One of the scariest passages to me in the Bible is Revelation 22:12 in which Jesus said, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”
The beginning reminds me of how I sometimes talk to my kids when I want them to pay attention. Often I will start with “Look.” I use the word “Look” to emphasize what I am about to say is important…so pay attention. I believe it is the same with Jesus.
So he goes on to say that he is coming soon. Now I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think wait a sec…you said that 2,000 years ago. To me 2,000 years does not seem like soon…not anywhere close.
I suppose though if you are Jesus and have existed eternally, 2,000 years could be soon in your eyes.
Anyway, the number of years “soon” encompasses does not matter. I really don’t care. What scares me is what comes next. Next Jesus said, “My reward is with me.”
Now the good news is Jesus has a reward for every one of his followers. This is good. Knowing I have a reward helps me to wake up in the morning and strive to be a good follower of Jesus. Some days this is very hard. Some days it is easier than others. I think there are more hard days than easy days.
So if Jesus is definitely coming back “soon” and he has a reward for me, what determines the reward I will receive? This is where it gets scary. I am haunted by the words, “I will give to each person according to what they have done.”
The principle is very simple. The things I do which God approves of I am rewarded for. The things I do which God disapproves of I am not rewarded for. I don’t think I am punished for the disapproved things because of the forgiveness of Jesus.
That’s good! It means my risk is not punishment risk. Rather my risk is opportunity risk. It means in this life I have the opportunity to devote myself to Jesus and engage in behaviors which he approves of. To the degree I forfeit this opportunity, I do not gain a reward.
So who gains the greatest reward? Well…those who engage in the most behaviors that Jesus approves of. So who are those?
This is where spiritual growth becomes important. I think those who engage in the most rewarded behaviors are those who over their lifetimes experience the greatest spiritual growth.
When I try and behave in all the Jesus approved ways, I find it very difficult. When I instead focus on growing in my relationship with Jesus, I find I naturally behave in more Jesus approved ways. It seems the more I grow in my relationship with Jesus, the less work it takes to behave the way Jesus desires.
This is huge because it sets my goal. To obtain the greatest reward from Jesus I can when he returns, I should not focus on my Jesus approved “behaviors.” Rather, I should focus on growing in my relationship with Jesus Himself. I should focus on growing spiritually. As I grow spiritually my behavior changes. My behaviors naturally becomes more “reward” behavior.
So here is my question for you: What will you do today to grow more in your relationship with Jesus? I really do not want to answer that question for you. Rather I want you to struggle with that question a bit. I want you to think about that question a bit. I want you to come up with the answer to that question.
Because you have a better chance of implementing your own answer to your own question. And as you implement your own answer as to how you can grow more in your relationship with Jesus, you will grow more in your relationship with Jesus. As a result, you will receive a greater reward when Jesus returns for the things you have done.
The goal is not really the reward. The goal is spiritual growth through the relationship. But the reward is important for the goal. May the reward be yours!