Our biblical relatives, some of whom are listed in Hebrews 11, were approved by God because of their faith (vss. 2,5,16,39). The chapter clearly indicates their eternal reward (vss. 13-16, 26, 39-40). God is a rewarder. We draw near to Him because we believe that He is (real) and that He rewards us who diligently seek Him (vs. 6). Does this include earthly rewards as well?
The chapter lists some results of those who lived by faith. They “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength after being weak, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead raised to life again.” So far so good. But the list continues. “Some men were tortured, not accepting release,…and others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated…They wandered in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground” (vss. 33-38).
Such was the reward of walking by faith and thus pleasing God. Some had their loved ones brought back to life; some watched their loved ones tortured to death.
Living by faith can lead to totally opposite outcomes in this life. Faith does not guarantee earthly credentials, credits, or kudos. These “heroes of faith” believed God’s promises even though they never came to pass in their lifetimes (vs. 39). They concentrated on pleasing God, not on being “successful” or effective (vs. 5-6). They endured whatever came their way and remained faithful to the end because their eyes were set on the invisible, eternal reward of a “heavenly city” whose architect and builder is God (vs. 10).
Too often, I have expected temporal perks for living right, serving God, and enduring trials. I have measured my success (and that of others) by visible, countable results. Instead, I need to live for eternity and God’s approval there, not for earth and human affirmation here. God looks for my usefulness, not my effectiveness. And I can only be useful when I’m dependent on Him, abiding in His fellowship (John 15:5).
Even though God does bless and reward us in this life, I must not expect that or set my hopes on it. To do so will cause arrogance (over what I have) or anger (over what I don’t have.) My motive for pleasing God cannot be what I will get out of it. I live by faith, not to gain God’s favor, but because I have God’s favor. I endure to the end, not to get what I want, but to give God what He deserves.
Walking by faith means trusting God with the results as He and I labor together. I plant and/or water; He gives (or does not give) the increase (I Corinthians 3:7-9). I should concentrate on my responsibility, not His.
Someday, when faith becomes sight, I will bow before Him, utterly unworthy of His promised rewards.