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Precious Promises of Things I Don’t Want

On The Precious Promises of Things I Don’t Want...

“To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna . . .” (Rev. 2:17)

“To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life . . . ” (Rev. 2:7)

Looking at these promises of reward in Revelation, let us make a bold and courageous observation: they’re not very motivating. I don’t mean not motivating to me—I mean not motivating to anyone. How can you be motivated by a tree you’ve never eaten from or by food you’ve never tasted? You can’t. Would I like a nice, juicy bite of a glavinndish sandwich? I don’t know, would I?

Such an observation would lead to the conclusion that there’s a deeper meaning to the imagery, that what’s being offered is greater intimacy with Christ in the life to come. But again, like the taste of manna, I have no concept of this. How does this differ from or improve upon eternal life? I mean, I already assume I’m going to be hanging out with Jesus a lot, so how is this an upgrade?

What I’m getting at is that Scripture does not disclose the actual reward but rather the promise of reward, and it’s a big difference. The motivation of a promised reward is faith; the motivation of an actual reward is the reward itself.

By not telling us what’s really being offered, all of the comfort and encouragement of this promise is derived by faith: faith that God knows how to give good gifts to his children, faith in God’s faithfulness, faith in God’s promises, etc.. However intimate, however trusting we have grown in our relationship with Christ, well, that’s exactly how motivating this promise of reward will be. Not an ounce more, not an ounce less.

This would seem to answer an objection sometimes raised about rewards: that a Christian’s motive for pursuing them is somehow defective or debase. But whatever is done for the sake of heavenly reward is done by faith like we do everything else in the Christian life. Because no reward has been disclosed the focus of faith and obedience remains upon the person and promise of Christ, not the reward.

Rick JamesComment