Randy shared this quote on his Facebook page: “We are to be rewarded, not only for work done, but for burdens borne, and I am not sure but that the brightest rewards will be for those who have borne burdens without murmuring. On that day he will take the lily, that has been growing so long among thorns, and lift it up to be the glory and wonder of all the universe; and the fragrance of that lily will draw forth ineffable praises from all the hosts of heaven.” —Andrew Bonar
I’m interested in this concept of rewards related to burdens borne. Obviously Heaven itself is the greatest reward, but is there any Biblical reference to this concept?
Excellent question. This is a question that’s personal to me, because my mom went through several years of what I would call very heavy burdens with ill health. She continued to trust Jesus, and I believe God has rewarded her greatly for that.
There’s no one more credible to comment on this than Joni Eareckson Tada. She writes,
I love to quote 2 Corinthians chapter 4 where it says, “… our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So … fix [your] eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is [only] temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” My response to my wheelchair is gaining me an eternal reward that far outweighs the inconvenience of my paralysis. And that’s true for you, too, in your trial.
The key word that Joni says there is “response.” It’s not so much the burdens themselves that automatically lead to reward. It’s our heart response to them that matters: the character-byproducts produced and the heart of faith that trusts Jesus even when things don’t make sense from our perspective.
When you read through Revelation 2-3, you see several places where Jesus promises to reward His followers for their trust in Him and faithfulness. Paul writes, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
Randy writes this in his book If God Is Good:
Like James (in 1:2–3), Paul said, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance” (Romans 5:3). Paul and James both claim we should rejoice in suffering because of what it produces: perseverance.
Adversity itself doesn’t cause our joy. Rather, our joy comes in the expectation of adversity’s by-product, the development of godly character. God doesn’t ask us to cheer because we lose our job, or a loved one contracts cancer, or a child has an incurable birth defect. He tells us to rejoice because he will produce in us something money can’t buy and ease will never produce—the precious quality of Christ-exalting perseverance.
Persevering is holding steady to a belief or course of action. It’s steadfastness in completing a commitment. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples” (John 8:31). At the end of his life, Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:7–8).
God gives each of us a race to run. To finish well we must develop perseverance. The Christian life is not a hundred-meter dash, but a marathon. Those who lack patience, endurance, and discipline will drop out of the race. We rejoice in suffering in the same way that Olympic athletes rejoice in their workouts—not because we find them easy, but because we know they will one day produce great reward.
Randy also writes this:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24). Paul commands us to “endure hardship” and then gives the examples of soldiers, athletes, and farmers, each of whom has a goal in mind as he endures—victory, a crown, and a harvest (see 2 Timothy 2:3–7).
Jesus told suffering believers to “rejoice... and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven” (Luke 6:23). Greater suffering for Christ will bring us greater eternal rewards.
Stephanie Anderson is the communications and graphics specialist at Eternal Perspective Ministries.