The Righteous Shall Live by Faith (part 4)

Lesson 5

The blessings of the testing of faith are for the present and the future.

Some Key Scriptures:

BLESSINGS FOR THE PRESENT:

  “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1:2-3

“we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and  perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because  the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to  us.” Romans 5:3

BLESSINGS FOR THE FUTURE:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared  with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”Romans 8:18

Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay,  straw, each one’s work will become clear; 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.” – 1 Corinthians 3:12

*Note: ‘on that day’ and ‘for the Day will declare’ is referring to the second coming of Jesus.

Now this raises the difficult issue of gifts versus rewards. I say difficult because I have struggled to find good solid teaching on this topic even from my trusted scholars. Could this be another neglected area of scripture? This is a new teaching that God has brought to my mind as I prayed to Him about my current trial (receiving chemotherapy treatment for blood cancer). More on the application of these truths in my case latter but I need to start with my limited understanding of gifts and rewards.

Examples of gifts would include:

  • salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:15ff),
  • eternal life (Romans 6:23)
  • faith (1 Cor 12;9; Romans 12:3).

Gifts are free and come because of God’s grace (the endless expressions of His heart for us). Gifts cannot be earned; they are received by faith in Jesus Christ. Gifts are to be lived out in the present. These gifts cannot be lost once you are born again.

There are many scriptures regarding rewards:

  • Praise from Jesus (Matthew 25:21); imagine for a moment that Jesus said these words to you. You would know that your life was meaningful and valuable because God of heaven and earth saw your life as meaningful and valuable.
  • Note also in this passage the reward is to rule with Jesus (in the millennial kingdom; therefore future) over many things.
  • Jesus reveals a number of rewards (22 in total) to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 1, 2, 3
  • Also, five crowns are mentioned as rewards:
CrownScriptureCondition
Crown of LifeJames 1:12; Rev 2;8To those who endure temptation because they love God
Imperishable Crown1 Corinthians 9:24-25To those who practice self-control, run with certainty in Christ (trust His leadership) and practice self-discipline.
Crown of Rejoicing1 Thessalonians 2:19To those who bring many to Christ
Crown of Righteousness2 Timothy 4:8To those who long for His appearing (return)
Crown of Glory1 Peter 5:4To those who lead in the Body of Christ

These rewards are based on our works/labours for Christ. The rewards are based on the motives of men’s hearts and not just the actions (1 Corinthians 4:5). They are future rewards (2 Timothy 4:8) given to Christians at the rapture; are earned; can be lost and are different among Christians (see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; Daniel 12:3 – these passages appear to suggest degrees of glory in the Millennial Kingdom for the resurrected saints). The rewards are spiritual in nature but the details of each reward are not specified. The rewards appear to be majestic to me and I’m somewhat disappointed that the scripture does not develop these spiritual rewards further. I would like to offer my own commentary on the Crown of Life to excite believers about rewards.

Two interesting truths stand out to me: first the context (James 1:12; Rev 2;8) of the passage suggests that testing can be followed by temptation and sin – a warning or instruction to enlighten us. Second, the Greek word for ‘life’ means the absolute fullness of life with God or life which belongs to God the ‘logos’ (the eternal nature, character and wisdom of God). The word ‘life’ in Greek is the same word used in eternal ‘life’ which means to know the Father and His Son Jesus Christ (John 17:3). Putting this all together, could the Crown of Life mean the recipient receives the full relationship with God, a complete measure of relationship that is so great that the glory of God shines forth from that individual. Is this why there are varying degrees of glory for the resurrected saints? This conclusion is also consistent with rewards mentioned in Revelation 3:12 and 2:28. Jonathan Edwards said there will be no dissent, jealousy or alarm in the Millennial Kingdom over this situation because all the resurrected saints will be in complete unity and perfect love with Jesus. However, scripture does suggest different states of glory for the resurrected saints.

APPLICATION TO MY TESTING/TRIAL

The last cycle of my chemotherapy was difficult. I suffered mental and physical fatigue that left me in bed for seven days. During this time my mind wandered into dark and sinful thoughts. I was too weak to resist often. Interestingly, one of the commentaries in my Bible study software suggested that the mind wonders into dark places to escape the discomfort of suffering. When I was strong enough to call on God, I asked Him what was He thinking and feeling about the direction of my testing? Why did I have to struggle with this darkness? Was the testing only about the teaching of faith that He had given to me already? He answered my prayers and gave me this blog post. God reminded me that He has promised blessings from testing both now and in the future. I don’t feel any different but I trust His leadership and promises. I’m expecting great change in me even though I don’t feel any different at this stage. Additionally, I’m preparing for the next infusion of chemotherapy and the potential darkness that will threaten. I’m using the weapons of warfare that God has given us (worship and the Sword of the Spirit – proclamation of the Word). I have an iPhone loaded with worship songs and I have downloaded the Holy Bible YouVersion app (audio Bible). I intend to continually play these if I have another episode of fatigue. I’m asking God to be my shield and buckler during this threatening time and to keep my mind on the things of God.

There is meaning in suffering, it is a door of hope (Hosea 2:15).

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”Romans 8:18

My prayer to God is that I will be able to see suffering and testing of my faith through God’s eyes as expressed in this passage.

Written by John and Shirley Ray, edited and posted by Joel Ratcliffe

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