Desiring to make it into God's Kingdom is an admirable goal — but it is not enough. There is a still higher goal than this!
What should the real Christian goal be? Most longtime readers of The Plain Truth will answer, "Why, my goal is to enter the Kingdom of God!" Isn't this what Christ said the Christian goal should be? He admonished, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things [material necessities] shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).
Content to Be a Doorkeeper?
But is this goal sufficient? Should zealous Christians have an even higher goal, within the overall goal of entering God's Kingdom? Should the Christian seek more than just entering the Kingdom of God — just making it into God's Kingdom? Or should a Christian be quite content to seek no higher goal in the Kingdom of God than merely to be a "doorkeeper"? Didn't King David say, "I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness"? (Ps. 84:10.) Did David mean that he was content to seek the lowest place or position in God's Kingdom? No, this is not what David said or meant! He merely showed it would be far more desirable to be a mere doorkeeper in the Kingdom of God than to have what some might think to be a more honored position in this world. God's Word clearly reveals that He is not pleased to see us seeking merely to enter His Kingdom. He wants to see us enter with flying colors! He hopes we will lawfully strive for more than just making it into His Kingdom! The apostle Peter made this point very clear. "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 1:10-11). The apostle Paul clearly showed that at the judgment God will reward every man " according to his deeds" (Rom. 2:5-6).
Seek for Glory?
But should a Christian seek more than eternal life? More than a place in God's Kingdom? Notice the apostle Paul's answer: "To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life" (Rom. 2:7). God Almighty promises He will give us much more than immortality — more than eternal life in His Kingdom! In addition to eternal life He will give us "glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and, also to the Gentile" (verse 10). Yes, God's Word clearly reveals that we should seek for more than eternal life. Some will make it into God's Kingdom, but will not receive a very great reward — because they have not diligently served God to the utmost of their ability! They, have not served Him with all their might — have not sought, lawfully, for a greater reward in God's Kingdom! God wants us to receive a full reward. "Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward" (II John 8). Yes, God Almighty will reward us according to the actual fruits which we have produced — according to our works! At the second coming of Jesus Christ every Christian is going to stand before Him to personally receive this reward. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (II Cor. 5:10).
Produce a Hundredfold
Jesus Christ, in the parable of the sower, revealed that some will produce no fruit whatsoever; others will bear only thirtyfold or sixtyfold. But some will produce one hundredfold. Should we be content merely to produce thirtyfold? Or sixtyfold? Or ninetyfold? Or should we strive to produce one hundredfold — thereby making God supremely happy? Remember, Christ revealed that it is God's will that we bear-not thirtyfold, or sixtyfold — but one hundredfold! "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples" (John 15:8). But how will Christ judge us? How will He determine whether we have borne much fruit? Whether we have borne thirtyfold, or sixtyfold or one hundredfold? It is vitally important that each Christian know how God Almighty, in the person of Jesus Christ, will judge him at Christ's second coming. Be absolutely certain of this: Christ's judgment will be completely honest, fair and true.
Talents According to Ability
God Almighty clearly reveals to us, especially through Christ's parables, how we will be judged. The parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) reveals part of the answer as to how Christ will judge us. This parable clearly shows that we are not all born equal! We are not all born with the same innate talents and abilities! "And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several [individual] ability" (verse 15). Certainly, some people are born with far greater talents and abilities — greater mental and/ or physical dexterity — than others. God expects each one, to make the most of whatever He has given him. This parable of the talents reveals that God expects each one of us to employ our talents in some gainful way so that we can gain other talents in addition to what we have been given by God at birth! Finally, the Lord reckons with the ones to whom He has given the talents (verse 19). The one who had been given five talents doubled his and now had ten. Christ said to him, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord" (verse 21). Likewise, the one who had received only two talents had doubled his, and in like manner the Lord said to him: "Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord" (verse 23).
"The parable of the talents shows that we are not born equal. At birth each person receives different talents."
Did you notice that Jesus Christ said "Well done" to each of these diligent servants? Each had doubled the talents given to him, and each was highly commended by the Lord for so doing. But the one who had received only one talent looked upon God as "an hard man" — thought He was dishonest — and didn't do anything with his talent (verses 24-25). Christ commanded, "And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness" (verse 30).
Reward According to Effort
The parable of the pounds (Luke 19:12-27) shows a different aspect of how God will judge His people. In this parable Christ called His ten servants and delivered unto each a pound. He told them, "Occupy till I come" (verse 13). This word "occupy" means to gainfully use or profitably employ by trading. Verse 15 reveals that when Jesus Christ returns, after having received the Kingdom, He will call His servants to an accounting to see "how much every man [has] gained by trading" (verse 15). The most diligent of the ten servants will come, saying, "Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities" (verses 16-17). Yes, this diligent servant was given a great deal of responsibility — because he had already proved he was able to wisely use the responsibility placed upon him. The second servant came to reckon with his Lord. He hadn't been quite so diligent. He said, "Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities" (verses 18-19). Notice that Christ doesn't call him "thou good servant"! But what will Christ think of the slothful servant — the one who looked upon God as "an austere man"? The one who thought God was unrighteous (verse 21)? Christ will severely rebuke this indolent servant, saying that he should have gainfully employed the pound which he had been given, so God could have received His original investment plus interest (usury). "Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds" (verse 24). The servants who were standing by thought this seemed unwise, if not unjust. They said, "Lord, he hath ten pounds" (verse 25). But Jesus will plainly reveal that those who have already proved they can exercise greater authority greater responsibility, greater rulership — are more deserving and capable. They are to be given added responsibility. This same lesson is also pointed out by Christ in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30). The one who had only one talent (and who didn't do anything with it) had his talent taken from him and given to the one who had ten talents. It is certainly right that God should do this! The one who had only proved capable of handling five talents (or five pounds) would surely find it more difficult to manage an additional talent (or pound) than would the most diligent servant — who had already proved he could manage ten talents (or ten pounds). This parable of the pounds reveals that, of those who have equal talents and abilities, God will give the greater reward to those who develop their talents and abilities to a greater extent. This parable was not intended to show that everybody is born with the same innate talent and ability. It merely points out that those of approximately equal ability will be judged according to what they do with their pound.
All-Important Time Factor
The parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16) plainly reveals that God Almighty will take another very important factor — the time element — into account when judging and rewarding His people. In this parable all Christians are likened unto laborers in a vineyard. The householder hired some' laborers "early in the morning." He agreed with them to pay each a penny a day. Later others were hired "at the third hour" (9:00 a.m.), and still others were hired at "the sixth" (12:00 noon) and "ninth" (3:00 p.m.) hours of the day. The householder promised to give "whatsoever is right" to those hired at the third, sixth and ninth hours. But some were still standing idle near the end of the day. They hadn't been hired — at all. So the householder went out late in the afternoon and hired them at "about the eleventh hour." But when the time came to settle up, the ones who had only worked an hour or so received a penny — a full day's wage! Those who had worked most or all of the day saw this. They were very happy. They thought, "We'll receive much more because we've worked all day." But when the householder came to settle up with them, he gave them just a penny — exactly what he had agreed to pay them. But those servants who had been hired earlier in the day murmured and complained "against the good-man of the house" (verse 11). They said, "These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?" (Verses 12-15.) Now, what vital lesson are we to learn from this parable? The day mentioned in this parable
"If we produce much fruit, then God will bless us correspondingly with a greater reward of service in His Kingdom."
represents the life span of each Christian. Some are called into God's Church (into His vineyard) early in life — early in the morning. Others are called at noon — in middle age. Some are not called until they approach the sunset of life — old age! When Jesus Christ literally returns to this earth to judge every Christian according to his works" He will take this important time factor into account. Any who were called into God's Church early in life will be expected by Christ to have accomplished more in God's service than those who were called later in life.
Let us see how this actually will work. God Almighty calls some to repentance in their teens. Such people have been blessed with the wonderful opportunity of knowing God's truth and applying it in their lives in their youth. Such individuals are better equipped to properly develop both their minds and their bodies. As a result, they will be able to accomplish more than they would had they never known God's precious truth. This gives such individuals a great advantage over other people who grow up in spiritual blindness — in utter darkness. These spiritually ignorant usually continue to indulge in many habits and do other things which tear them down — destroying their health, their minds and their personalities! Such people, when called later in life, will not have as alert minds or as active and healthy bodies as they could have had, had they known and practiced God's truth from their youth (see Eccl. 12:1-7).
God's Perfect Judgments
When we put together the parables of the pounds, the talents and the laborers in. the vineyard, we are then able to see exactly how God will judge us when giving us our reward. The parable of the talents shows that we are not born equal. At birth each person receives different talents and abilities from those of every other individual. Then, at conversion, God adds spiritual talents and gifts according to each man's natural abilities. The parable of the pounds shows that, of those who are of equal talents and abilities (as represented by pounds), some will use their God-given talents more diligently than others. As a result, they will receive greater responsibility in God's Kingdom. The one who multiplies his pound over ten times will be given authority over ten cities. The one who multiplies his pound over five times will be given authority over five cities. But, the parable of the laborers reveals that God will take other things into account — other than innate ability — when judging us. An important factor which He will consider will be the amount of time which we were given, after our conversion, to really apply these things. Those who are given more time will be held accountable for having overcome and grown more — and for having produced more in God's service. God's judgments are altogether just! The apostle Paul explained this very well: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (Rom. 11:33.) God Almighty has not only promised immortality or eternal life in His Kingdom, but He has also promised us glory and honor in the position of service, or responsibility, which He will grant us in His Kingdom — according to our diligence here and now! It is still true that the human eye has not seen, the human ear has not heard, nor has the human mind yet fully grasped the tremendous, transcendent, eternal blessings which God has prepared for us (I Cor. 2:9). We are just barely getting a dim glimpse of those blessings — through having our minds illuminated by God's Spirit (I Cor. 13:12). "In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16:11). Revelation 21 and 22 also further reveal the glory which the saints — then made immortal — will receive in God's everlasting Kingdom. Thus it is clear from God's Word that a Christian should desire more than eternal life. He should strive to so please his Creator that He may grant him, because of his diligent service, a place of honor in His Kingdom. This is what God Almighty desires. He wants us to bear much fruit. If we do produce much fruit, then He will bless us correspondingly with a greater reward of service in His Kingdom. Even Moses understood this! He chose "rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the — treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward" (Heb. 11:25-26). Yes, Moses was willing to suffer reproach, affliction, privation, and humiliation in order to receive "the recompence of the reward" in the Kingdom of God! He, and the other Old Testament patriarchs, "all died in faith," fully persuaded they would receive the fulfillment of the promise after their resurrection (Heb. 11:13, 39).
Never Aim for Mediocrity
God compares the Christian life to a race. Many may run in the race, but only one receives the top prize — though numerous lesser prizes may be given. Certainly no one worth his salt should ever seek to take second, third or fourth place — if he is able to do better. Likewise, God Almighty does not want us to be satisfied with second best — if we can do better. He does not want us to aim for mediocrity! Since we are going to be judged by God Almighty according to what we do in the flesh, we need to realize
"God compares the Christian life to a race. Many may run in the race, but only one receives the top prize."
that we should look to Him at all times — not to man. "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ" (Col. 3:23-24). If we can remember that all true blessings — both in this life and in the life to come — flow from Almighty God, then we will keep our eyes fastened on him (James 1:17). We will then seek to please Him, rather than trying to be men-pleasers. It isn't wrong for you to seek honor and favor in God's sight! Neither is it wrong to seek promotion from God — if you are really willing to work for it — if you are willing to pay the price! We must always keep in mind this basic truth: "For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another" (Ps. 75:6-7). Jesus Christ said, "How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?" (John 5:44.) But a word of caution is necessary! Though it is right and good to seek honor from God — right and good to seek promotion — yet we must always remember that we should seek it in the right way — and not for vanity's sake!
Seek for glory and honor from God, but don't become filled with vain ambition or with self-exaltation. Remember, it was the wrong type of ambition or self-exaltation that turned Lucifer into Satan (an adversary). Lucifer wanted to exalt himself. He was not content to merely remain in the high office in which God had put him. He wanted to be equal to God. "For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High" (Isa. 14:13-14). Yes, Lucifer wanted to be equal to God. He was not content to serve as an exalted archangel. One of David's own sons, Absalom, let the same wrong kind of ambition fill his heart. He sought to flatter the people of Israel so he could turn them away from his father David to himself. Eventually, he got the popular support of the people behind him, and he almost succeeded in overthrowing the kingdom of his father. David had to flee for his life and would have been defeated but for the grace of God. Finally, however, Absalom's insolence, his rebellion, his ambitious self-exaltation caught up with him (II Sam. 15-18). A dart thrust through his heart ended his wretched revolt against his own father (II Sam. 18:9, 14). Are Christians altogether free from this temptation of self-exaltation or wrong ambition? Are even mothers sometimes tempted with a wrong kind of ambition? The mother of James and John, two of Christ's disciples, was filled with this kind of vanity. "Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the ether en the left, in thy kingdom" (Matt. 20:20-21). Jesus Christ had to reveal to this woman and also to James and John that their selfish request was the way of self-exaltation. They were asking something which they never should have asked. His answer: "But to sit en my right hand, and en my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father" (verse 23). Yes, even Christ is not the One who places the various ones in the government of the Kingdom of God. This is the Father's direct responsibility.
The Greatest Serves Most
Christ went on to show that the Gentile rulers lord it ever their subjects (verse 25). Christ condemns such arrogant, high-handed methods of rulership (I Pet. 5:1-4). And then He added, "But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever shall be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant" (Mat. 20:26-27). Christ repeatedly warned men about exalting themselves. On one occasion He observed hew these bidden to a feast chose the chief terms. He rebuked them in no uncertain terms! They should, said Christ, always take the lowest place, unless they were asked to take a higher position. He then added, "For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:11).
Secure Your Crown
Yes, you should be careful that no man takes your crown (Rev. 3:11). Furthermore, we all need to make certain "that we receive a full reward" (II John 8). We should not be content with just making it into God's Kingdom. We should seek to live full, abundant, productive lives in God's service (to produce one hundredfold!) here and new so we can receive a greater position of responsibility and service in God's Kingdom. It is quite all right not only to seek for immortality, but also to seek for glory and honor. We must, however, always make sure we do not seek to exalt ourselves. Wrong ambition is a sin! We must always ensure that we do not seek honor from men — but seek "the honor that cometh from God only" (John 5:44). What is your goal? Are you content merely to make it into God's Kingdom? Or do you want to make it
"Seek for glory and honor from God, but don't become filled with vain ambition or with self-exaltation."
there with flying colors — and have Jesus Christ reassuringly say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant"? Certainly, these who have real understanding of God's Word will not be content just to make it into God's Kingdom. They will seek a position of honor and glory in God's service — they will have "respect unto the recompence of the reward" (Heb. 11:26). Christ solemnly premised, "Beheld, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Rev. 22:12). Let us keep this premise foremost in our minds and serve God to the very utmost of our abilities! If we de this, we will not receive thirtyfold, or sixtyfold — but one hundredfold — in the Kingdom of God!