Throughout Jesus’ time on earth, he promised that his people will, without question, experience much pain, turmoil, and persecution on this earth. What is often overlooked is that he also promised that the prize for enduring these things for the sake of Christ will be far greater than the pain. Mark 10:28-30 explains:
Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
Jesus is so clear. He doesn’t deny that to follow him we will have to leave many of the good things in life behind. This isn’t easy, it will be hard, but we are called nonetheless to take up our cross and follow Jesus. But in the very next verse he also makes clear that whatever pain we must endure, the prize will be immensely greater. Jesus strains to be as clear as possible by explaining that this prize will be mixed with persecution, but that does not change the fact that the greater prize remains.
Why does Jesus talk about the rewards of following him? Doesn’t it seem to cheapen our efforts if we are motivated by the reward we will get for serving Christ? Jesus has no shame in motivating his people to follow him by telling them about the great prize they will receive because:
1. He is that prize, so when we endure pain to have a richer relationship with Christ it shows the great worth of Jesus.
2. He knows that for people to pass up earthly pleasure they must know they will receive a greater form of pleasure in return.
Notice in John 16:20-22 that Jesus states that our time on earth is like a woman giving birth. It’s incredibly painful (so I hear) to deliver a child. So why do women who give birth typically decide to give birth again to more than one child? Because they know the joy of bringing life into this world is greater than the pain they experience to do it. If there was not such a massive payoff there would be zero women choosing to be pregnant. Likewise, if there was not such a massive payoff to being a Christ follower on a planet that opposes Christ, then there would be no Christians.
Jesus makes clear that our massive payoff for enduring earthly pain is himself. Jesus states in John 16:22, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” When grief comes for being a Christ follower, the reward will be that we will see Jesus in and after our pain; and when Jesus becomes our joy, our joy will never be taken away because no one can take Jesus away from us.
To get through the pain we all will experience on this planet, we must know there is a greater Prize than what we are giving up as Christians who forsake our former sinful lives. And since the ultimate prize God gives us is a relationship with himself through Jesus Christ, we are benefited and God is glorified.
So, like Paul, may we make it our aim to, “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).