How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.
15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. 16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. 17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. – Philippians 4:10-17
“Rich rewards he offers free…” Those words are from the hymn, Hark! the voice of Jesus Calling, a powerful and memory-evoking hymn. It was the unofficial hymn of the seminary I attended. When 300 men sing that hymn, it leaves a lasting impression!
In those days, it was “rich rewards he offers thee” (TLH-496). But I never gave the idea of rewards that much thought. I was swept up more by the idea that we were answering God’s call and saying, “here am I, send me send me!” I wonder, in fact, whether the change from “thee” to “free” wasn’t motivated by a desire not to claim or appear to be motivated by reward rather than by God’s love.
God’s grace in Jesus has a way in impacting hearts deeply. His grace makes it possible to face our failures and sins. His grace makes it possible for us to say, “Send me! Send me!” We are motivated by the grace and love of God: “The love of Christ controls us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). But there is the matter of reward. Paul speaks of it here.
It’s just not to be considered as a transaction: I do a good work, or I support a missionary, and I get a reward. God is not in the quid pro quo business. If he were, we’d be sunk. Everyone of us. But by his grace, God does offer rewards to his people. Jesus, himself taught this. In the Sermon on the Mount he says, “Great is your reward in heaven…”to those who are persecuted for his name’s sake (Matthew 5:12).
Somehow that reward – according to Paul’s words here – comes not only to the one who suffered loss for Jesus’ sake, but those who joined in support of his work are to receive a reward. Max Lucado’s book, The Applause of Heaven, makes this point as well. It’s stunning to think that God would reward sinners such as me. Perhaps some of the tears he will wipe from our eyes will be tears of joy and deep humility in the face of such unmerited rewards.