One of my favorite Christian authors is Randy Alcorn. His ministry is called Eternal Perspective Ministries and they are headquartered in Oregon. Randy is a prolific author. He has some great fiction, I highly recommend Safely Home. And his work in heaven is a “must own” for every Christian.
But I got to thinking this week about one of his more controversial topics. In three books, The Treasure Principle, Money, Possessions and Eternity and In Light of Eternity, Alcorn carefully lays out a principle that Christians often misunderstand and frequently ignore. His teaching is focused on our need to understand and even be motivated by the rewards we can “earn” from our heavenly Father.
Now, before I outline Randy’s thoughts, let me assure you that I have not abandoned the central tenet of our faith which is that our salvation is bestowed by a loving God on the basis of the finished work of our Savior. I cannot earn it, I do not deserve it, and it is a gift of God “lest any man should boast.”
Alcorn does not confuse God’s work and man’s work. Heaven is not earned. Our salvation is by faith and faith alone. But he does want to emphasize the kind of effort we should put forth after our salvation. It is labor predicated on our gratitude for what He has accomplished on our behalf. The wrath of God was turned aside at Calvary and because of that great blessing; we are to serve the risen Savior.
In that content, Alcorn outlines the kinds of “work” that believers ought to be busy doing, and he highlights the rewards we can “earn.” In The Treasure Principle he says:
“We obtain rewards for doing good works, (Ephesians 6:8, Romans 2:6, 10); for persevering under pressure (Luke 6:22-23); for caring for the needy (Matthew 25:20-21) and for treating our enemies kindly (Luke 6:35). God also graciously gives us eternal rewards for generous giving: ‘Go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. (Matthew 19:21).”
Randy makes his case that these kinds of rewards are conditional. They are entirely dependent on our faithfulness. He believes that belief determines our eternal destiny and our behavior determines our eternal rewards.
It is a tough concept to wrap your mind around. We don’t want to see God as a heavenly “parent” doling out silly rewards for proper behavior. But Alcorn’s argument is deeply rooted in a wide variety of scriptures. It seems clear to me that on some level, God is encouraging His kids to serve Him and others and in that pursuit “earn” various rewards. Consider the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
We need to consider that “prize.” Maybe we all ought to do some searching of the scriptures this week on the topic of heavenly rewards. Alcorn’s website may help. His books are very instructional. And he posts his teaching outlines on his site as well. And remember, rewards are coming!
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel