As an Army brat, I’ve heard many war stories, especially those regarding Medal of Honor winners. The Medal of Honor is the highest award that our country issues to its military, and it is only given to those soldiers who have exhibited profound acts of bravery and sacrifice. To put it into perspective, most Medal of Honor recipients receive it posthumously. Usually, the act that warrants the medal costs the soldier his life.
The Medal of Honor provides a great illustration of the doctrine of rewards. In fact, it is the inspiration behind the title of our newest book, Elisabeth: Christ’s Medal of Honor Recipient.
In a nutshell, just as our country honors certain soldiers who serve it faithfully, the Lord promises to reward faithful believers who serve Him. Christian soldiers who loyally serve their Captain, especially in the face of enemy fire, can expect a similar honor when they stand before the Lord at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor 3:12-14; 2 Cor 5:10; Luke 19:11-27). This honor is not for every believer, but is reserved for those who endure faithfully until the end (2 Tim 2:12). Of course, this honor will far exceed anything the United States can offer today.
I was recently reminded of this principle by the story of Desmond Doss. Doss was a combat medic during WW2. He would later earn the Medal of Honor for his heroic work during the Battle of Okinawa, during which he saved 75 men while under intense enemy fire. He single-handedly lowered each man, by rope, down a massive ridge. His story was so incredible that a few years ago it was turned into the film Hacksaw Ridge. Of course, this story sounds much like the heroic accounts of other Medal of Honor winners.
However, what is particularly interesting about Doss’s story is that he is the only Medal of Honor recipient who was also a conscientious objector. He refused to carry a gun or kill anyone while in combat. In fact, the Army tried to kick him out due to his objections. In the movie Hacksaw Ridge, we see a glimpse into what the Army thought of Doss prior to his time in combat. The Army sought to discharge him, his commanding officers attempted to transfer him to another unit, and even his fellow soldiers harassed and threatened him. In short, Doss was considered a liability. In addition, Doss wasn’t exactly Superman material. He was a small, skinny guy, who looked like he could barely lift a bag of potatoes, let alone lower a grown man down a cliff 75 times while under enemy fire. In short, no one looked at Doss and thought he was going to be someone great. In fact, a book written about Desmond is titled The Unlikeliest Hero.
I think this is also a great illustration of what rewards will look like in the kingdom to come. When we consider the Judgment Seat of Christ and the heroes of the faith who will be rewarded on that day, there will be many unlikely members on the list.
We get a foretaste of this in Hebrews 11. While there are certainly many giants of the faith–such as Moses and Abraham–in this passage, there are also several unlikely members. Perhaps one of the most surprising is the harlot Rahab. From the world’s perspective, and even among Christians, Rahab seems an unlikely example of someone the Lord would deem honorable. Her profession alone would seemingly exempt her from such praise. She is also a Gentile, and a woman. Yet, despite her supposed deficiencies, she is numbered among the greats. While she wasn’t what you might expect, she was brave. At great personal risk she saved the Hebrew spies, and thus she, too, is worthy of honor.
In his commentary on Hebrews, Ken Yates writes this about Rahab:
“Her faith brought “salvation” to her and her family. They were spared when the enemies of God perished as the Jews destroyed the city. In Rahab’s example the readers would see that anyone can live a life of faith. After all, she was a Gentile and a harlot. Not only was her life spared, she would also become an ancestor of Jesus Christ, the King of kings (Matt 1:5). God certainly rewards faith.” (Hebrews: Partners with Christ).
Perhaps, there is another lesson we can take from Doss. Due to his service, he was ultimately vindicated before the same people who once hated and mocked him. Whereas the Army had sought to remove him, it later exalted him for his work. At the end of Hebrews 11, the author makes a similar claim for those believers who faithfully serve the Lord. He speaks of those believers who suffered for the Lord. Like Doss, they suffered trials of mocking (v 36) and were imprisoned. Some were stoned or killed with the sword. The author of Hebrews says the world was not worthy of such people. However, they have obtained a good testimony through faith (v 39). One day the Lord will vindicate such people. May we, therefore, live in such a way as to please the Captain of our faith.