Just a cup of cold water

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A cup of cold water . . .

How could such a small thing as a cup of cold water make a difference to God?
As was stated in the previous post the Lord has shown through scripture that the subject of rewards is very important.  For this reason no rewards offered or promised by God should be despised even if the reward comes as a result of giving a cup of cold water.

The subject of rewards in the New Testament is positively taught in 43 instances in 16 New Testament books.  Jesus spoke on the subject no less than 16 times and other New Testament writers (Paul, Peter, John, and the writer of Hebrews) spoke 27 times on the subject.

Mankind has always been geared towards rewards.  If we are completely honest, all of us can identify with the desire to be rewarded.  At the same time we need to be careful to not confuse the sanctification of this desire with the repression of it.  God has placed desires within each one of us and we need to recognize that the first sin of mankind was committed through the perversion of this desire.  Religion seeks to repress legitimate desires while redemption in Christ seeks to lead us into the sanctification of each and every one of our human desires.  Let us observe just what Jesus said about rewards.

In Matthew’s gospel chapter five verse twelve Jesus summed up the conclusion that those who suffer for the name of Christ should be glad.

“Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus exhorts those who suffer for the sake of the Gospel to rejoice and be glad because of their suffering and He sites two motives.  This is important!  Jesus knew what was in man.  He being God, knew the make-up of those that He created.  Jesus could have very easily exhorted those who suffer for the sake of His name without making any reference to any reward.  He could have just said:  “Yes, you will suffer, yes it will be difficult, but I am worth it.  Prove your love for me by submitting to the suffering that comes your way because of me.”  He could have spoken in such a manner and there would be no fault in doing so.  But my point is that He didn’t do that.  He said rejoice and be exceeding glad.  Luke adds “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven”. He mentioned two things to explain themotive for the rejoicing.  The first: great is your reward in heaven.  If Jesus Christ the Son of God listed reward as motivation for suffering because of His name, who are we to condemn such motivation?  Jesus said great is your reward in heaven.  When Jesus says something is great we should recognize that there is what I consider great and what you consider great and then there is what Christ considers great.  Great according to Christ, must be unimaginably great as far as our imagination can go.  Eye hath not seen nor ear hath heard the things that the Lord has prepared for us.  When Christ says to rejoice and be exceeding glad because great is our reward in Heaven, I say “Praise God for His unspeakable reward”.  In the very next phrase Jesus gave another reason to rejoice and be exceeding glad: “for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you”.  Christ is exhorting all those who suffer for the sake of the Gospel because they will be recognized together with the prophets.  In effect Christ is saying that there will be great reward and great recognition.  Once again, Christ didn’t even mention that a motive for suffering for His sake was the privilege of suffering in His name, instead He mentioned a great reward and a great recognition in Heaven.  Even Christ Himself didn’t suffer only for the sake of suffering, nor even only to obey God, for we read in Hebrews 12:2 “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Christ went through the ordeal of the cross because of the joy that was set before Him: the reward for His sacrifice.  What was His reward?  You and me, and all those who have accepted His redemptive work, not to mention that in Philippians chapter two Paul mentioned that after “he humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  God also highly exalted Him, and gave Him a name which is above every name.”  Even Christ received reward for doing the will of the Father.  Rewards are of God!

Later in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus continued speaking about rewards: In Matthew 5:46  He said:

For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

Previously in verse 43  He reminded the disciples that He was addressing that which they had been taught that they should love their neighbor, and hate their enemy.  Then He told them in verse 44

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,”

And why should they do this?  He continued in verse 45:

“that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

These are at first glance curious words.  That ye may be the children of your Father?  Can you imagine someone telling you to do something so that you may be the child of your father?  If you have a father, you are already his child.  Or does a child have to do something to be considered a child of his father?  Taken with the next phrase about the Heavenly Father making the sun to rise and sending rain on the just and the unjust we can learn that Jesus is telling His disciples that the reward for loving our enemies is that we will take on the likeness of our Heavenly Father and will be recognized as such by God the Father.  In John 1:12 the apostle stated that as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.  It is interesting to note that all those who have received Christ have been given power (ability) to become sons of God, but it doesn’t say that they automatically become the sons of God, but in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us how we can become the children of our Father in heaven: by loving our enemies.  This is a promise of recognition as being sons of God, in His likeness.  Not all sons are recognized as being in the likeness of their father.

In Matthew chapter six Christ taught about reward for giving alms.  He said:

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

Why do some people give alms and make it a point that others notice what they are doing?  The answer is so that they receive the glory of men.  The motive is recognition.  Jesus didn’t exactly even condemn this motive. He merely pointed out that it is a relatively small reward.  Then He explained how to give alms so that the Father would reward them openly before men.  The implication is that the reward is much greater when we give alms as God prescribes.  It is notable that the motive that Jesus sought to promote wasn’t even for the sake of the poor but for the giver to receive an open reward at a later time for giving alms so as not to be seen at the time they were offered.  It almost seems that Christ wasn’t concerned about noble motives but selfish ones, albeit patient and longsuffering selfish motives.  I believe this was done not to discourage noble motives, noble motives are part and parcel of our new nature, but the reality is that God recognizes that they aren’t strong enough to be our only motivation.  If God had to wait for our noblest motives to move us to get His work done, His purposes would be slowed down even more than they are now.  God is gracious enough to meet us at the level of motivation that will move us to accomplish His will at a quicker and more energetic pace, for the love of those who we may reach while we work for our rewards.  Let’s face it, if we are honest with ourselves even in light of rewards, we move too slowly. We must recognize there is much land that we must yet conquer for the Kingdom of God and the “days are evil”. Therefore we should make the most of each opportunity that the Lord places before us.

Prayer and fasting are also activities that have the promise of reward.  Once again it is Jesus Christ who offers a reward for those who pray and fast according to His direction.

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,  so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

Once again Christ contrasts the small reward of the religious hypocrite and the recognition that such a person receives with the greater and public reward for those who  pray and fast as Christ taught.  That isn’t even including the answer to prayer that we are promised to receive when we pray according to God’s will.

So precious is this principle of rewards that Christ even mentioned rewards for “small favors” done to His servants.  In Matthew chapter 10:41,42

“He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.  And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”

After reading His words we can begin to see what Jesus said about rewards. He taught that even a cup of cold water is sufficient to bring a reward!  This speaks volumes of how we should see life.  Each day we have the opportunity to express the love and grace of God and “be a blessing” to someone.  Just the privilege of blessing others is a reward, so much the more knowing that God pays attention to each act of kindness we show in His name.

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