If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
— 1 Corinthians 3:14
It is a fact that one day we will all stand before Jesus. On that day, each of us will give account for what we did with our lives. We’ll answer to Him for what we did, what we didn’t do, and what we should have done with our lives. On that day, there will be no hiding or twisting of facts. Hebrews 4:13 (NIV) says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Make no mistake — Jesus sees it all! One day He will deal with us, and we will give an account. So if we’re smart, we will ask and discover the answer to the question: On what basis will you and I be
rewarded when we get to Heaven?
Today I want us to look at a very important verse in which the apostle Paul answered that question for us. In First Corinthians 3:14, Paul wrote, “If any man’s work abides which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.”
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Notice that Paul said, “If any man’s work abide….” What does the word “abide” mean? It comes from the Greek word meno, which means to stay, to remain, to continue, or to permanently abide. It gives the idea of something that lasts, remains, persists, or endures. It speaks of something that has lasting power. Implied in this word “abide” is the idea that tests will come in life that will try our works.
It is just a fact that tests come in life. Many wrongly assume that God is the source of all such tests, but I assure you that life by itself will send many tests your way. Your relationships, your job, your finances — all of these will be tested along the path of life, and God’s participation is not needed to make these tests happen. They are just part of the package of life. But in addition to this, the devil will try to test your works. If he can find a way to do it, the enemy will pry his way into as many of your affairs as possible. He would love to set fire to your relationships, your job, your finances, or anything else that you hold dear.
So be assured that between life and the devil, you will encounter fiery tests in the course of your life. I’m not prophesying bad news to you; rather, I’m endeavoring to equip you to build your life right so you can withstand every test, regardless of its source. If you have built your works right, you and your works will pass the test. But if you have built works made of wood, hay, or stubble (see 1 Corinthians 3:12), one of these tests will ignite them like a match set to hay!
The good news is that even if your works fail and are consumed before your eyes, underneath you is a foundation that is immovable! In First Corinthians 3:11, Paul said, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Jesus is your Foundation! As we saw in yesterday’s Sparkling Gem, the word “foundation” in this verse is from the Greek word themelios. It is a compound of the words lithos, the Greek word for stone, and the word tithemi, which means to lay something down, like the laying of a foundation. This describes a foundation set in stone and thus a foundation that is strong, stable, and enduring. Even if everything else burns, your foundation will remain intact!
But who wants to lose everything in the end? There will be no special rewards for works that burn! In fact, Paul says we will only be rewarded for works that “abide.” If only works that survive will merit a reward, we must be very careful in the way we build our works.
So let me ask you: How are you building your life, your relationships, your children, your job, your ministry, and so on? Paul says, “If any man’s work abides which he hath built thereupon….” The words “built thereupon” are from the Greek word epoikodomeo, which is a compound of the words epi and oikodomeo. The word epi means upon, and the word oikodomeo is a word borrowed from the world of construction. It means to build or to construct. When these two words are compounded as in this verse, the new word means to build on top of something.
The apostle Paul was alerting us to the fact that once the foundation of Jesus Christ is laid in our lives, it is our responsibility to build on top of that foundation. This foundation cannot be improved upon, but what is built on top of it depends on us. We can build marvelous structures that endure the test of time, or we can build shacks that crumble and eventually go up in a puff of smoke. What is built on top of the foundation depends on us.
When the fires of life come — and they will come — those fires will reveal the quality of what we have built. Works that were built wrong will burn, and works that were built right will endure. And Paul assured us that we will be rewarded only for the works that abide. Man measures man’s success by activity and earthly achievement, but God measures success by how well we built our works and by the longevity of our works. As impressive as works may be at the moment, if they don’t pass the test of time, they will not merit a reward. That is why the Bible declares, “If any man’s work abides which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.”
The words “shall receive” point to a future moment when each of us will stand before Jesus. At that moment, the books will be opened, and Jesus will carefully examine our lives. He will look to see if our works survived or if they failed in the fires of life. By looking at His ledger, He will know if we built our lives thoughtfully in a manner that brought honor to His name or if we built shacks on top of the glorious foundation He established under us through the riches of our spiritual inheritance in Him.
If our works were built right and endured the tests of life, Paul says we will receive a “reward.” The word “reward” is the Greek word misthos, an old Greek word that denotes pay, salary, or reward. In other words, Jesus will make sure you are well-compensated and rewarded for all of your works that were built right! When you stand before Him and He sees that your life and works survived every test, you will receive full remuneration for every sacrifice you made. Because you built your life and works correctly, you’ll get a bonus that will last for all of eternity!
This verse could be taken to mean:
“Every person is set on a rock-solid foundation, but what he builds on top of it is his responsibility. If he has constructed his life and works so well that they remain after all the fires of life have come and gone, this is what will merit him a reward in the future.”
What a shocking insight this is! It means that as important as we think our activities are, God’s measuring stick by which He determines rewards is not determined by how busy or active we are in life. His measuring stick is how well we accomplished our activities according to His instruction and whether or not our actions were built to survive the fires of life. Why would God reward us for anything we built that ultimately went up in a puff of smoke because of our shoddy workmanship or because our building materials were mixed with wrong motives and “good ideas” that were not “God’s ideas”? He is looking for obedience, excellence, permanence, and durability. These are the qualities that give Him glory.
Take a moment to look at your life today. What can you ascertain about your future reward based on the character of your actions? Have you built your life and works in a way that gives glory to Jesus? Jesus Christ is your glorious Foundation, but what have you built on top of that foundation? Have you constructed something marvelous that honors Him and gives Him glory, or have you built your life and works so fast and cheap that they can’t endure the many tests of life?
Since we will be rewarded only for what “abides,” we must ask the Holy Spirit to help us take an honest look at our lives to see what has been built right and what has been built wrong. It’s never too late to start doing it right. If you’ve built your life and works on such a solid foundation that it can pass any test, then rejoice! But if you know that your works aren’t built to survive, now is the time for you to let the Spirit of God help you start all over again!
If your works have already burned, this is very regretful. But the good news is your foundation is still in place. The foundation of Jesus Christ in your life is immovable! Because you still have Him as your Foundation in your life, with God’s help you can start building your life and works again. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you, and He’ll show you how to build better this time!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I thank You for speaking to me today through what I just read. Now I understand that You are looking for excellence, permanence, and durability in my life. Forgive me for thinking that You would reward me only for being active and busy. Now I understand that You want quality from my life, not just quantity. You are looking for more than a lot of works – You are looking for works that remain! From this moment onward, I ask You to help me constantly take an honest appraisal of what I am doing and what I am building to make sure that I am investing myself wisely into works that will endure the tests of life. I want You to be pleased the day I look into Your eyes, so I am asking You to help me carefully measure my works and to make sure that I am living and building my life in a way that will merit a reward.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that the Holy Spirit is helping me to build my life and works so strong that they will resist any test that comes in life. I am living by the Word of God, listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and obeying God’s commands. As I walk in obedience to the Word of God and build my life on this solid foundation, I can rest assured that what I am building will pass the test of time. I am committed to living a life of excellence, to building my life for permanence, and to bringing glory to the name of Jesus Christ in all that I do.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- As you look at your life, can you see areas of your life that because you built too quickly and too cheaply, they therefore didn’t last very long? What were those areas, and what did you learn from these experiences?
- As you look forward to the rest of your life, how are you constructing your life and works right now? What steps and actions are you taking now that are different from what you did in the past to assure that your works will abide?
- If you saw someone else building their works in a way that wouldn’t resist a fiery test, what would you tell them to do differently in order to prevent a painful loss? Can you think of such a person that you know right now? Pray that you or someone else will have an opportunity to speak the truth to them in order to help them avoid a catastrophe later in life.