There will come a day, the apostle Paul says, when all our “work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward” (1 Corinthians 3:13-14, NIV). The gold, silver and precious stones will endure while the wood, hay, and straw will go up in smoke.

Paul doesn’t say that the quantity of our work will be tested. He says nothing about attendance goals. Instead, everything will focus on the quality of our work.

Warren Wiersbe (former pastor of Moody Church in Chicago and speaker on the Back to the Bible radio broadcast) made an interesting observation about this passage to the Brooklyn Tabernacle staff. “What’s the difference between these materials, besides the obvious—that one group is fireproof while the other isn’t? I think it’s significant that wood, hay and straw are abundant . . . right outside your door, or only a few miles away at most. Any forest, any farmer’s field has an abundance of these. But if you want gold, silver and costly stones, you have to dig for them. You have to pursue them with great effort. They are not just lying around everywhere. You have to go deep into the earth.”

To me, these words are profound. Spiritual “construction” that uses wood, hay, and straw comes easy—little work, little seeking, no travail, no birthing. You just slap it up and it will look adequate—for a while. But if you want to build something that will endure on Judgment Day, the work is much more costly.

On that day it won’t matter what your fellow Christians thought of you. It won’t matter what the marketing experts advised. You and I will stand before the One whose eyes are “like fire.” We won’t soften Him up by telling Him how brilliant our strategy was. We will face His searing gaze.

He will only ask whether we were boldly faithful to His Word.


Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson and a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.