Against the Divine ‘Attaboy

Here’s the expectation: Christ suffered; don’t expect better. Here’s the expectation: Christ came to save His own and His own knew Him not; don’t expect better. I can say it but I don’t think we really believe it. We live in a place where we go to school to be guaranteed a job. We go to doctors to be guaranteed good health. We invest in our 401K to be ensured with a retirement fund.

All these things that we do with an expectation of a return; we do it just right, we get a cosmic ‘Attaboy.

Of course, as a Christian, we don’t expect that the fates or the cosmos are doing anything like that—we push that up to God. We preach the right message, God will give an ‘attaboy: people will get saved. We make the right choices, the ones by the soft still voice, then God will give an ‘attaboy and prosper us, maybe not physically but definitely spiritually.

By the way, if you’re not picking up my sarcasm, I think this is false.

Oh, someone might say: we know, we know; spiritual blessings will definitely come in the next world. But we really know that Christ’s blessings come today, in general, when we do the right thing. We can point out Christian heroes that this worked out exactly this way. George Mueller prayed the right way, rested on the Lord the right way and the Lord rewarded him by providing for him in just the right way. You see—God prospered him because he relied on God! God is no man’s debtor; judge nothing before its time but know that in general God will reward today!

Ah, but if blessings come for doing the right thing how about all those Saints (the majority) that haven’t been rewarded in the here and now for anything they did? Maybe the end of their good work was a bloody death?

When Paul said “judge nothing before its time” it was right after he had said that he doesn’t know the quality of his own work and won’t even judge himself: let the Lord judge (1 Cor 4). Oh sure, at the point where he’s arrived at what he thought was the end of his life he sits back and says that yeah, he ran the good race and fought the good fight—but what did he have to show for it? He wrote to Timothy asking for him to bring Mark and a coat because he’s been mistreated by some and abandoned by others (2 Tim 4). He did as much as he could but wasn’t looking for a reward in general now—he was standing confident before the Lord for the judgment later on because of what Christ has done; not anything he had done.

Or what about Peter. Sure he could lead his wife about (that’s good) as he preached here and there (that’s good too, right?) but eventually he’d come to a point in his life where it all looks like it’s over. Christians are lighting up the town; Paul imprisoned and beheaded on the side of a road; he, Peter, expecting to be crucified like His master. No reward in the now.

How about all the disciples with all their good acts forgotten by history although the Kingdom spread—by which names or whose sacrifices, we won’t know on this side of eternity. How about the thousands of believers who have died in some country where no one remembers them, much less the message they preached? How about the preachers, right now, doing a good work in undisclosed locations—do you think God is rewarding them all in general right now? Even the ones in the reddest parts of China or the darkest parts of the Sudan?

Yeah, this idea of God rewarding you right now, or even giving you a pat on the back right now, is false teaching. It’s only obvious when an obnoxious person like me highlights it and makes everyone uncomfortable by saying this stuff; making everyone wonder if what they’re doing is right or wrong.

Here’s the promise of God: Christ has conquered already, trust Him (not your actions) and you will be saved. Trust Him (not your actions) and He will continue to save others. Hold on to Him, grip to Him and act in emulation of Him. Stop looking for the divine ‘attaboy in your day to day, you’ve seen Christ take up His cross—you do the same: rely on the promises of God which are yes and amen only because Christ has been raised from the dead.

That’s huge people. God rescued Christ from the dead—that’s where the hope is. Not in God scratching me (or you) behind the ears with a paycheck or a pat. When it happens, don’t take it as the reward for you doing something; take it as the care by your heavenly Father who has more concern for people than he does for flowers and birds. But not an ‘attaboy.

And weep; its okay to weep. Weep when the problems arrive. Shiver when it is cold. Cry when the bills can’t be paid. Weeping, not as if it is the end, but as a person who is living on the edge of a future which we know is better. Shiver, not as if it is the end of the world, but as a person who is living on the edge of a future which we know is better. Allow these soul wrenching things to carry the weight of sorrow that they are due but give Christ’s victory the overwhelming weight that it is due. Join the choir of the saints: “How long, O’ Lord? How long?”( Revelation 6:10)

It’s so easy, to point out what’s a false teaching when the thing is on television. There’s the tele-evangelist, clapping his hands and saying that God is no man’s debtor; that God rewards those who respond to His will; that although we should “judge nothing before its time” we do know that God prospers a man according to what he gives. Give more to the Lord and He will give more to you. Yes, says the preacher, this is a message for the future but this is a message for today—a promise we can lay hold on, as the Word of God says “the promises of God are yes and amen in Christ”! Easy peasy; the guy looks like he’s teaching error. He’s sporting the shining ring. He’s flashing the UV brightened smile.

It’s harder to point out the false teaching when it’s sincerely and softly spoken from the pulpit or the pastor or the pal. Point it out we must. By doing so we unshackle the people: the people who are listening and noticing that their situation sucks, that all they have are tears, that their preaching seems unfruitful, that their loss is great—these people realize that the expectation for ‘attaboys is false but the expectation in God’s promises are sure because Christ reigns; the people who are preaching this stuff, so that they can stop and realize that they’ve stepped off of their only true foundation and instead are standing on their situations—and that is a very shaky place to stand.

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