And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple , truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward. Matthew 10:42, NIV
My brother-in-law, speaking of my dead sister, said, "If anyone deserves to go to heaven, she does." He was paying tribute to her hard work and suffering." All very true, but when he said it, he had yet to learn of God's gift of salvation.
Were her work and suffering worth nothing, will God overlook them? Not at all. We are talking about two different blessings.
Sadly, almost two thousand years after the crucifixion of Jesus, many of His people live under the illusion that they must work to earn their salvation. Some of the arguments are, "If we are not saved by works, then why work at all?" Or "Since we cannot lose our salvation, why not enjoy sin?"
We live in a work dominated culture. We expect to be paid for our work. That may be fading now, but many apply these values to their religion. It used to be common for people to say that they had never gotten anything for free, that they had worked for everything they got. Any argument to the contrary was of no value to them.
This is a flaw of mine, but I find self-righteous people tedious and boring. I am attracted to broken people. I want to help them by telling them of the Good News of free salvation.
Then what of good works? Where do they come in? They are counted for reward in the life to come. There are many blessings to a believer in this world, but they all end at death. Eternal reward is what the Bible promises and what I hope for, starting with Eternal Life.
My personal concern is my mostly wasted life. Too late now, of course, now that my life is about over. But the forgiveness through faith in His sacrifice will be for all who who believe.
I heard a famous theologian--a strict Calvinist--say, as if to wake up his students, "Remember that salvation is through works--His works."
However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. Romans 4:5, NIV