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Does God REALLY Want Us to Seek Rewards?

Gas Tank from everystockhoto by KOMUNewsWhat Should Motivate Us?

What should we do when we don’t want to pray and read God’s word?  Or when we don’t desire fellowship?  Or when we have no interest in sharing the gospel or battling sin?

How should we motivate ourselves?

A common answer is that we should be motivated by gratitude.  That since God has done so much for us, it’s only right for us to give obedience back to him.

But I can’t find any place where that’s taught in the Bible.  (If you can, please let me know.)

I’m not saying gratitude is unimportant.  It is essential that we see all God has done for us in Christ and respond with heartfelt gratitude, praise, and worship.

But as far as I can tell, God never motivates us with gratitude.

So How DOES God Motivate Us?

Passage after passage shows God motivating us with the promise of reward.

This is not the reward of health and wealth.  It’s the infinitely more satisfying reward of beholding God’s glory in Christ (Hebrews 12:14, for example).

Nor does this mean our obedience earns rewards.  It means that because of Jesus’ shed blood and perfect righteousness, God mercifully chooses to reward our undeserving faith and obedience with more joy in him.

And in the Bible the main way God motivates us is with this reward.  He promises that the more we trust and obey him, the more joy we will have in his glory now and forever.

Some Passages

Read these passages, and ask yourself – What does God want you to be motivated by?

Matthew 6:3-4 — But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:6 — But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:17-18 — But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 10:42 — And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.

Mark 9:41 — For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

Luke 6:22-23– Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

Luke 6:35 — But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

Colossians 3:23-24 — Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Hebrews 10:35 — Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

Hebrews 11:6 — And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11:26 — [Moses] considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

2 John 1:8 — Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.

Your Car Needs Fuel, Not Just a Gas Tank

In passage after passage God motivates us with the promise of reward.

But many of us try to motivate ourselves with gratitude, and ignore the reward.  The tragic result is that our Christian lives are weaker than they could be.

But this doesn’t mean we ignore gratitude.  Gratitude is crucial, because when we are grateful for God’s past faithfulness, that strengthens our faith in God’s promise of future reward.  As a result, we will be motivated.

Think of the Christian life as a car which runs on the gasoline of rewards.  And think of gratitude as the gas tank which holds that gasoline in your car.

If you have the gas tank (gratitude), but no gasoline (rewards), your car won’t even start.

But if you try to fill your car up with gasoline (rewards) without having a gas tank (gratitude), the gas will pour onto the asphalt, and your car still won’t start.

So put the gas tank in place by nurturing gratitude.  Then fill up the gas tank with the gasoline of God’s promised reward.

Vroooom.  Your car will start right up.

Questions?  Comments?

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(Picture by KOMUnews, and found on everystockphoto.com.)

Category: Motivation for Obedience

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11 Responses

  1. Kevin says:

    What are the nature of the rewards? How will those rewards (or lack thereof) change our experience in the kingdom? What other motivators are there to do good works? Are rewards the primary motivator to do good works? Or is it out of response to what God has done for us through Christ?

    I’ve been asking these questions for a year or so now, and I’m interested in what you have to say about them. God bless.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Great questions, Kevin, And I am so glad you’ve been thinking about this important topic.

      I believe the main focus of the reward is more joy in Christ’s glory. And this will affect our experience of the kingdom because we will have more or less joy in Christ.

      I heard someone say that we will all be full of joy in Christ, but some will be a cup-full, some a pitcher-full, and some a barrel-full.

      I think there are other motivators, like the thought of bringing good to others. But our main focus should be the joy of displaying and beholding Christ’s glory.

      But what about good works being a response to what God has done for us? I have not yet seen a place where the Bible explicitly says that.

      The motivation I see throughout the Scriptures is that God, because of Christ, will mercifully reward our undeserving faith and obedience in the future With more joy in Christ’s glory forever.

      To see more Scripture on this check out the links under the “Motivation for Obedience” category.

      And keep the questions coming. I think this is a crucial issue.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  2. Arabah Joy says:

    Steve, I really appreciate this post. This is so foundational yet so overlooked. I think in our desire to prevent our prayers from becoming self-centered and to avoid a health, wealth gospel, we steer clear of this teaching. Just the other day I was having a spiritual conversation with my son, who is 12. I told him the cost of self denial in his area of struggle would be difficult but worth it because God had something better. He asked, in all vulnerability, “Will God reward me? I like rewards.” I laughed at his honest question and then had the joy to quote Hebrews 11:6!! Praise the Lord! His name itself is Rewarder!

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Great to hear from you, Arabah Joy. And it’s encouraging to hear about your conversation with your son.

      May the Lord richly bless you and your family,

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  3. K says:

    Steve,
    What if you’re so dull you can’t feel rightly about the promise of reward? Can you just ask The Lord to help you desire and delight in and believe the joy of beholding Jesus? To fix you so this is greater to you than any other thing? To fix you to desire Him and to crush warped desires?

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi K,

      Yes, I certainly think you can ask the Lord to do these things in you.

      And then as you set your heart on the truth of who he is as revealed in the word, you will, in time, sense your heart changing.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

      • K says:

        Thank you! Please keep praying for me, that The Lord will help me seek Him in truth and set my heart on the truth of who He is. That he will work in me to hate and renounce my flesh and sin and anything that opposes Him and give me a heart to love Him! I can ask those things and expect Him to answer no matter my standing before Him? Or must one already be in Christ for Him to work in this way?

  4. Cindy says:

    I have a different take on this – Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands.” So I think love should be our motivation. In the passages mentioned above, I think God is showing us that, in situations where we may feel like we are losing something, we are gaining something far greater, so that we can rest secure that God will take of us. In this way, we can put our “self” aside and do what God requires of us without worrying about the cost. When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he “knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” Because he was secure in God’s love and the future God had in store for him, he was able to put aside his concern for his own needs and serve others. So I think the rewards that God promises us should give us the security to follow him no matter what the cost. If, on the other hand, we are focused on the rewards, and doing more to get more, our focus is self-centered, which I don’t believe is what God has in mind for us here.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Cindy,

      I totally agree that love for Christ should be our motivation. But love for Christ involves desire for Christ. And since Christ IS the reward, love for Christ is the same as love for God’s promised reward.

      But I do not agree that this focus on rewards will cause us to be self-centered. Since the reward is Christ, focus on the reward Will cause us to focus on him, not on ourselves.

      And the more we focus on him, the more our hearts will be filled so we overflow with love for those around us.

      I hope that helps explain what I was trying to say in this blog post. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  5. Paul Walton says:

    The “reward” is more of seeing Christ’s Glory, but in our fleshly thinking we always connect reward with material comfort & not spiritual gain, a very common misunderstanding.

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