There are those that speak of the rewards that come with serving the Lord, but most of those I believe are referring to the positive emotions that arrive with the knowledge of a particular task done for Him, as it were.
I am reminded of the Old Testament sacrificial system when I hear them speak in such a way, fulfilling the obligations laid upon them and receiving in return the blessings of the Lord. “And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.” (Exo. 25:40) Specific commandments given, a specific task expected.
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb. 10:25) This is the first one that comes to mind when I contemplate this first group of people, attending church each Sunday morning long ago stopped being a joy, a moment in time to be looked forward to, it became a habit, an obligation, and the reward they seek for fulfilling that commandment is a positive outlook on life, an uplifted emotional state.
Over the past four decades, pastors of these churches have done all they can to ensure that that particular emotional state is reached by as many as possible, a positive outlook on life is the message, the songs are picked to reflect the same, and their reward is that hopefully most will return week after week. “But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10)
There are many that are in the first group that are also part of our second, but not all. These believe that by following whatever commandments they have picked out, chosen out of the Scriptures, whether they are in context or not, will bestow upon them the gifts or rewards of the world. Financial security, or at least the ability to pay their debts that they have incurred. The nice house and the things in it, perhaps a vehicle or two, all of those items that can be purchased in this world if one is following the will of the Lord. Its not quite prosperity theology, but it isn’t far from it.
They will boast in pride of these items, while making sure to add in the proper “religious” words, so that you know when you are speaking to them that the Lord has blessed them with all these things because they follow Jesus. “Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.” (Job 2:9)
I have yet to meet either one of these individuals who when they came upon what we will call hard times, but in their minds would be great tribulation, that still offered the same praise and honor to the Most High, when a situation arose that caused them to lose their “happy thoughts,” that caused their prized possessions to disappear. Most of them speak something similar to those who never knew Him as Lord of their lives. “I don’t understand why God is allowing me to go through this.” Their faith is only as strong as their perceived rewards they have expected.
As the leader, as the head of the band that went to battle against the five kings, Abraham had every right to keep all that he had fought for, yet he said, “That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich.” (Gen. 14:23) He did not enter into this war to get more stuff, I do not know if he went simply to retrieve his nephew Lot and his family, I do know that all of what he won in the battle was of no long-term value to him, he had a task to do and he did it, expecting nothing in return.
This is what we are to expect as we serve the Lord, just what a servant deserves, the ability to serve well and nothing else, no emotional uplifting moments, no piling on of the items of the world, no riches of any kind, we are slaves to Christ. I want you to understand and contemplate this verse today, for it may change the direction of your service to the Almighty, and it is a fitting end to this letter, “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” (Gen. 15:1)