Devotional Message - Rewards

The following is the devotional message (more or less) as it was presented at the Wednesday evening service of the Bartlett Woods Church of Christ on September 4, 2013.

School has started back, and that means one thing: school fundraisers. Soon, school students will be asking you to buy coupon books, cookie dough, wrapping paper, and all sorts of other things. And those students are promised that if they sell a certain amount, they will get a reward. Maybe it will be a prize, ranging from a bouncy ball to an iPad. Or maybe it is money toward an upcoming trip or class dues. Whatever it is, all of those sellers are motivated by a reward.

The rest of us are motivated by rewards, too. At work, we do our jobs so that we will be rewarded with a paycheck, and maybe health insurance and paid vacation. In sports, we play to get a reward of a championship, maybe a trophy or a medal. In many things, we are motivated by rewards.

One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the book of Daniel, and you are probably familiar with the story. While the Jews were in captivity in Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar built a 90 foot high gold statue and commanded that everyone bow down and worship it whenever they heard the musical instruments. And we know that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not worship the statue, because they knew that they should worship God in heaven alone. So because they wouldn’t obey the command, the three of them were thrown into the fiery furnace.

And we know - now - that they did not die in the fire. And we know – now - that when the king looked in the furnace, he saw four men, and the fourth looked like the Son of God. And we know - now - that God delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fire, and that not even their hair was singed. And we know – now - that the king rewarded Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Babylon, according to Daniel 3:30, either with money or with positions of authority, although the Bible is not specific as to what their reward was. But even though we know all of that now, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not know that then.

Sometimes we think this story is similar to the story of Brer Rabbit from Uncle Remus. When Brer Rabbit was caught by Brer Fox and Brer Bear, he said, “You can do whatever you want to me, but please don’t throw me into that briar patch.” Brer Fox though that that must be the worst thing they could do to him, so he threw Brer Rabbit in the briar patch. And then Brer Rabbit came out the other side and said, “I was born and bred in the briar patch!” They put Brer Rabbit right where he wanted to be.

Sometimes we may think that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were winking at each other, saying, “Please don’t throw us into the fiery furnace, “ elbowing each other and smiling to themselves. But that wasn’t the case. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not know what would happen. As we read in Daniel 3:16-18 when asked why they didn’t bow down and worship the statue, they replied, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. 17 If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. 18 But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”

They said, we believe God can save us, but even if he doesn’t, we still won’t go against what he has commanded. They were not concerned about an earthly reward. Rather, they knew that no matter what happened on earth, that if they followed God they would receive their heavenly reward.

Are you working for an earthly reward or from a heavenly reward? In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus says, 19 “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.20 But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Later on, after Jesus had fed the 5000, he told his followers in John 6:27-29, “27 Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.” 28 “What can we do to perform the works of God?” they asked. 29 Jesus replied, “This is the work of God—that you believe in the One He has sent.”

Have you believed in the one God has sent, namely Jesus? Have you been baptized for the forgiveness of your sins? Are you still working to store up treasures on earth, or are you building up your treasures in heaven?

World Bible School

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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.