The Rewards of Refreshing
whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold
A line in "The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner" says "He prayeth best who loveth best, all things great and small..." It is easy to love the great things, the big things. Our culture celebrates power, money, influence, and beauty. But that same culture ignores the small and seemingly insignificant things. The good mother, the faithful employee, the day laborer, the plain looking, the simply dressed, the common person...these are just faces in the crowd, extras on the movie set, non-essentials in the quest for perfection.
I'm glad that God does not judge His people as our society judges. This passage teaches us a great truth. Jesus is speaking to his disciples just before sending them out on a missionary journey. We too, are on a mission journey. We feel insignificant. We feel that our small accomplishments mean very little in the great plan of God. "It doesn't really matter if I live close to God, it wont make any difference." " I'm just a nobody." "God isn't using me." We do not see ourselves making a difference in the world.
This passage tells us that our labors for God, however small, are noted by God and will ultimately be rewarded by Him. The verses preceding tell us "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward." The disciples were sent in the name of Christ. They were doing His bidding. Those who received them would partake in their reward.
This was probably a radical concept to those who heard it! It would seem to be very easy to receive a reward under this system. Truly, Christ was making it easy for us! As if to drive the point home, He takes it another step. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. Just a cup of cold water is enough to activate the rewards of God!
Can you see
the repercussions of this truth? Every kind word spoken for Christ
will be rewarded. Every handshake, hug or embrace will be remembered.
Every meal cooked for the sick God has recorded. Every visitation,
every Sunday school class taught, every fellowship meal prepared, every
offering.... Don't despair, my Christian friend! God will reward
kind words and good deeds, no matter how insignificant they may seem.
I. THE EFFORT"...a cup...of water"
1. Good Deeds Even at the Slightest Opportunity. The cup of water represents only a small portion of the need. But it is a timely need. Humans need food, water, shelter, etc. to live. We may not be able to meet all the needs of a person, but that should not stop us from doing what we can. Just an insignificant gesture could be the vehicle God uses to show His glory!
Deeds Are the Sweetest Obedience.
Has God ever laid it on your heart to speak a word or meet a need for a
hurting soul? Just a hug at the funeral home when someone's family
member passes on brings a warm heart. Sometimes just an encouraging
word to a wounded brother will be a blessing to both parties. The
good deed does not have to be known by all or appreciated by the multitude.
The Christian life is moment-by-
3. Good Deeds Bring the Strangest Overwhelming. Somehow, God uses small and insignificant deeds and multiplies them and makes them great. In a small Alabama town during the 1960's, black people were having a march for equality. Many white people opposed the march and showed up to jeer them as they passed. Police feared a riot and watched nervously along with the news media with their cameras. As the marchers past, onlookers saw a little black girl of about six carrying a rag doll as she marched with her parents. She heard and saw all the taunts but did not completely understand what was going on. As she walked, she saw a little white girl of about the same age standing on the side with her parents. She seemed just as voiceless as the black girl. But suddenly a beautiful thing happened. The little black girl, sensing the bad spirit in the white onlookers, gave her rag doll to the little white girl as she passed.
In the grand scheme of things, it meant nothing. It did not change the political climate of the day. But that one little insignificant incident caught on camera melted the hearts of many a news watcher that evening. God uses little things and sometimes magnifies them into great things. General William Booth of the Salvation Army telegraphed his convention speech from his sickbed. His speech consisted of one word, "Others." Just one little word. But God used it to say a lot.
II. THE EXTRA "....cold..."
It is noteworthy that Jesus made mention that the water was cold. Water at any temperature will satisfy thirst. But the gift of cold water is a gift with a little extra attached. It is the "extra" that touches the heart. A missionary to a south pacific island told a story which illustrates this point. After he had ministered for one year, the natives held a celebration in his honor. He was presented with many gifts, but the natives were poor and the gifts were all seemingly small. Still, the missionary appreciated the gesture. One gift particularly intrigued him. It was a vase of flowers; but these flowers were unusual. He had never seen any like them. He asked one of his parishioners where he could find more like them. The parishioner responded, "The only place you can find them in the world is on the other side of the island." The 'back side' of their island was almost uninhabited and very difficult to travel. Later the missionary asked the giver of the flowers, "Why did you go to so much trouble getting me the flowers? You must have walked for miles just to find them." The native responded, "The walk was part of the gift." Even in his poverty, he found a way to give a little "extra."
1. Little Kindnesses Bring Grace to the Needy. People have needs. We may be able to meet them. It is an opportunity to let others see the grace of God working. 1 John 3:17 says, But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? The man who fell among thieves in Luke 10 had need of help. All passed him by until the good Samaritan stopped and "took care of him." James says, If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? (James 2:15-16) God is practical and His people should be also. Let us look for needs to meet. Let us do the little "extra."
2. Little Kindnesses Bring Growth to the Christian. Our labor for God, however small, has an effect upon us as well as the ones we help. Paul spoke of the house of Stephanas as having addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.. and he then admonishes the Corinthians ...that ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth. (1 Cor. 16:15) It is a wonderful feeling to know that God is using you to meet the needs of others. We grow as we help others.
3. Little Kindnesses Bring Glory to God. There are no others on earth quite like God's people! This is not bragging on ourselves, but what God has done for us. We do not do service to bring glory to ourselves, but to God. God's kind of service is unnatural and otherworldly. This is the kind of service He was speaking of when He said, And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. (Mat. 5:41)
III. THE EARNESTNESS "...in the name of a disciple..."
What is the motivation of our service? We see in the text that the cup of cold water is given only in the name of a disciple... In a parallel passage (Mark 9:41) Jesus says, In my name, because you belong to Christ. Our motivation is most certainly to bring glory to God and fulfill His plan for our lives. We help others because we are His children and His servants.
1. Our Care is Because of Christ. Those we help must know that our assistance only comes because God has changed our hearts and sent us to them. It is He that cares for their souls, and we are mere extensions of that care. 1 Peter 5:7 says ...he careth for you. This is the same greek word that is translated "taking thought" or worrying. Christ cares for us a a mother cares for a little child. And our care for others is "Christ in us."
2. Our Comforting is in the Place of Christ. Three different times in the Gospels did Jesus say "Be of good comfort." Every sick person He met was healed; every repentant sinner He met was cleansed; every funeral He passed the dead was raised. Those miracles were part of a different dispensation, but His comfort can still be found in His obedient people. 2 Corinthians 1:4 tells us the He..comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble.." The same comfort that blesses us is passed on to others.
3. Our Credit is Forwarded to Christ. Jesus warns us about doing good works to be seen of men in Matthew 6:2. "They have their reward," Jesus says. We are extensions of Him and His ministry, He is to receive the glory from all He leads us to do. The obedient servant of Christ is not looking to receive the praise of men, but rather the praise of God.
IV. THE ENCOURAGEMENT"...his reward."
Someone wisely said, "You can't out-give God!" The child of God who is involved in these small services can rest assured that God has recorded every deed done in His name! What an encouragement it is to know that God will reward our works, no matter how slight they may seem to us now.
1. His Purpose in Rewarding. The laborer is worthy of his hire. Though as the children of God, we do not labor as mere employees of God. Our labor is a family labor; it is the work of sons for their Father. Even so, God will never allow labor in His vineyard to go unrewarded. He will give back, in even greater measure, all that we have sacrificed for Him. It is His nature; it is His sovereign way. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that God "...is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him..." His reward is based on faith and our work is accomplished by that same faith. There is no shortage of fairness when it comes to His rewards.
2. His Power in Rewarding. There is no force that can stop Christ's rewarding of His people. In this life, we may work hard and never be acknowledged for our labor. Some have labored only to have an unscrupulous person steal the credit. We can be sure that every deed, no matter how trivial, will be rewarded by our Divine Record Keeper. There will be no shortage of crowns in Heaven.
3. His Perfection in Rewarding. I Corinthians 3 reveals God's plan for rewarding His people. If we study verses 5-15, we begin to see our God's divine perfection in His dealings. There will be no bookkeeping errors in heaven! ...If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward... Notice the word "lose" at the end of the verse. It means to abolish, destroy, to render useless. Our rewards are safe in the vault of Heaven.
V. THE ETERNITY "...in no wise..."
Lastly, we see the eternity of our rewards. In the phrase, "in no wise" we can see the eternal sovereignty of God. It means certainly not; not at all, or by no means. Rewards won in this life are eternal. They will not rot or rust away. They do not have a time limit, like a borrowed library book, which must be returned on a certain day.
1. It Will Be Permanent. Our rewards are permanent because they are build on the foundation of Jesus Christ. (I Cor. 3:11) Our works are tested by fire, and all that make it through the fire are accepted by God. Think of the seriousness of our earthly labors. In this life, we are affecting our eternal life. Whatever rewards we gain for our Christian service will be permanent! Should we not be busy about the Lord's business? There is no deed too small when we see our rewards in this light.
2. It Will Be Precious. There are many that say, "Just as long as I make it to Heaven, I don't care about the rewards!" Those statements are made in ignorance! How many times have we watched others win awards and recognition and wished it was us? I can remember the science fair in my sixth grade school year. I spent about 2-3 hours on a hastily done project just to insure that I did not get a zero. At the time, I did not care who won first prize. I know my project wouldn't win; it did not deserve to win. I was just glad to be finished so I could go outside to play. But on the day the awards were handed out, I felt sad and despondent. I saw how some of my friends felt when they placed in the top five; I saw how the overall winner reacted when he won. I examined the winning projects and realized that, I too, could have created such exhibits. It was not above my ability at all. The personal depression was because of opportunity wasted, because I had not done my best. Those who say it does not matter about rewards will feel entirely different on Awards Day. No one likes to lose, especially when they know they did not do their best.
3. Will It Be Plentious? (for you personally) (I Cor. 3:13) Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. Personal tests are sometimes hard to complete. Its not easy to have your work scrutinized by others, to be examined and tested. We have seen how perfectly fair and purposeful God is in rewarding His people. We have seen how easy it is to receive a reward in God's economy. There is no excuse for us to stand before our God empty-handed because of our laziness and slothfulness. God will reward even the smallest deed, even the cup of cold water given in His name.
Let us resolve to labor for our Lord, not selfishly with wrong motives; but with the joy and passion of the Spirit-filled saint fulfilling His purpose in our lives. He wants to use us in His service; He gives us ample opportunity for rewards. Let us give that cup of cold water when the occasion arises.
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