The pursuit of holiness can be discouraging sometimes: the fight against sin is hard, and our progress sometimes seems so small. This passage from John Owen deeply encouraged me this morning, reminding me that every effort toward sanctification will matter for eternity:
We must also consider that holiness is not confined to this life, but passeth over into eternity and glory. Death hath no power to destroy it or divest us of it; for its acts, indeed, are transient, but its fruits abide forever in their reward. They who ‘die in the Lord rest from their labours, and their works do follow them’ (Rev 14:13). ‘God is not unrighteous to forget their labour of love (Heb 6:10).’
There is not any effect or fruit of holiness, not the least, not the giving of a cup of cold water to a disciple of Christ in the name of a disciple, but it shall be had in everlasting remembrance, and abide forever in its eternal reward. Nothing shall be lost, but all the fragments of it shall be gathered up and kept safe forever. Everything else, how specious soever it be in this world, shall be burnt up and consumed, as hay and stubble; when the least, the meanest, the most secret fruit of holiness, shall be gathered as gold and silver, durable substance, into God’s treasury, and become a part of the riches of the inheritance of the saints in glory.
Let no soul fear the loss of any labour, in any of the duties of holiness, in the most secret contest against sin, for inward purity, for outward fruitfulness; in the mortification of sin, resistance of temptations, improvement of grace; in patience, moderation, self-denial, contentment; –all that you do know, and what you do not know, shall be revived, called over, and abide eternally in your reward. Our Father, who now ‘seeth in secret,’ will one day reward openly; and the more we abound in these things, the more will God be glorified in the recompense of reward.
John Owen, Works, III, 375.