“Reward” – keep your eyes on the prize!

RewardWhat rewards are you enjoying? What results are you pursuing? I ask because the type of rewards (results) that we seek directly influences our approach to fitness – physically or spiritually. In physical pursuits we usually work to become (or remain) attractive, to feel better, or to prolong our lives. But not one of these can be secured through physical means, but all of them can be secured through Christ. Think about it. Again, it’s the difference between fear and love. When I don’t know His love I will work to find fulfillment out of my spirit of fear and emptiness – ironically, a position of weakness.

As I write this, I am almost 50. I’ve accomplished some of my physical goals over the years, but most I have not. Many times I haven’t had the work schedule, energy, or desire to remain steadfast. And even those goals I have accomplished are now harder to maintain. My metabolism is slower; my joints are weaker; it takes more work to achieve the same results; and, if I miss a day or two, the results slip away more quickly. Not very rewarding, huh? I didn’t plan it that way, but it causes me to wonder, “Am I investing my time well?”

God’s Word tells us to invest in Jesus. But why? I mean, let’s be real. He doesn’t physically hold me when I feel alone. I don’t always feel the comfort of His promises or goodness of His commands. He hasn’t spared me physical difficulties. In fact, He’s promised I’ll have more pain! (John 15:18-21) I often worry about those who look to a false gospel of health, wealth and prosperity. Let’s look at some of the Scriptures that describe what it does mean for Jesus to be our reward.

Paul’s letter to the believers in Philippi is often referred to as one of the prison epistles because he wrote it from jail. Can you imagine? Bringing the good news of God’s forgiveness, truth, and kingdom had put Paul in prison. What a reward! Yet, when we read his opening words to them, he is clearly joyful and confident in the path he had chosen.

“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:8-14, emphasis mine) This prisoner’s joy was that his Savior had bought his freedom so he’d one day know Jesus face to face! Our reward in Christ is a guaranteed, perfectly intimate relationship with God!

Isn’t such a relationship exactly what we crave? Intimacy! When I’ve been away from my family and friends on a long deployment, I want to know everything I’ve missed. I want to hear from my wife, who loves me with all her heart. I want to play with my kids, who want to spend time with me. I want to know my friends’ kindness or wisdom and see the looks on all their faces after we’ve been apart for so long.

We want to know what cannot be taken away: a genuine, intimate, and strong relationship with someone who cares for us. This is the goodness of Jesus being our reward – and not just knowing Him in eternity, but knowing Him right now. As we read in 1Timothy 4:7-8, “. . . exercise thyself unto godliness; for bodily exercise profiteth little, but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that is now and of that which is to come.” (emphasis mine)

By walking with Him in faith & obedience, we experience His supernatural provision in impossibilities. When our burdens buckle our knees, we go to Him in prayer. When we hunger for guidance and security, He satisfies our souls in His loving commands and sure promises. When we are lonely, He gives relationships within His Body – fellow believers who have precisely what we need to meet us precisely where we are because He’s orchestrated the members of the Body just as He wants us. (1 Corinthians 12:18)

Again, it’s ironic. As I grow older and (hopefully) wiser, my body grows weaker. Just as I’m learning effective ways to maximize my physical conditioning in minimal time, my body is declining. Even though I believe I could one day enjoy a big bench press and fast 4-miler again (if God is willing), it would take me much longer to reach that goal. Is that how I want to invest my time? What reward would I be seeking?

The U.S. is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet one of the most obese, depressed, and violent. This may be the reward of being a consumer society, focusing on what’s in it for us.

 

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