The Best Rewards

The little boy runs up and hugs my leg when he sees me. Reaching down to return the hug, he says in his sweet voice, “Wook, I bwot yew something Mr. Jim”, handing me a folded sheet of paper. Encouraging me to open it, I can’t wait to see what he’s drawn for me this week. Much to my surprise, it’s a handwritten note expressing his gentle soul. Little does he know that God just used him to provide affirmation of His pleasure in my obedience. Running off to play with the others, I excuse myself and find a quiet place to shed tears of joy while praising God for His blessing.

Ethan is a wonderful little six-year-old boy, I’m blessed to work with this past year, who works tirelessly to learn God’s word. As a Spark in AWANA Club at our church (standing for Approved Workman Are Not Ashamed [2 Timothy 2:15]), I helped him learn new Bible verses each week. While I love all the children I work with in AWANA, Ethan holds a special place in my heart for a few reasons. First, he speaks much like I did at that age. Next, he’s very intelligent and reads very well; often helping others at our table sound out words and encouraging them as they work to memorize a verse. Lastly, his sweet disposition shines through with everyone he meets.

My regular reading friends will note that last week, I strayed from my usual topic of sharing the lessons God teaches me here at the Cross-Dubya. On the same day I posted Unbalanced, God used this little boy to deliver His reward for my obedience. I’ll get on track next week, but this blessing took priority the moment I received it. Last week, I lamented how our children suffer from a lack of learning God’s word. That very day, God rewarded me through a child who is doing exactly that. Isn’t it just like God to reward me with a blessing right out of 1 Kings 19:11-18?

Thinking of and thanking God for my little pal Ethan, I recalled the last night of AWANA club before Awards Night over a month ago. He and I prayed, sang made up songs, laughed, and worked our way through the last 16 memory verses to complete and earn his coveted Third Book award. That evening, he stayed with me for over two hours, surrendering snack and play time to earn his award. He was the only Sparky to reach that lofty goal this year. Like many words in the English language, the word “reward” can have different meanings. Before that evening, I never really considered how some of God’s blessings in my life were rewards.

Has God ever rewarded your obedience with blessings? #AmBlessed #CrossDubya #BlessingsAreGodsRewards Share on X

When I look at my life, I see signs of God’s blessings throughout. Before becoming a Christ-follower, God blessed with life itself, some level of intelligence, adoption, a talent for communicating and learning languages, and many others. Since my salvation and reconciliation with God, I receive even more blessings through my obedience to His leading. Make an anonymous purchase at the grocery store for someone in need; I’m blessed with one of God’s heart hugs that provides an over-filling of joy. Investing time in young people to learn who God is and how His word can apply to their lives brings its blessings too. We receive an endless stream of rewards as happy smiles, high fives, and sometimes a sweet card or a hug.

I’ll risk sounding like a grammarian to remind you of an important difference between the award Ethan received and the reward God blessed me with. Awards recognize achievement; rewards recognize action. Awards are sought; rewards are given. Another key difference is that awards focus on self, while rewards focus on selflessness. Athletes, actors, and writers often seek awards to demonstrate their skill or achievement. Those who seek nothing for themselves are often rewarded. For me, the difference is motivation. Do I seek recognition for myself or someone else? Is joy found in my achievement or in my effort?

What motivates us, serving ourselves or God? #ShowGodInYourLife #BlessOthers Share on X

This week’s lesson came from a scripture verse hidden deep in my heart that God used a sweet little boy to deliver.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him,
for he who comes to God must believe that He
is, and that He is a rewarder of those who
diligently seek Him.”
Hebrews 11:6, NKJV

I pray this encourages you to consider ways you can help show God in this world to so many young people who see very little of Him today. The best rewards are those received when we please God with our obedience.

God’s blessings,



46 thoughts on “The Best Rewards”

  1. Somewhere you mentioned marking time until your heavenly reward. You do so much more than that! You are God’s blessing for so many every day, spreading his joy and generosity. Hurrah for Ethan’s reminder!

    1. Thank you Ms. Joy. I did say something to that effect in response to a tweet from my writing friend, Ms. Lori Hayes. Her question was, “Are you living life or merely existing?” (paraphrased). My response was, “Trying to live my best life, but it sometimes feels like I’m simply marking time until God calls me home.” I think we all feel that way from time-to-time. We wonder if what we’re doing is making any difference at all in this world. As your kind comments note, we can each make a difference in someone’s life if we’ll take the time to invest in them. Our children, friends, and family members all need to know they’re important to you. A good reminder that although we may not always see the returns on those investments, heaven does. Like the best rewards, the best investments we can make are spiritual ones that are stored treasures in heaven, awaiting us. God’s blessings gentle friend; and Thank You for all your encouragement.

  2. The most profound lessons often come from the children in my life as well, J.D. They remind me that time spent loving children is never wasted. God sees. And God smiles.

  3. It is amazing the impact children can have on our lives. I have repeatedly said that toddlers are my favorite people 🙂 It was good to sit and think a bit on the difference between award and reward so thank you friend for this post! May my motivation be to serve God and people.

  4. I so LOVE this J.D. When my oldest son was 3 he began showing a speech problem. We had him evaluated and he began seeing a speech therapist 3 times a week. Long story short, her schedule changed and she could only see him once a week and predicted it would take several years for him to be age appropriate. I began having him memorize scripture verses. We worked on them daily. The first was Ps. 34:8. He memorized 12 scriptures and was declared age appropriate in 8 months. There is POWER in the Word! Today he is the most articulate young many you could hope to meet!

    1. Will always remember how I was placed in “special classes” in grade school because I was left-handed and had that “Elmer Fudd” thing going. It’s funny, but all these years later, he still slips out sometimes when I’m vewy vewy tirwed. I was teased about it, even by some of the teachers, but I felt vindicated when told I had an IQ approaching the 150 mark in the military (must’ve been a huge bell curve that week). I knew they must be wrong as my basic MOS was infantry. LOL
      Yes, there is power indeed in God’s word Ms. Ann. It has the power to heal, comfort, correct, and grow; if we use it appropriately. I pray one day I’ll meet your son on heaven’s shore. I’ll know him because I’ll see you smiling broadly as we approach.

  5. Thank you for sharing about your special friend. What a precious gift God has given you and Ethan! The gift of friendship. I pray I will remember the ultimate reward is when I see Him in Heaven. I pray my words and actions will help lead others to Him. Have a wonderful week! 🙂

    1. I suspect you are going to be pleasantly surprised upon your arrival in heaven Ms. Melissa; when you’ll meet the many souls in which you planted seeds of faith into through your kindness ma’am. Thank you and God’s blessings my friend.

  6. Warren A Johnson

    Mark 9:37 popped into mind as I read your Ethan tale. You have received Him who sent Jesus.

    Award and reward come around in like manner when I received from coach another comparison, discipline or motivation. I perceive you act on discipline knowing those children may never be motivated in any other way. I pray they remain disciplined to follow Jesus.

    1. I’ll join you in that prayer sir, that the children and young people we interact with can learn by how we model a disciplined lifestyle as a Christian. Not a perfect one, but one who lives under His grace.

  7. Reading about little Ethan brought tears of joy to my eyes, J. D.! I do believe that when we take time for the least of these, God rewards us ten-fold, blessing upon blessing. I so wish I lived closer to my grands that I could provide daily lessons on how much God loves them.
    Blessings to you always!

    1. Thank you Ms. Martha. I’m convinced that God has a special place in His heart for children and those who invest their time and energy in helping them grow to understand who Christ is and all that He did for us.

    1. Thank you Mr. Ben. I could see you remembering how you’ve worked with so many young people through the years at Bible camps, etc. It is a blessing indeed isn’t it sir?

  8. What a precious story! Ethan sounds like a gem, Jim. I love words but never stopped to consider the difference between award and reward. It makes perfect sense. I think in my life I have been blessed and rewarded far beyond my efforts. Pure grace.

  9. Kathy Collard Miller

    Yes, children can be so profound. One day I complimented my ten year old grandson, Raf, saying “you’re awesome!” He looked at me and replied, “Only God is awesome.” Wow. So true.

  10. That is so sweet and I know exactly how you feel. I get notes from my class kids and I just have to wipe tears. Sadly, I’ve decided to step down from teaching class in the fall. Now your post and the letter mady me sad.
    But God will direct me, I know.

    1. I’m glad you were able to make the right decision as our Lord guided you Ms. Jackie. I can’t wait to see what the Lord has planned for you next. Maybe writing a teaching guide? 🙂

  11. Yvonne Morgan

    Thank you for all the time you invest in the next generation and for sharing your wisdom with us too. May the Lord continue to bless you always.

  12. Candyce Carden

    I love this story, and even more, God’s timing in the story. Thank you JD for the warm fuzzy this morning.

  13. I love this post, JD. We underestimate God’s ability to use our life experiences to help and encourage others. Thank you for this testimony to His power and your participation in showing His love. God bless!

  14. Jeannie Waters

    Your Ethan story brought a heart smile, J. D. I know you are as dear to him as he is to you. What a blessing indeed. Sometimes when I’m disappointed in an action or a piece of writing, wishing it could be more or better, I find out how the action or words blessed someone. God reminds me His plan is far better than mine.

    1. Thank you Ms. Jeannie. Won’t it be wonderful one day when a young person comes up to us on Heaven’s shore to smile and thank us for helping them to find their way to Christ? Oh, how I pray there’s far more than I can even imagine.

  15. It’s so impactful to make a difference in a child’s life. I can feel your joy through your tears, brother JD. I still cherish the sweet notes I received as a teacher, and my daughter also has the dearest letters from her students every year. I think Jesus loved and ministered to children more than we know. A child’s heart is so open and trusting. Those kids in your Awana program are blessed to have such a wonderful, caring, and trustworthy teacher in their lives. You will be a person they will always remember, and a person in their eyes who puts a face on Jesus.

  16. Love this, J.D. As I read, I remembered a four year-old boy I taught in Sunday school years ago. He was an eager learner and loved God’s word. What a joy it is to engage with God’s children who love Him and want to grow—no matter their age.

  17. Powerful story of little Ethan. My kids used to be involved in AWANA. It’s a wonderful program. Your words really spoke to me. I want my motivation to come from a place of serving God!

  18. Such a touching message, my friend. I think God sends us encouragement just when we most need it and your dear, sweet Ethan was God’s messenger. Reminds me of the joy of teaching elementary school children. They feel free to express their emotions. Sometimes, like Ethan, we receive a joyful blessing. At other times, we get a more painful lesson. Wishing you blessings, rain, and cooler temperatures.

    1. He sure was Ms. Katherine. I pray all of us get to experience the joy that comes from helping a young person or young Christian grow in their understanding of who Christ is. When you see a young person interacting with other peers and you see godly character traits shining through, it can be both a proud and humbling moment for sure.

  19. J.D., I don’t know how I missed this post but I am glad I found it now. Your little Ethan is such a blessing to you and now all those who read this post are blessed, as well. I had tears in my eyes too. Thanks also for sharing the difference in awards and rewards. We don’t always contemplate that there is a difference, but it is a big one. Blessings, my friend!

  20. You made a valid point that I should give more consideration to. And that is how sometimes God’s blessing is His reward to me. I love that. Yes, I have seen that in my life. I distinctly remember when I was in a difficult job and wanted to find another one. I waited for months until I felt the Lord’s release to go look. When I was approached with the possibility of another job outside of the realm of my current responsibilities, I ended up taking the job. I later learned that my boss was going to give me a 10% raise – unheard of in my place of employment. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Oh well.” When the financial officer for my future boss caught wind of it, he offered me the same percentage in my new role! What a blessing and a gift for honoring God’s timeline.

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