III The reward of godliness
It has been well said that “virtue is its own reward.” This is certainly true of godliness, as we shall see. The reward of godliness is twofold, for we read: “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” Thus it is profitable for the present, and also for the future. Let us think of this double reward.
(1) The Present Enjoyment Of The Life That Now Is.
(a) Godliness of life leads to a closer intimacy with the Lord Jesus, and a greater realization and appreciation of conscious communion with Him. David discovered this, and declared: “But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for Himself” (Ps. 4:3). Again he said: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant” (Ps. 25:14). The price for this more intimate fellowship with the Lord is high, but it is an investment with great profit; for the high cost of living for Christ is only exceeded by the higher cost of not living for Him! Paul could testify: “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but dung that I might win Christ” (Phil. 3:8).
There is no substitute for heart devotion to the Lord Jesus, nor can anything compensate the believer for the loss of this conscious communion with his Lord and Saviour. The experience of those two disciples on the Emmaus highway may well illustrate what takes place when Jesus Himself draws near and walks with His own. It is no wonder, after this season of communion, that they testified: “Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:13-32). No wonder the poet expressed himself in the following lines:
“I must have the Saviour with me,
For I dare not walk alone;
I must feel His presence near me,
And His arm around me thrown.”
(b) Godliness of life leads to an abounding joy in the Lord, for we are told: “In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11). The Lord wants a rejoicing people, and in that wonderful “abiding” chapter of John 15 the Lord said to His disciples: “These things have I spoken unto you that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (Jn. 15:11). It was for “the joy that was set before Him” that our Lord “endured the cross and despised the shame” (Heb. 12:2). That joy was the perfect accomplishment of His Father’s will. This joy is the present portion of all who seek to adjust their lives to His will. Such will prove the truth of that Scripture which affirms: “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).
Though it is still true that: “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution;” it is equally true that all that will live godly shall also experience that abounding joy of the Lord which is more than adequate compensation for the suffering endured. It is recorded of the early disciples that after they had been beaten for preaching Christ, they departed … “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:40-41). A joyful Christian is one of the best recommendations for Christianity, and many a worldling, sickened by the emptiness of this world’s fleeting pleasures, pomp, popularity and policy, has been led to seek the salvation of God because of its evidence in the joyous life of those who “live godly in Christ Jesus.”
(c) Contentment of heart
We are told that “godliness, with contentment, is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). Here godliness could be likened to the capital, out of which the interest of contentment may be drawn as often and as much as we wish. The person whose life is characterized by godliness will not be much interested in the foolish pursuit of “keeping up with the Jones’.” He will heed the injunction: “Let your life be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said: ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee’” (Heb. 13:5). He will be content with such things as he has, in the shape of “all spiritual blessings” which are his in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3).
He will not be “envious at the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps. 73:3-17); for he knows that he possesses God’s exceeding great and precious promises which have constituted him a spiritual billionaire. “Therefore having food and raiment,” he will “be therewith content” (1 Tim. 6-8). As he seeks to be over-anxious for nothing, prayerful in everything and thankful for anything, he will know what it means to have “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,” set up a garrison in his heart and mind through Jesus Christ (Phil. 4:6-7). Surely all will be prepared to admit that such godliness, with its consequent contentment, is a most profitable acquisition!
(d) Usefulness and fruitfulness in His service.
Like the blessed man of Psalm 1, the one whose delight is in the law of the Lord, he shall be “like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season: his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” He will experience the truth of his Saviour’s words when He said: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).
This godliness of life, which stems from a vital union with Christ and constant communion with the Lord, results in the believer being both usable by the Lord and fruitful for the Lord. Surely such a life can truly be described as being “profitable unto all things.” God’s desire for His redeemed people is that they “might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10). This well sums up what is implied by godliness of life. Would that we all knew more of it!
(2) The future profit in the life that is to come.
This present comparatively short life is but a training ground or school, which prepares us for the “ages to come” in the which God is to “shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). At the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, those who have died in Christ are to be raised and given glorified bodies. Their spirits, which are already with Christ, He will bring with Him, to be reunited to their glorified bodies. Those Christians who are alive at His coming shall then be raptured and, in their now glorified bodies, shall be caught up to be for all eternity with the One who loved them and gave Himself for them (1 Thess. 4:13-18). This is the great hope of the Christian.
The profitableness of godliness, as seen in a life lived for Christ, in a world that crucified Him, will then be realized in full measure. We are told that “When He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). The flesh will be left behind forever, no more to mar our communion with Him. In our glorified bodies, we shall stand before His judgment seat, and He will then correctly evaluate the quality of our devotion to Him, and our service for Him which we have rendered on earth, and reward us accordingly. There will be no regrets then that we lived godly and Christ-honoring lives for Him. The only regret will be that we were not more devoted to Him. (See Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10).
In that coming day, every Christian will agree with Paul that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). His: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant … enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!” will prove more than ample compensation for all we endured while seeking to live “godly in Christ Jesus” (Matt. 25:21). Yes, the day of examination, compensation and glorification is ahead!
May it be ours, to so adjust our lives, in the light of His coming, that we shall merit the commendation and the crown He will give to those who have acted on the proposition that “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come!”
“Let all that look for hasten
That corning joyful day,
By earnest consecration,
To walk the narrow way;
By gathering in the lost ones
For whom our Lord did die,
For the crowning day that’s coming
By and by!”
O the crowning day is coming!
Is coming by and by
When our Lord shall come in power
And glory from on high!
O the glorious sight will gladden
Each waiting, watchful eye,
In the crowning day that’s coming
By and by.