Anticipating Your Reward


“What then will we have?”

Pastor, have you ever pondered that question in your heart?

Your congregation grows slowly. Problems multiply rapidly. Colleagues enjoy bigger churches, better buildings, broader ministries. Culture drifts further from God and his Word yet prospers.

With all this, do you ponder, “What then will we have?”

The apostle Peter gives voice to our internal questioning. As he considered the cost of following Jesus and helping others to do the same, he asks Jesus, “What then will we have?” (Matt. 19:27)

Jesus responded,

Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. (Matt. 19:28–29)

Ministry is hard. It normally involves some loss and lament. Jesus never denied this, but he also promised that they “will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”

Amidst the hardships and difficulties of ministry, Jesus’s promise meant to propel Peter—and us—to keep going.

How does anticipating your reward help you in ministry?

Anticipating Your Rewards Keeps You Focused

Rewards are coming, but they’re not the rewards we are tempted to want. After giving twenty-plus hours to sermon preparation, we want a large and attentive congregation who is arrested by our every word.

Does your heart sink like mine does when you step into the auditorium and there are more empty seats than full ones? When the person you hoped would be most moved by the message is absent? When the point you thought was going to hit home falls flat?

These disappointments easily lead to a Sunday afternoon somberness which then deepens into the Monday morning blues. Quiet quitting becomes a viable option. “Is this all really worth it?”

Pastor, the answer is yes. But we must remember what Jesus said the real reward is. He didn’t promise us a full church. He didn’t guarantee the full attention or appreciation of our members. He definitely didn’t promise fame.

Instead, Jesus promised that everyone who follows him will inherit eternal life.

Don’t focus on the rewards that were never promised to you. Focus on the ones that were promised.

Anticipating Your Rewards Keeps You Faithful

Faithfulness can feel like an underwhelming goal. It isn’t driven by metrics or statistics, which leaves it feeling insignificant. After all, the world values production far more than loyal allegiance and perseverance.

Sometimes even church culture presents faithfulness like something akin to a participation trophy in sports. It’s reserved for the losers who don’t have the talent to make it big. Compelled to say something nice about them, we offer up a meager “Oh, yeah, they’re . . . faithful.”

But faithfulness is precious to the Lord.

Take the apostle Paul, who says the one thing that’s required of pastors is that they be found faithful (1 Cor. 4:2).

Consider Jesus who says that heavenly rewards are reserved for those who remain faithful to him. “Enter into the joy of the Lord” is the invitation extended only to the “good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23).

Faithfulness in ministry, like faithfulness in marriage, isn’t always exciting. In fact, it often feels like a slog; a steady plodding; putting one foot in front of the other. There normally isn’t anything flashy about laboring in the Word and laboring to love people in the ways the Lord commanded.

Nonetheless, faithfulness is the goal. Faithfulness means refusing to tamper with God’s Word or take any shortcuts—even if they seem to be surer, quicker paths to success (2 Cor. 4:1–2).

Faithfulness involves embracing your role as an undershepherd, and lovingly and tenderly shepherding those under your care with integrity. God has promised that when the Chief Shepherd appears, only then will you receive the unfading crown of glory (1 Pet. 5:1–4).

Faithfulness endures suffering: things like unjustified character attacks, unsolicited criticisms, unkind treatment. These things aren’t confined to year one of ministry either. Some suffering from your ministry persists until the Lord returns or calls you home.

Brother pastor, we must respond not with violence and vitriol, but with love and joy. Why? Because even if people hate us and exclude us and revile us and spurn our name as evil on account of our ministry in service to the Savior, we know our reward is great in heaven (Luke 6:22–23).

The saints of old endured long, hard struggles. Sometimes they were publicly exposed to affliction and mistreatment. Sometimes they lost homes and property. But they joyfully held fast to Jesus. They knew they had a better, abiding possession waiting for them if they continued faithfully following the Lord (Heb. 10:32–34).

“Therefore,” the author of Hebrews instructs us, “do not throw away your confidence in the Lord.” Do not turn away from following him or grow weary of pastoring in the way he’s prescribed. God has guaranteed us a great reward that awaits us. When we have endured and have done the will of God, we will receive what has been promised (Heb. 10:35–36).

What then will we have? Everything. Jesus said so. And he always keeps his promises. We must keep pastoring, pastor. Our reward is coming.

Omar Johnson

Omar Johnson is the senior pastor of Temple Hills Baptist Church in Temple Hills, Maryland.

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