QUALITY NOT QUANTITY
“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. “Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, “Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.” (I Cor. 3:9-13)
The above scripture is talking about the day all believers will stand before the Lord. When every follower of Jesus will account for his life and his deeds before all of heaven itself. Notice what it says very carefully, “…the fire itself will test thequality of each man’s work.” Not how much work, but rather what kind of work. Not the quantity but the quality. This scripture is speaking of your whole life’s work. In other words, your life’s work can be wood or hay or straw — or it can be silver, gold, or costly stones. And on that day, the fire will put it to the final test. What fire? The Bible tells that God is love, but it also tells us that He is a consuming fire as well. (Heb. 12:29)
Paul continues by saying, “If any man’s work which he had built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire. ” (I Cor. 3:14-15) This illustration would be extremely significant to the people of Corinth that Paul was speaking to, because not too long before this was written, their whole city was devastated by fire. They all knew firsthand what damage fire could do. When the fire swept through Corinth, every house that was built out of wood, hay, or straw, was devastated and left in ashes. But the more wealthy people there had houses built with beautiful pillars of granite, and some even had houses built totally out of marble. These houses made of costly stones were still standing after the fire swept through, though they were obviously very badly scorched.
YOUR LIFE INVESTMENT
Let’s visualize it another way. One man is given $10,000 and he invests it in wood – maybe some lovely mahogany. So this man’s entire life work is made out of wood. It’s very beautiful, but when the fire goes through it, what do you have? All you have is ashes, maybe up to your ankles, and that’s all there is left. The next man is given $10,000 and he invests it in hay. Another man given the same amount invests all of it in straw. Does that sound foolish? Well, people do it every day. Why? Because if you put $10,000 into hay or straw, it looks like you are getting a lot for your money. You could probably buy half the straw in Texas for $10,000, but, boy, you’re going to have a mess when the fire gets to it. Instead of ashes to your ankles, or ashes to your knees, it’ll be up to your nose maybe. But that’s what some lives are going to be like: wood, hay, stubble – then ashes.
Now let’s look at a few people who made much wiser investments. There’s a man over here who has $10,000, and he invests it in gold. (He won’t get much at $400 an ounce, will he?) The next man invests $10,000 in silver, and another man invests the same amount in costly stones. Each of the six men I’ve just spoken of had the same amount of money, but they all chose different things to invest it in. Now, we are talking about your life’s work. Do you get the picture? Our whole life, from the very moment we begin to witness for Christ, including all of our service and our labor for Him, is going to be tested by fire. We must be very careful to make wise investments, or in the end, all that will be left is ashes.
Will our life’s work stand the test of the fire when we come before the Lord? Will it have lasting eternal value – or will it end up in ashes? There’s an interesting difference between wood, hay, straw – and gold, silver, and costly stones. Wood, hay, and stubble are found above the ground. They catch the eye, just like many people’s ministries do. They are quite plentiful and easy to find. On the other hand, silver, gold, and precious stones are found below the ground. Nobody sees them – again, like many people’s ministries. They’re not just lying around in a field somewhere for anyone to pick up. They are much harder to come by; in fact, it takes a lot of hard work to get them. That’s why they are so expensive. They are of much higher quality than many other things, and much more rare too. Again, it’s the quality, not the quantity that sets their value. Many things are difficult in the Christian life, but we should desire to acquire those things which will hold their value, not only on earth, but in heaven as well.
MINISTRY AND MONEY
Every person’s life, including all of his ministry, is going to pass through the fire. There’s a lot of public ministry that’s going to go down in flames on that day, my brothers. The fire is going to take the big showy life of every man and burn it until only a bunch of ashes is left. I’m tired of seeing these fellows begging for money on television. I believe every dime that comes into any ministry will need to be answered for before the Judgment Seat of Christ one day. Jesus talked about these men who’d go and take widows’ houses. (Luke 20:4647) Well, that’s what many are doing now. And they’re not satisfied that you give while you’re living, they ask you to hand over your house and all the rest to them in your will. They’re going to give an account to God in that day, but I believe we’re also going to give an account.
A brother was telling me this week that when he got baptized and went down into the water, he suddenly realized that he had his wallet in his pocket. Not many wallets get baptized! We kind of say, “Lord, You look after my sins. I’ll look after the rest.” You’ll give an account to God for every penny you’ve earned since you became the property of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t just take your sins – He takes all of you.
Oh yes, many may want to get filled with the Holy Ghost and get a bank balance, but how many of you are big enough to say, “Lord, in this crucial hour in human history, let me fill up with the sufferings of Christ”? Can He share His sorrow with you? Are you prepared to challenge demon power and say, “Listen, I’ve moved into the place where the Apostle Paul was when he said, I glory in tribulations and necessities and reproaches'”? Watch out though, because if you’re going to get mature in God, all the dwarfs around you will criticize you and sneer at you and say, “Trying to be holier than the rest of us, huh? So you don’t have time for basketball or going to see a baseball game?” No, maybe you don’t, but that’s nobody’s business but yours and God’s.
Do you get so near to the heart of God that you share His grief over the world and over the backslidden church that we have today? One of the most famous preachers in the country recently called at nearly midnight and said, “I’ve come to this conclusion: God Almighty has already taken His hand off America – for the simple reason that we’ve had so much light and we’ve rejected it!” It’s not only true that we live in a world of bankrupt politics, we live in a world (this is the most tragic part of all) of a bankrupt church.
This was an excerpt from a sermon entitled “The Judgment Seat of Christ” by Leonard Revenhill. It may be viewed in its entirety here.