Olympic athletes train for years to win prizes and acclaim that will quickly fade away. But Christians who diligently run the spiritual race will receive rewards for their faithfulness at the Judgment Seat of Christ, rewards which they will reinvest in the glory of Christ for eternity.
The Judgment Seat of Christ is not a final exam to determine our suitability for heaven. If we have trusted Jesus Christ as our Savior, our sins have been forgiven, and that is what qualifies us to enter the holy presence of God in heaven. As the apostle Paul states, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Our sins—past, present, and future—were all paid for on Calvary’s cross.
When we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, our faithful service to Him will be evaluated and rewarded. With perfect knowledge, He will assess our every thought, motive, and action. The prospect of this coming judgment should motivate us to be more like Christ in our daily life, running our spiritual race toward His heavenly rewards.
5 Crown Rewards in Heaven
The Victor’s Crown (1 Corinthians 9:25-27)
Self-discipline requires the ability to say “No” when necessary—and not just to things that are sinful. As the saying goes, “The good is the enemy of the best.” Serving God involves narrowing our focus to those things with the highest eternal value. Life is full of good things that take our focus off the best Christ has to offer. It is up to us to identify them and choose accordingly. Those who exercise such discipline will receive the Victor’s Crown.
Think about how you spend your time, money, and talents. Do your habits reflect service to God, or do they indicate other priorities?
The Crown of Rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19)
This crown is awarded to those who bring others to Christ. It’s often called the Soul-Winner’s Crown, and it’s the reward given to those who reach out beyond themselves and lead others to heaven.
When was the last time you talked about Jesus to someone who wasn’t a Christian?
The Crown of Righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8)
Many Christians become so caught up with earthly activities that they forget heaven is their true home. This crown is not for those believers. It is for those who long for heaven, their true home, who long to see the face of their Savior when He comes for them in the clouds.
What aspect(s) of heaven do you most look forward to?
The Crown of Life (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10)
Believers who maintain their love for Christ while triumphing over persecution, temptation, and even martyrdom, receive this crown. Many people will receive this crown because they gave their life for their faith, but there will be others wearing this crown too. Any believer who has kept the faith when it was costly to do so—anyone who has suffered, endured, persevered, and encouraged others—will receive the Crown of Life.
How have you suffered for the sake of the Gospel?
The Crown of Glory (1 Peter 5:4)
This crown is given to faithful shepherds of God’s people—pastors, elders, deacons, Sunday school teachers, ministry team leaders, and more. It will reward those who answer the call of leadership.
Jesus said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37). How have you responded to this need? Pray to the Lord, asking Him to send more shepherds for His people.
Pressing Toward the Goal
Every Christian should pursue these rewards, but no crown could ever compare to the splendor of seeing our Lord and Savior face to face. And until that day, we have a responsibility to run the spiritual race with all the determination and devotion of an Olympic athlete.
In 1896, an American track and field athlete named James Connolly ascended the victor’s podium at the first modern Olympic games. He was the first Olympic champion in 1,400 years. Connolly embodied the Olympic motto, “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” That’s a good slogan for the Christian life too. The apostle Paul embodied this attitude when he wrote,
What does it take to run toward the upward call of God?
Resolve to do it.
When Connolly was determined to be an Olympian, it cost him a Harvard education, all his savings, and loads of stress and strain. He abandoned his former dreams and embraced a new one. As Paul wrote in Philippians 3, “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ” (verse 7).
When we decide to follow Christ, everything else becomes secondary. Some things we give up entirely—sinful lifestyles, unhealthy habits, unholy relationships. Other things we offer to the Lord for His service. As we press toward the goal, we pursue Christ with all our heart.
What do you need to give up as you commit to following Christ? What talents can you dedicate to His service?
Stick with the training.
The Bible emphasizes exercise in the form of godliness, self-control, righteousness, and leadership. To train our spiritual muscles, we need to study our Bibles on a regular basis, applying its truth to our life. We then make room for Christian disciplines and activities by saying “No” to other opportunities. We wake up early to attend church and make morning devotions a habit. We seek opportunities to serve the Lord, and we memorize Scripture so that we can offer words of encouragement to others from the Word of God.
Don’t give up.
Spiritual transformation doesn’t just happen. Reaping the harvest, gaining the victory, finishing the race, and glorifying the Lord are connected to the forcefulness and fortitude of our spiritual race. Each trial we face carries the power to develop our character and hope as we press on with grit and grace. Perseverance is the key to spiritual success.
Do you have something or someone that you are putting before God in your life? Do you struggle to maintain your daily Bible study? Are you feeling defeated in your faith? Don’t give up. With time and determination, you’ll work through to victory.