. We will be starting up our eternal dominion with a pool that we are laying up right now. Think of it as an investment account. As Matthew Henry said, our vessels will all be full, but they will all have a different capacity based on what we do down here. All will be joyful, but many people will be having a massive head start.
First, He uses the word “reward.” And you can use whatever Greek dictionary you want to, it is impossible to get around the meaning of that term. It means that we will get something for what has been done, whether wages or reward. There is no getting around that word. Heaven itself is not a reward or you would have works righteousness. We are not saved by works, but we are rewarded by works. This promise is made to people who are already heaven-bound and totally saved and secure. It's something different than heaven.
The second reason is that verse 42 connects specific actions with the reward. And this verse makes clear that every action no matter how insignificant can receive a reward. Now if heaven was the reward, then we would again fall into the error of salvation by works. It’s not our works that gain heaven. Paul said that we are saved by faith apart from works. But its different for rewards. Rewards are given for actions of people who are already saved.
Third, Christ is not leveling all rewards into one indistinguishable reward where everyone has exactly the same reward. He clearly distinguishes different kinds of rewards. He speaks of a prophet's reward, a righteous man’s reward and a disciple’s reward. And some of the other Scriptures in your outline indicate that there are many different kinds of glory and reward.
And then fourth, going to the broader context of the whole Bible, The word “reward” occurs more than 100 times in the Bible, and consistently it is used as an incentive to labor and sacrifice because our actions make a difference. In a socialistic country like the former Soviet Union or China people were not very highly motivated to excellence in their work because they got the same wages whether they excelled or did poorly. I talked to a sales person for big earth moving equipment and he was astounded that the same vehicle that lasted 20 years here lasted five years or less in China because they weren’t motivated to maintain the equipment. Equality of honor and reward ends up leveling down the quality of everyone’s work to an equal and mediocre output. When people work spiritually in a socialistic worldview, much of the motivation for service is removed. So if you can really grasp this principle, you will be motivated. So let me repeat this fourth sub-point: The word “reward” occurs more than 100 times in the Bible, and consistently it is used as an incentive to labor and sacrifice because our actions make a difference. It’s not just being a Christian that makes a difference – our actions make a difference.
Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 3 where Paul seeks to motivate the Corinthians with rewards. And I think you will see why this is important. 1 Corinthians 3, and we will look at verses 8, and 11-15. Verse 8 says, "Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his labor." The reward is individualized and corresponds to the labor done. In other words, there are distinctions of reward. This is not socialism where everybody gets rewarded the same even though one sacrificed enormously and another skated through life. Salvation is the same (that’s how we are all one), but the reward is not the same because each one receives his own reward according to his labor. It is individualized.
Now look at verse 11: "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." The foundation deals with our salvation in Christ and its the same for everyone as verse 15 also makes clear. And no one can lay that foundation except for Christ. And that’s why salvation is equal. We didn’t contribute a thing. We are all equally deserving of hell. And because of Christ we are all equally deserving of heaven. There are no distinctions in terms of how we get into heaven.
But the works wrought by God’s grace flow out of salvation, and we can have a very significant part to play in that. So he goes on to speak of building on the foundation - and that is something we can do. Once we are saved, our actions are very significant. So take a look at verse 12:
"Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become manifest [Notice that? “each one’s work will become manifest”]; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."
In other words, he will be saved; he’ll get into heaven, but he won’t have what others will have; he won’t be bringing anything from this life into heaven – whereas others will. Can you see how the rewards are distinguished from heaven?
Our actions after we are saved play a very significant role in our rewards. This is why John warns us that we be careful not to lose our rewards, and why 2 John 8 tells us how we may receive a full reward.
So back to Matthew 10:42, Jesus says, "assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward." The action of the giving of a cup of cold water was in itself something that gained a reward. The action of receiving a prophet and of receiving a righteous man is noticed by God. This means that every email you send out on behalf of a righteous cause, every drudgerous task that you do to the glory of God at work, every effort you give to the church or to extending God’s cause in politics has the potential of a reward attached to it - if we do it in faith and to His glory. This means that day by day and hour by hour we are either laying up spiritual money or we are wasting spiritual money (and I am using money only as a metaphor obviously - I'm just comparing it to how we invest money). Our whole life is a kind of an investment. This is a capitalistic venture, in a spiritual sense. Now granted, the spiritual gold, silver and jewels that we use all come from God’s grace. It’s like a Father giving His children something to invest. But we must invest it rather than squander it.
So point II is the capitalistic point. God says that even in a grace system, your efforts make a difference. There will be some Christians who arrive in heaven absolutely amazed at the compounded growth of their own efforts over time. And they will start out miles ahead of others in their eternal dominion. Others will be ashamed that they have nothing to start their eternity of dominion with. They will be saved, yes. And that will be glory; that will be wonderful. And after the final judgment Scripture indicates that He will wipe away every tear. But there will be some tears on judgment day; tears of regret. Scripture is quite clear on that. And Scripture is also clear that some will rule over ten cities, some over one and others will not be ruling. Some will get in by the skin of their teeth (as the King James words it). 1 John 2:28 warns us, "And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming." Too many people ignore verses like that because they are spiritual socialists. They don't think they can be ashamed of anything on judgment day. But God says there will be distinctions – many distinctions made on that day.
Applied to the persecuted, our labors on their behalf have special significance (Matt 25:31-46).
Apply this to how we help the persecuted, and I think you will see that this is a great motivator. Working with the persecuted is risky, but it is greatly honored by Christ in Matthew 25 and other passages. I think that the Christian lawyers that were defending Aaron and Melissa Klein (who, you may remember, were fined $135,000 by an Oregon court for not creating a custom decorated cake for a same-sex wedding) - those lawyers who have risked a lot and expended a lot to defend them will receive tremendous reward from the Lord. But so will all the little guys who wrote letters of encouragement and prayed for them or just sent money to ADF. Helping the persecuted is one of the best investments you can make with your time, talents and money. There is so much persecution worldwide that it is overwhelming. But God doesn't tell us to help everyone. He tells us to help those whom we can. He gives us those providential opportunities.
Ministering to the Persecuted Enables Us To Share In Their Rewards (vv. 41-42)
The persecuted have special rewards
But let's move on. If the previous two points were motivating, Roman numeral III adds encouragement upon encouragement. This point says that ministering to the persecuted shares in their rewards. And this is not socialism of rewards either. It recognizes differences and the way each one contributes, but it also points out that everyone can have a part in helping the ministry. Though not everyone is gifted in evangelism, when a person’s house is used to help the evangelist reach out by way of hospitality, the host shares in the evangelist's reward. Why? Because he has had a part in the evangelist’s ministry. He has invested in it. It is not socialism. It is capitalism.
Context is about the persecuted (v. 14-39)
In your outline I make some clarifications: First, it needs to be demonstrated that there really are special rewards for the persecuted, and that this passage even refers to such persecuted people. It is true that these three verses don’t specifically mention the persecuted. But in context, Jesus was explaining how to react to persecution. It applies more broadly than the persecuted, but in context it has to have some relevance to the persecuted. In verse 14 He says, "And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!" So - how that city mistreated these messengers was taken very seriously by Jesus. In verse 16 he says that he was sending them as sheep among wolves. He warns that they will be flogged in the synagogues (v. 17), will be brought before governors (v. 18), will be turned in by relatives (v. 21), will be hated (v. 22). But in verse 28 Jesus tells them not to fear those who kill the body. Verse 34 and following speak of the turmoil that the Gospel will bring to social relationships. And verse 39 speaks of losing your life. So the context is clearly referring to how the persecuted are treated.
Persecuted have special rewards (Matt 5:11-12,46-47; 1 Pet 4:13; 5:10; Rev. 2:10; 20:4; etc.)
And it is in that context that verses 41-42 speak of sharing in their rewards. And there are indeed special rewards that the persecuted receive. These prophets, righteous men and disciples that the chapter had earlier been talking about are rewarded. Matthew 5:11-12 says, "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…" Now, I am going to assume that you buy into the idea that those who are persecuted receive the greatest of rewards. There is a tremendous reward – especially for martyrs, but also for anyone who suffers.
We can share in their rewards
What this passage says is that we can share in the rewards that the persecuted person will receive. Verse 41 says, "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward." This is not just his own reward. This is receiving somebody else’s reward. Well, by implication this means that when we help a persecuted woman in the name of that woman, we will participate in some way in her special reward. By helping them, we are investing in their investment vehicle (so to speak). So backing up, point I says that any time we serve Jesus, He is investing our funds. Point II says that our labors are an investment themselves. Point III says that funds we invest into the lives of other people will grow with the same potential that those people’s investments have. Just to use an analogy, if you had had the foresight to invest in exactly the same investments that Warren Buffet did, you would have done alright. You can kind of think of these three points as not putting all your eggs in one basket. Or maybe a better way of looking at it is securing your investments in three different ways. But this is a phenomenal promise: what we do for other believers share’s in their reward. You can see why some people never stop giving. They have an investment mentality.
There are ways of losing our investments (v. 42 c implied; verses 32-33,37-39 with 6:1,2,4,5,6,1; Col. 2:18; 2 John 8)
But point C indicates that benefiting from our investments is not automatic. We can lose on our investments. We already read about that in 1 Corinthians. Verse 42 ends with the words, "shall by no means lose his reward." And so it is a promise. But even though that phrase is giving a guarantee, it brings to mind the conditions laid down in the context. Just as physical investments can be lost in the stock market, spiritual investments can be lost in the kingdom. And we want to ensure that we have this guarantee – that we will by no means lose our reward. And it is only as we implement the cautions in this chapter that he assures us that we won’t lose our reward.
For example, verse 39 says that if I am completely preoccupied with loving my live and saving my life, I will lose my life and I will lose the things I have invested over a life time. Why? Because God is in the idol destroying business. Our families can be idols. Verse 37 says, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me." So we can’t take these verses out of their context. Verses 32-33 indicate that we can’t be ashamed of Jesus. All must be done to God’s glory in Christ’s name and by His grace. Colossians 2:18 says, "Let no one cheat you of your reward…" There is a spiritual stock market (so to speak), and you can be cheated out of your dividends if you are not careful. 2 John 7 warns us about deceivers who can cheat us spiritually, and then he says in verse 8, "Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward." Many Christians act as if a full reward is automatic. It is not. Paul, John and Jesus all say that we have to be careful.
This calls to a personal ministry (“in the name of”)
One last thing to notice about sharing in the rewards of others – we share in their rewards when we have personal ministry involvement. Notice the distinction here. Verse 41 says, "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet…" Later it says that ministry is done "in the name of a righteous man." Verse 42 speaks of ministry given "in the name of a disciple…" What does he mean by doing it in their name? It may mean more, but I think it at least means that there must be a personal involvement in that person’s life, not a second hand ministry. So this is not a “Dear Lord, please bless all the orphans of the world. Amen” kind of prayer. This is having a list of names that you are interceding for. It is consciously supporting, visiting, writing on behalf of people with names, and lifting up their names in prayer. How can we do that when we are so far removed?
What are some practical ways that you could minister personally to persecuted Christians? Voice of the Martyrs often has cards that can be sent to various authorities to free jailed pastors or Christians with their names and sometimes their pictures on the cards. That is personal involvement. Certainly praying for the persecuted by name counts. But notice the sequence of verse 40: receiving an apostle was receiving Christ who sent them, and receiving Christ is receiving the Father who sent Jesus. Well, using that logic, we can conclude that when we receive an organization that is helping the poor face to face, we are linked to those faces. So purchasing specific items for the persecuted through Front Line Fellowship and Voice of the Martyrs is one way of doing that. Contacting the President and Congressmen about interceding on behalf of specific persecuted people is another. Supporting legislation that would protect persecuted people. I always encourage people to try to stay up to date on what is happening in America and in other countries and what you can do by subscribing to magazines, emails or reading online. There are many ways in which we can receive the persecuted. Many of you have been doing this for many years, and I want you to be encouraged that you will share in their rewards.
Knowing That Every Action We Do Can Have Eternal Significance (v. 42)
A fourth motivation in these verses is knowing that every action we make on earth can have eternal significance. Who would think that giving a glass of cold water would by no means lose its reward? In terms of the flow of history, it seems so insignificant. But it is not. And let me emphasize that this is more than just rewards. We are talking about the human desire for significance. When you have done something that you know is significant, you many times feel that that was reward enough. We want our labors to count for something. A thousand years from now, what will count in your life? It won’t be the fact that you have a nice house, but how you ministered to your family and to others with your house. It won’t be the fact that you have a great car, but whether you use your car to God’s glory. Too often we don’t think about the eternal significance of our actions until we are dying and it is too late. Make sure that your life is devoted to things that count. Use your job as a stewardship trust. Change diapers for Christ. Do all with eternity in mind. Next time you pass a plate of food to someone in your family or fill a bottle of milk for your baby, silently say in your head, “I love you Lord. This is for you. I am serving you by serving my child.” It’s that kind of thinking that will begin to make everything have eternal significance.
We are fellow Soldiers in a Winning Battle (vv. 41-42)
The last motivator in these verses is just implied, so I won’t spend a lot of time on it. If we are guaranteed rewards and eternal significance to what we do, it implies that we are on the winning side, right? It’s only the winning general who hands out rewards. The loser gets plundered. And so, implied in these verses is the guarantee that Christ will win in history and in eternity. As Paul ends his glorious chapter of victory in 1 Corinthians 15 he says, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." We are on the winning side.
And that is an important motivator. No one has enthusiasm for sacrificing or laying down his life for a cause unless he is convinced that the battle is worthwhile and that there is the possibility that this war will be won, or a combination of the two. We are part of a glorious army, and any sacrifices we must make will be well worth while. We are on the winning side. Amen?
If you will meditate upon and continually remind yourself of these five positive motivators, it will give you joy and enthusiasm in your ministry.
After we have eaten today I want you to do three things:
Spend some time in prayer for the persecuted church. Michael Elliott has pulled together some prayer resources for us to be able to do that.
Second, strategize on at least one specific way that you can be involved in the life of at least one persecuted Christian. That can be a person in America or elsewhere. In the past I have had a lot of face-to-face ministry with persecuted people in India and China. I can't do that anymore. But I can send letters, give a gift, raise awareness, and encourage politicians to do right. Think of one way you can get involved. Maybe it will be sending an encouraging card.
Third, make a plan for sharing in someone else’s ministry here in America or abroad by serving that ministry. It could be as simple as a gift or it could be more complicated. As you do so, consciously do it as unto Christ.
Charge: Children of God, I charge you to be spiritual capitalists who gain by serving.