One of life’s challenging principles states, “One’s reward is directly proportional to one’s effort.”
It implies that greater effort produces greater reward. Now, before I go any further, let me assure you I
know that is not always true. However, in most cases it is usually true.
Of course, this principle isn’t universal. It doesn’t apply to all areas of life. Buying a lottery
ticket (little effort) can lead to a million-dollar prize (great reward). But that’s a gamble — there’s no
guaranteed return on investment. Where the rule does apply there is a fairly certain return. Most of the time, steady, honest, hard work (great effort) will produce a successful career (great reward).
When applied to the Christian faith, both factors of this principle are true. And there is a
marvelous exception on one side of the rule. First, forgiveness and salvation (great rewards) are gifts
from God. One need only accept them (little effort). That’s the exception. But living a life of fellowship
with God through Jesus (great reward) that reflects what we claim to believe requires a knowledge of
God’s Word. That comes from reading and studying the Bible (great effort).
Peter was the leader of Jesus’s disciples and one of the builders of the early church. In his first
letter in the Bible, he writes, “Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into
salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
The “spiritual milk” he refers to is God’s Word. That Word is found in the Bible. Peter calls believers to long for it.
If you’ve ever watched a hungry baby consume a warm bottle of milk, you have witnessed an
example of how believers should approach the Word of God. Three things are true of a baby and warm milk: 1.There are no substitutes — nothing will satisfy in the same way; 2. The milk is consumed with great enthusiasm; and, 3. The baby is persistent — drinking until the bottle is empty or he or she falls asleep.
If we want to enjoy the rewards that accompany living the Christian lifestyle, we must approach
the Word of God in the same way.
First, there can be no substitutes. We must “hunger” for the Word of God the way a baby hungers
for warm milk. We must not be fooled into accepting any other word.
Second, we must seek the Word enthusiastically. An anonymous author has defined enthusiasm
as “The inspiration that makes us ‘wake up and live.’ It puts spring in our step — spring in our hearts— a twinkle in our eyes and gives us confidence in ourselves and in our fellow human beings.”
Finally, we must be persistent in our pursuit of that spiritual milk. Author Dallas Willard has
written about the kinds of activities involved in persistently seeking “spiritual milk.” His list includes:
study of the Bible, worship of God, talking and listening to God, fellowship with other believers,
confession of our sins, and humbling ourselves in submission to God.
A lottery ticket only provides a reward if you win. Living as the Bible teaches is its own reward.
Dan McEldowney is pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Corry.