How does a child thrive? They thrive with parents who are delighted with them. Can any of us imagine a little one taking its first steps without a mom or dad cheering them on? What about when your little one picks a dandelion and brings it to you? Do you say, “That’s an ugly weed.” Of course not, you praise them and reward them with a smile and a hug. You tell them it’s beautiful. You put it in a cup with some water and everytime you look at it, you remember the love of your child.
Even when talking to a tiny baby, our tone will either bring them happiness or make them cry. They feel encouragement and react. They feel negativity and react. Growing older does not change those things. We don’t outgrow the need for encouragement, kindness, and reward for a job well done.
We thrive in an environment like that.
God knows this. He also knows we live in a world that sometimes gives us those things, but oftentimes, it will give us the opposite. We may do everything right and still be treated horribly. Ask Jesus. Jesus was a perfect human (and God in the flesh) so when we see His life, we see everything a healthy human needs.
- He had a circle of friends (12 of them)
- He had three closer friends (Peter, James, and John)
- He had a profound relationship with His Heavenly Father
- He had a robust prayer life
- His deep satisfaction came from doing God’s will (John 4:32)
- God encouraged Him and let Him (and everyone else) know that He was delighted with Him
And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
When Jesus was driven into the desert by the Holy Spirit to fast and be tempted by the devil, at the end, God sent angels to minister to and encourage His beloved Son.
Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.
When Jesus was about to bear the horrible weight of our sin, He prayed until He sweated blood. He did not want to go to the cross and be separated from His Father. He was distraught, and overwhelmed.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.
I believe (even though it’s not stated) that Jesus needed encouragement. He took His three closest friends with Him into the garden and they fell asleep. God didn’t rescue Jesus from His assignment on earth, but He sent an angel to strengthen Him as He was striving to get His will in line with God’s will. It would appear that the angel gave Him the needed boost at the right time. Jesus was fully God but He was also fully man.
We need encouragement to thrive.
God designed a beautiful way to encourage us without making us ego-maniacs who need to be constantly propped up by people. People will praise us one minute and want to kill us the next. We can all go from hero to zero in the snap of a finger. I’ve experienced it and you probably have also.
Human praise feels good short term, but none of us can live by it.
As Jesus did the will of God and poured Himself out, God made sure to give Him encouragement from heaven. That kind of encouragement is real and no one can take it away. It is deep, powerful, and from another kingdom.
However, He was the Son of God and deserved all that encouragement and reward. What about me and you? Should we look for encouragement and reward from our Father in heaven?
I say absolutely, yes! Jesus has given us permission. He knows that when we have reward from another kingdom, this kingdom will hold no real power over us. We will be able to accept encouragement from others and enjoy it, but we won’t live or die by it.
He has given us beautiful ways to receive reward from Him and these ways will do something wonderful and healthy in us.
They will starve our egos and generously feed our souls. God is so smart.
Three ways He gave us are in Matthew, chapter 6.
- give to the needy in secret
- pray in secret
- fast in secret
Secret means hidden. Let no one see these things or know about these things. Jesus made a powerful promise if we would do them for for His eyes only. He knows how tempting it is to do all three of these for human praise. Human praise is a drug that we are all addicted to unless God’s praise trumps human praise deep inside. We cannot thrive without encouragement and reward. Since we see this in children before they are old enough to live in sin, it’s proof that we need it. It’s not bad or God wouldn’t promise reward to us.
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:3-4
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6
But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:17
God sees this raging need in every one of us. It is only wrong if we do it for human praise. When we deny ourselves and our egos and run to God and do things His way by faith, He promises to reward us HIMSELF.
God goes so far as to tell us what will happen if we are kind to horrible people who do horrible things to us and others.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Luke 6:35
God knows enemies enrage us and discourage us. Yet, He tells us to love them and do good to them without expecting anything back from them at all. He knows this is devastating to us. I love what He said next, “Then your reward will be great!”
God is saying to us that He knows He is asking far beyond what we are capable of in and of ourselves. He is asking us to believe in the fact that if we will look only to Him for encouragement and reward, He will give it to us in ways we could never dream.
What does He mean by reward?
I have no idea what it means personally to me or anyone else. The Greek definition for reward is “give back.” When we give Him our desire for human praise and reward and live life His way, He has promised to give back to us. He is such a good Father.
How do we experience His reward?
We have to do what He says by faith in secret. He truly wants our hearts all to Himself so we know what it is to live life for an audience of One. He wants to be our source so we can be encouraged to overflow in every area of our lives and see that His Kingdom is more real than this kingdom.
If we really want to know this reward, we need to take Jesus up on what He said.
He longs to prove Himself to us and give us joy in the secret place with Him.
Jesus said something profound after speaking with the woman at the well. The disciples went to buy food in town and Jesus stayed back and brought redemption to a broken soul. No one saw any of what happened except His Father. Jesus was a vessel of Living Water to a thirsty soul.
When the disciples returned they said, “Rabbi, eat something. ”But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about. Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
Jesus didn’t need His ego fed because God filled His soul to overflowing with His will. He was so deeply satisfied with food from heaven, and earthly food paled in comparison.
God wants to fill each of us the same way. Let’s not waste this short life staying busy and distracted until we die. Live intentionally the way Jesus has told us. He longs to reward His children and let us live in great joy while we are here…His way.
Take the time to let God pour through you by loving your enemies, praying, giving, and fasting. These things may not get the applause of earth, but heaven will take notice and reward us in ways that we could never dream.