Copyright 6/28/13 by Sarah G. Pemberton
“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him Who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward.” (Matt. 10:40-42)
Recently, a friend said something which she intended to be just an everyday observation, as she marveled at a particular sudden, unexpected natural blessing in her life. I immediately saw this situation in the spirit and suggested that she had just been given a prophetic sign from the Lord of this particular type of spiritual blessing coming to her life, which would reflect the natural blessing. Sadly, she pooh-poohed the idea.
In no way am I merely condemning my friend. There was a time when I completely dismissed an entire movement of the Holy Spirit as “false.” Thankfully, I had the good sense to pray, “Lord, if this teaching is true, please show me from Your Word.” I prayerfully studied the teachings of that movement for years, as well as looking at the lives of those who displayed good fruit from that teaching, and where some went off-track to display bad fruit from the distortion of that teaching.
Nevertheless, I knew that it wasn’t likely that I would persuade my friend in this situation to open her spiritual eyes to see what I was seeing; but I know that if she rejects that particular blessing, then biblically, it belongs to the one who has the faith to recognize it. So I fully expect to receive that blessing, which she has dismissed, whether or not she ever chooses to.
Am I being selfish? Is this unfair of me to claim her blessing? Read the parable of the Talents (Mt. 25:14-30). God is not fair by man’s standards, but He is always just, generous, and righteous by His Own Holiness and Honor.
We live in a society which demonstrates very little honor anymore, especially spiritual honor. We also live in a society in which most people live between the extremes of either Western Rationalism (intellectualism – even in the Church – secular humanism, atheism, etc.) or of turning toward neo-paganism (New Age, Wicca, Satanism, etc.) There is a strong emphasis in Western culture upon individual opinion, rather than upon universal Truth and Reality. Why? Because few people experience the combination of God’s supernatural power, with others’ love and acceptance of who they are, in most churches anymore.
Similarly, few people know many Christians who have actually, successfully, overcome sin and demonstrated maturity of character since becoming believers. Too many are content with the “fire insurance” of just not burning in hell and of being merely forgiven, whenever they sin. So it is no surprise that few Christians pay attention to, let alone comprehend, the meaning of this passage.
If we do not understand the Biblical definition of “righteousness,” and acknowledge Scripture’s authority over all humanity, we will fail to recognize a righteous person as being righteous – as having integrity worth trusting and character worth emulating by all. Then, in our lack of recognition, we devalue that person’s choices and behavior as “just being his personality” or “that’s just because she’s religious.” Therefore, we divorce ourselves from moral accountability to make similar choices. This will cause us to miss “the reward of a righteous man,” which is the fulfillment of every promise of blessing and prosperity God has in His Word. Biblical righteousness is defined as believing God’s Word, (Gal. 3:6) no matter how challenging our circumstances may appear to the contrary. This belief is not the mere mental “liking” of ideas about God, nor the mere acknowledgment of His existence, nor even of enjoying going to a great church full of nice people; but “believing in God” is a deep, growing, abiding, unshakeable trust in Him, in His Character, in His love, and in His Faithfulness, which refuses to make a decision without consulting Him 24/7.
Likewise, as in my experience with my friend, the only way we will receive a prophet’s reward is to first honor the prophetic Voice of God coming to us, both directly, and through other ordinary human beings, whose only claim to fame is time spent in humble worship and meditating upon God’s Word, until His Voice is reflected in the very essence of who they have become. Prophecy is simply the sensitivity to learn to listen and to communicate the heart, mind, and will of God in such a way that He confirms that truth, to encourage, to bless, to strengthen someone’s relationship with Him, and to equip that person to more fully do His will.
So what is “a prophet’s reward”? It is simply the fulfillment of what God promised through the prophet, and sharing in that blessing. Fulfillment does not happen “accidentally,” nor automatically, but it comes to those who aggressively press into God in faith, hope, love, worship, patience, and trust in His Faithfulness. Every prophecy will go through a testing period:
 Does it measure up with the whole of Scripture, either literally, or in principle?
 Has the recipient demonstrated the test of godly character which will enable him to handle the fulfillment of the Word, without pride destroying him?
 Are there necessary conditions of obedience required for the fulfillment of the prophecy?
A false prophet is not one whose word appears to have failed on your timetable, nor failed to look like what you thought it should. The Old Testment prophets were often martyred because the word was not fulfilled on some people’s timetable. Jesus was called “false” because He did not look like what His people thought the Messiah should look like; yet he fulfilled hundreds of Old Covenant prophecies in just 33 years. A false prophet is one who prophesies personal flattery, which does not require going through the fire of God’s testing – the testing of character, the testing of obedience, the testing of patience for God’s timing, or the testing of desiring intimacy with the Lord more than we want the fulfillment of what was prophesied, yet without disdaining the promise.
If we wish to receive a prophet’s reward, we must first acknowledge that God often speaks extraordinary things to us through ordinary situations. As a wise preacher recently told me, “Not everything means something; but some things mean everything.” When we are in love with Jesus, we look for Him everywhere, and He promises that if we “seek, we shall find.” When we look in eager love and joy for Jesus, we see Him and hear His Voice in all sorts of signs and wonders all around us, spontaneously every day, and He gives us wisdom with peace to know what to do with those signs. But when we look in pride, anxiety, worry, insecurity, or fear of missing something, thinking, “Oh, could this or that be God? If so, what could it possibly mean?” then we are not in faith, but in fear, which is the basis for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But most people who dismiss the legitimate prophetic revelations of God are so fearful of being seen as fools that they become the ultimate fools – they become the Foolish Virgins who miss the hour of their visitation, because they did not value the oil of His anointing to light their path.
Lastly, “whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward.” Although this verse is often taught as a basis for loving and being kind to children, especially to orphans (which is definitely a good biblical principle, as well), I would like to suggest that contextually, this passage is far more about honoring the Holy Spirit’s gifts in children, or in anyone whose humble status might cause us to fail to acknowledge his or her spiritual gifts. If we “give a cup of cold water” to a child, just because we are honoring that child as a disciple of Jesus, as much as we would honor Peter, James, and John, then we are getting Jesus’ message. Children will not minister with the same approach as adults, and they do need adult guidance and accountability to help them mature, as they minister; but they are just as capable, with the same Holy Spirit, of healing the sick, raising the dead, prophesying, casting out demons, etc. (Mk. 16:15-20) In fact, because they do not have God “stuck between their ears,” they often minister with greater faith and purity than adults, who can get a little jaded after a while.
So where might be an area of your life in which you realize you may have missed a blessing because of not honoring the Lord in His humble Vessels, His Servants? Did you dismiss someone because he “looked odd,” or because she had bad breath, or because he used poor grammar, or because she had an obnoxious personality? Or did you dismiss someone speaking a word from the Lord to you simply because you have known that person so long, you no longer see him or her as God does? After all, Nazareth got offended with Jesus, because they had known Him all His life – yet never really knew Him. If so, it’s not too late to repent! Just ask Holy Spirit to show you how to recognize His saints for how He sees them, and repent for not listening to them. Then watch the rewards begin to come in, like an incoming high tide…