Ephesians 2:8–9 says, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.” That couldn’t be simpler or clearer. Even our faith isn’t from us. God had to give us even the ability to believe in Him. Nothing about our salvation we can take even the least bit of pride.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” Why were we created? For good works. Not good works that lead to our salvation, but good works after our salvation. Before our salvation, we were dead. Dead people don’t do good works. When God gave us the gift of faith, allowing us to become alive in Him through His grace, we are now able to start the reason for our very creation—good works.
Notice the next part of the verse. We were created for good works that were “prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” If you are saved, Father has prepared a plan of good works you are to accomplish. What is the purpose of your life? To accomplish the good works God prepared for you to do long before you drew breath.
How do we know what those are? Most of Christ’s teachings are about understanding and carrying out our reason for living. Most people will never discover God’s plan for themselves because they will not take the narrow road of hard work and suffering, which are the requirements of doing so. They won’t risk the criticism of their family and friends. They won’t deny themselves the pleasures of this world that get in the way of a relentless pursuit of God’s will. They won’t live in the delicious uncertainty of seeking God’s will daily. They’ll instead run after security, pleasure, and comfort.
Some people will pursue God’s plan to different extents, and those people will be rewarded to different extents—to the extent of their dedication to His will. This brings us to the judgment seat of Christ. If our sins are forgiven, for what will we be judged?
Jesus says there are the least in His kingdom and those who are great (Matthew 5:19). He says that a cup of cold water given in His name will not be forgotten (Matthew 10:42). Not forgotten to what end? It will not be forgotten when the time for judgment and rewards has come.
He speaks of our being rewarded in a number of ways for what we’ve done with our lives: we may receive crowns (James 1:12; 1 Corinthians 9:25), and become coheirs with Christ (Romans 8:17; 1 Peter 1:14; Galatians 3:29), co-reign with Him (Matthew 25:21, 2 Timothy 2:11–12), get invited to the wedding feast in heaven (Revelation 19:7–9), get personally congratulated by Him (Matthew 25:21), or even receive a nickname from Him that only He and we will know—a special intimacy between us (Revelation 2:17). These rewards are not guaranteed to all. Some will get them, and some won’t. Those who receive them will receive them at differing levels according to their walk with Him on earth.
Common themes of those who will be rewarded are obedience, perseverance, suffering, humility or lack of pride, overcoming, faithfulness, and love. Love ties all of them together and is required for the others to have value. God will judge the motivations with which we served Him and others, always looking for the love of Him and His people as the foundation.
Imagine if someone said they’d give you a great reward if you spent an obsessive amount of time with another person of their choosing for two years. You’d need to call them multiple times a day, spend hours on the phone talking about menial things, go out to dinner with them as often as you could afford, attend every event they wanted, watch the movies or sports teams they chose, even though you don’t like them. Essentially, you’d need to sacrifice most of what you like to do to be with them.
That would be a nightmare. You might do all those things for the allotted time, but it would be a major chore. Yet all those things are exactly what you would do if you were in love with them. If you’re in love, doing those things isn’t an obligation; it’s a joy. The only difference between the first person and the second is love with passion. Jesus says that the entire law hangs on only two commands—love God with all your heart and love other people (Matthew 22:36–40).
Have daring faith, and in doing so, you’ll receive great rewards, but the message isn’t for you to do more—it’s for you to fall in love with Jesus. The things that now seem like impossible chores become things of great delight. The difficulty or delight of living the life God called us to is directly proportional to how much we love Him.
What did God create you to do in this life?
What will you tell Jesus you did with your life?
Lord Jesus, I commit every day of my life to You and the work You have for me.