If asked what things God would reward, I might think of big accomplishments, such as souls won, disciples taught, churches planted and enriched, a list of headline items. However, these choices make me feel as if I’ve not “done much” for the Lord. The older I get, the more pressure this value system puts on my conscience.
However, today’s devotional kicks that list and my lament right out of the playing field. It begins with this verse from a parable Jesus used to describe the characteristics of the kingdom of heaven…
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:21)
Jesus says that the test of life is not a long list of banner items, but faithfulness with what I’ve been given. The devotional writer says that this is like Jesus to do this. He took obscure and lowly people to build a kingdom, and also obscure and lowly virtues to build character. His choices are not because of obscurity but because they are within the range of everyone.
Being faithful is not dazzling. It seldom catches attention (which my list might do) and will never make the evening news or be included in most obituaries. But it does require other character traits, like courage. In the parable, one man buried his talent. His excuse for not being faithful with what he’d been given was fear and even a false idea of the master’s reward system.
Faithful courage is needed in great adventures and on the battlefields of life, but it is also needed for quiet and steady obedience in the ordinary stuff. Faithfulness means doing things when I don’t feel like doing them. It means keeping on, getting to the task at hand even through headache and heartache. Faithfulness is not about those rare and high moments. It is doing what God asks of me in ordinary, common daily life.
Faithfulness is also striving to think, say and do right against those daily temptations to forget it, make my own plans, do my own thing, or just run the other way. Faithfulness is obedience in the common stuff, diligence to apply faith as a practical reason for every event and challenge, including those that no one will ever see or know about.
Faithfulness means remembering and living out the courage that moved Jesus to continued obedience. It took courage to come down from heaven to a sin-filled earth where He had no place to lay His head. It took courage to resist the Devil’s offer of the kingdoms of the world, and to scorn worldly pleasure. It took courage to live laborious days and set out for Jerusalem where the cross and a crown of thorns was waiting. Jesus was faithful to the Father’s voice and He offers me the same challenge.
When I read this verse, the words of the master stood out as words that I want to hear from Jesus. I want Him to say to me, “Well done” for I realize that while the kingdom could be a location, it is more about a state of being, a relationship to my King. And this wonderful Master rewards faithfulness for simple obedience, not for a long list of large, checked off accomplishments.
His reward includes more responsibility, but the greater reward is joy… His joy, an eternal joy that He shares with everyone who faithfully obeys whatever He asks.