Keyhole to the Stars
"Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven."
Jesus, in Luke 6:23
What if today really was the first day of the
rest of your life? Today you make your
trade-everything you have accomplished
and become for whatever God offers in
exchange. There you are, poised on the brink, lifetime
in hand, ready to step into eternity.
What a moment! And what an amazing exchange!
Your blink in the sun for God's endless day. Your
spoonful of water for His Amazon River.
You take your step. You put down your little handful
of time and pick up your forever life
But what if I told you that
the small choices you make
today-like how you interact
with your boss, or whom you
invite to dinner-could change
what happens next?
Would you be surprised?
In the little book you're
holding, you're going to discover
that Jesus revealed that our actions now will affect our
future forever. Astoundingly, millions who follow Jesus
seem to have missed what He said.
Could you be one?
I was. I grew up in a family that attended church
regularly, and I was taught the Bible from the time I was
young. Later I spent nine years pursuing theological
training. But the clear teachings of Jesus on this subject
remained lost to me, like overlooked treasures in my
own house. When I finally discovered them, many
things started to make sense for the first time.
Let's admit it: Any change in how we think about
our future, even if it could radically improve our
prospects, takes courage. We struggle to let go of comfortable
assumptions, even when they're preventing us
from seeing the whole truth. We're like toddlers peering
through a keyhole at the night sky, trying to hold on to
our tiny patch of stars.
But the keyhole is so small and the view is so great.
Jesus wants to open the door and show us more.
Prepare to Be Astonished
No one made more shocking statements about the
afterlife than Jesus of Nazareth. His teachings often left
His audiences amazed, dumbfounded, even outraged.
Take His first public appearance at the age of twelve:
"All who heard Him were astonished at His understanding
and answers" (Luke 2:47).
When Jesus formally began His ministry, His audience
was again "astonished" (Matthew 7:28). In His
teaching known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
"Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man's sake.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!"
You might know these verses well. I have to confess
that I read them dozens, if not scores, of times before
I really read them. Jesus' statement seems incredible,
doesn't it? I used to think He was saying something like,
"If you are persecuted on My behalf, you'll be so happy
that you'll jump for sheer delight."
But if you read on, it's clear that that's not what
Jesus meant. He continued:
"For indeed your reward is great in heaven."
In those eight words, Jesus reveals why you and I
can rejoice, even in the worst circumstances. Why?
Because there is a direct connection between something
you do for Him on earth and something "great" He will
do for you in heaven.
Notice that Jesus describes it as a reward for doing,
which would distinguish it, for example, from a gift
you receive for believing. Also, the reward is specifically
and personally yours if you behave in one way, but is
not yours if you behave in another (for example, if you
ran away under the pressure of persecution).
You see, Jesus isn't asking you and me to enjoy
misery on His behalf. Instead He's saying that the
consequences in heaven for certain actions on earth
will be so wonderful that simply knowing they're
coming-and knowing that they will be great-can
transform how we live now. Yes, and even create
spontaneous outbursts of joy!
This promise of reward in heaven isn't an isolated
example of Jesus' teachings on the subject:
• "He will reward each according to his works"
• "You will have treasure in heaven" (Matthew
• "You will be blessed . for you shall be repaid at
the resurrection" (Luke 14:14).
As you're about to discover, the implications of these
passages are enormous. For one thing, they suggest that
God is keeping track of what you do for Him every day.
For another, that you have more to gain by serving Him
than you ever imagined.
Tracking Down the Promise
Let me tell you how I came to write this book. In 1985
when I first stumbled upon Jesus' teachings on reward
in heaven, I was startled. What He was saying seemed
to contradict much of what I had always been taught
So I began an intensive search for the truth, starting
with every Bible verse on the subject of eternal
rewards. I studied theological and scholarly works. I
spent hours thinking about what Jesus seemed to be
saying with such urgency. And I became convinced that
spiritual seekers around the world, including millions
of Jesus' followers, had mislaid a truth of great importance
and promise-and it was time to get it back.
Five years of in-depth study and twelve thick
binders later, my findings lined the shelves of my study.
One day I got a call from Dr. Earl Radmacher,
president of Western Seminary in Oregon, inviting me
to present my material in a weeklong graduate course
at the seminary. I agreed, but only after he promised to
assemble a panel of leading scholars, including some
who had also been studying rewards, to sit in and
evaluate every word.
On an April morning several months later, I walked
across the seminary campus, lugging my teaching materials.
I arrived at the lecture room, which was filled with
some of the brightest individuals I had ever met: department
chairpersons of the Greek and Hebrew languages,
church historians, Bible teachers,
seminarians, and pastors from a
range of denominations.
I taught every morning for
four hours. Each afternoon, a
special group of scholars met at
Dr. Radmacher's home and
debated every point.
One day a church historian
from Romania assured us that
what we were studying was not new theology; it had
been part of Christian beliefs and teaching from the first
century on. To make his point he asked us, "What do
the greats of church history such as Augustine, Luther,
Calvin, Wesley, and Spurgeon all have in common?"
When everyone hesitated, he told us his answer:
"They all earnestly believed in and hoped for eternal
Toward the end of the
week, I noticed a shift. The
roomful of scholars was spending
less time debating and more
time responding personally to
the material. One afternoon an
older participant pulled me
aside. "I thought God brought
me here to learn more about
eternal rewards," he said, "but I
was wrong. He brought me here
to change my heart-I'm leaving a changed professor!"
On the last day, I asked the group, "Are you
convinced that what I've been teaching about rewards
is consistent with what Jesus taught?"
"We're convinced," they replied. And I have never
The Two Keys
In the pages ahead, you'll encounter for yourself the
findings we explored that week at Western Seminary.
Whether you're familiar with Jesus' teachings about
eternal rewards or you're coming upon them for the
first time, I encourage you to read with great expectation.
Important spiritual breakthroughs await you.
Starting with statements Jesus made, we'll carefully
construct the biggest, truest view possible of your
entire life. We'll be using a lot of familiar words-
words like heaven, treasure, works, and faith. I urge you
to be patient as we look beneath these familiar labels
for hidden insights.
The teachings of Jesus show us that there are two
keys that determine everything about your eternity.
The first key is your belief. This key unlocks the
door to eternal life and determines where you will
The second key is your behavior. It unlocks the
door to reward and determines how you will spend
This second key is the focus of A Life God Rewards.
Although the role of behavior (we'll also use words like
actions or works) isn't more important to your future
than belief, it has been more overlooked in recent
times. And the promise of rediscovering the truths it
unlocks is enormous, especially for followers of Jesus.
In fact, by the time you're done reading, you'll
approach daily life in a dramatically different way.
Simple decisions, such as how you spend your time
and money, will become opportunities of great
promise. And you will begin to live with an unshakable
certainty that everything you do today matters
Rumors of Blue Whales
In the first book in this series, The Prayer of Jabez, we
learned that God wants us to ask for His blessing and
for greater influence, or "territory," in this world. The
next book, Secrets of the Vine, showed that Jesus wants
our territory to produce a great harvest of good works
In A Life God Rewards, I want
to show you how the harvest
you produce will directly impact
your experience in eternity-
and how that truth can change
your life today for the better.
I'll admit that on a subject
like eternity, we must proceed
thoughtfully and humbly. We're
like tadpoles swapping stories of blue whales. We're
like one twin in the womb trying to convince his
brother that it's only a matter of time before they're
both breathing air and riding tricycles.
Fortunately for all of us, God sent His Son from
heaven to help us see the whole truth. If you and I are
willing to be surprised, unsettled, even shocked by His
words, our prospects for living a life He rewards will
change for the better, starting now.