I really have a soft spot in my heart for sweet, caring, thoughtful little Charlie! His character was inspired by my sister, Christina. She is every bit as caring as Charlie and has a very similar personality; the biggest difference between them is that Christina has a lot more self-control than our dear Charlie, who always seems to have some sort of chocolate in his mouth! Christina loves to bake and cook, and she’s always making all sorts of deliciously scrumptious goodies which I SO enjoy. This Christmas, she made a warm, melt-in-your-mouth blueberry pie from scratch, which was eaten alongside her very own refreshing vanilla ice-cream! Mmmm…okay, okay, I know your mouth’s watering (as is mine) so I’ll stop!
One thing that really stood out to me in Chapter Two was Charlie’s prayer at the end of the chapter. If you’ve read the chapter, you already know what a roller-coaster of a ride our little chef had, and how he even received a scholarship from Monsieur Maximilien, a great chef in New York! At the end of the chapter, Charlie prays: “Even if I never become famous, help me to always remember that You notice me and see everything I do. Help me to always live for You, even if I don’t see immediate rewards here on earth. You are and always will be my reward. Knowing You is more than enough for me, for it’s in You I find everything I desire.”
There are times, when, in fulfilling the calling God has for our lives, we are blessed with benefits here on earth, just like Charlie was. Then, there are times when it seems all we do goes unnoticed and nothing good seems to come out of it. We grow weary and worn and don’t understand why God would call us to do something so taxing when it seems to reap no rewards.
I am just beginning to learn what it means to have Jesus as our reward. When we look at the work we’ve been called to do as an opportunity to experience Jesus’s everlasting love, faithfulness and goodness…well, that changes the whole ballgame; because you see, we’re never really ‘serving’ Jesus. He doesn’t need us to serve Him, because He is almighty God and has no real need. We are the ones with needs; we need Him. When Jesus calls us to do something, it’s so that through our obedience, we greater experience Him, our wonderful, beautiful, never-fading reward.
I read of this mind-boggling concept in John Piper’s The Dawning of Indestructible JOY: DAILY READINGS FOR ADVENT. In it, Piper explains that Mark 10:45 (“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve”) is “the heart of Christianity,” and “sets our faith off from all major religions.” He further beautifully displays the profoundness of this truth:
“When you become a Christian—a disciple of Jesus—you do not become His helper. He becomes your helper. You do not become His benefactor...Jesus does not need your help; He commands your obedience and offers His help.”
Even if we don’t see any good outcomes, our job is to simply obey Christ and rely on His strength and power to carry us through. God’s ways are higher than ours, and His plan is much greater. God desires our obedience so that we can experience Him as our reward. Partnering with Jesus in His work is a great privilege. But Christ is not dependent on us; we need not ever worry that our weaknesses are hindering the fruition of His plan.
I am reminded of Zechariah 4, when God speaks to Zerubbabel, the civic leader of Jerusalem, who was tasked with rebuilding the temple. (This takes place after the remnant of God’s people had returned to Jerusalem from the 70-year Babylonian exile). By the time God speaks to Zerubbabel, the work on the temple had stalled. The work of the temple lay in ruins for almost 20 years, and it is easy to imagine a discouraged, disheartened Zerubbabel, who doubted His calling because of the lack of good outcomes he saw.* God exhorts Zerubbabel by explaining how the rebuilding of the temple would come to pass: “…Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts (V6).” When we obey God, it does not matter if we seem to lack the cleverness, resources, or strengths needed. The fruition of God’s plan is the work of His Spirit. His Spirit can work anyway, anyhow…yet what a blessing it is to be the willing ones who surrender to God and have His Spirit at work in our lives! What a joy it is to be the vessels through which God’s Spirit can fulfill the work of Christ. What a privilege it is to partner with Jesus in His work, be fully dependent on Him, and experience Him as our reward.
The going may be tough, dear friend. But persevere in your obedience to Christ. Even if you do not see any good outcomes at present, remember that God sees you and everything you do. God’s Spirit will fulfill God’s perfect plan in His perfect time, and it is working through your surrender to Jesus in ways you cannot see. Your every act of obedience to Christ will not be wasted. Believe this. Be encouraged and take heart. Receive the strength and joy Christ gives. Experience Him as your reward.
*Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik