The following is excepted from my new book, Heaven’s Praise: Hearing God Say “Well Done”:
Rewards await God’s children. And God desires to praise us for our work on earth…
How did you feel as you read those statements? Uncomfortable? Did you cringe just a bit? Or did you just gloss over it, thinking, “Why bother focusing on something I don’t deserve and can’t be reasonably sure I’ll obtain”?
If so, you’re not alone.
It seems most Christians would rather be preoccupied with pressing matters than to look ahead to potential rewards in the “sweet by and by.” It’s almost as though we’ve resigned ourselves to walking through this life the best we know how and hoping everything works out with God in the end. Many Christians feel completely unworthy and quite unlikely to get Jesus’ stamp of ultimate approval: those famous words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
But it should be our life’s goal to hear those words. Through Jesus’ blood and power we are made worthy and able to do what he’s called us to do! We shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting Jesus to commend us for the time we’ve invested on earth. In fact, we should try to do whatever it takes to someday receive his praise. And not for our own benefit, but because our precious Lord deserves the opportunity to give us that reward…
Stop now and read the parable of the three servants in Matthew 25:14-30. Notice how the master commended the two loyal servants for investing the money he entrusted to them, but condemned the wicked and lazy one.
As you read, did you get the sense the master enjoyed commending his faithful servants? Put yourself in that master’s place. How would you feel? Likewise, our Lord and master Jesus Christ both desires and deserves the chance to shower us with praise for a job well done. He paid a tremendous price for us, and we owe him that joy. He invested himself in us; he died, rose from the dead, and at this very moment is interceding for us before his Father. He is cheering us on, and he wants us to win–and win big!
Think about someone who poured a lot of time, energy, and resources into you to help you accomplish a dream you had–your parents, grandparents, or simply a good friend who really wanted you to succeed. Let’s say you have a gift for playing baseball, or maybe a talent for playing the violin. That person invested money in your lessons, or came to all your games, and never quit encouraging and cheering you on as you developed your abilities.
Then at last, the day came when you had the opportunity to play in the World Series, or premiered your virtuosic skills at a concert with a philharmonic orchestra. The crowd is on edge as you step up to the plate to bat or you raise your bow to play. This is the moment you’ve dreamed of. And you don’t disappoint. You play your heart out. The beautiful notes soar through the music hall, or your hit goes flying over the outfield fence. The crowd goes wild. Everyone’s on their feet, clapping and shouting.
But as you lower your violin and take your bow, or as you jaunt around the bases, you’re not thinking about all those other people out there cheering for you. Your eyes scan the crowd for your mom or dad or friend who made all this possible, the one who sacrificed so much so you could have this moment. When your eyes meet, and you see the pure joy and pride on that person’s face, no one else’s applause and no one else’s approval even compares.
That’s how it is with God’s praise of you and me: Nothing will bring more pleasure to us, or to him.
You see, striving for heaven’s rewards doesn’t mean we’re being selfish or unappreciative. Again, the praise of heaven isn’t only for our benefit. Any crowns and praises we’re given at the end of our journey ultimately bless our greatest supporter and friend, our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Every honor we might receive only serves to make him more glorious, and reminds us again of his awesome grace shown to awful sinners.
Now, I realize that implying–much less declaring–that God would praise mere mortals seems strange, even blasphemous, to some. But according to Dictionary.com, the word praise, in its purest form, is simply “the act of expressing approval or admiration; commendation; laudation.” God is and always will be our most holy and awesome Superior, before whom we will all ultimately bow and be judged. Saying that God will honor certain people with words of praise doesn’t mean he’ll give up any glory of his own or that he’ll suddenly acknowledge anyone else as his equal. Rather, God will enthusiastically commend those who show outstanding and faithful service.