By Jim Biscardi, Jr.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1Corinthians 9:24-25)
God gives us many new starts – there are many “start lines” in the Christian race. Whenever we stumble and fall (like when we fall short of God’s expectations of us), we confess our sin to Him, and because Christ has already paid the penalty for that sin, we get a new start. That new start line isn’t back at the beginning, however, it is right where we stumbled – we keep going forward from there.
Yes, there are many start lines as we run for our life God’s way, but there is only one finish line. It’s at the Judgment Seat of Christ where all Christians together must appear. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
At the finish line, there will be crowns given as rewards for what we did to cooperate with the Holy Spirit here on earth. These crowns will go to those who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, build “gold, silver and precious stones” upon the foundation of Christ. To those who work in their own strength, however, those works will be burned up and considered “wood, hay, and stubble” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).
There are five crowns given in the Word of God as follows:
- Crown of life for those withstanding tribulation (Revelation 2:10)
- Crown of glory for elders, pastors, and leaders who have oversight of God’s flock (1Peter 5:1-4)
- Crown of rejoicing for faithfully witnessing (1Thessalonians 2:19)
- Crown of righteousness for those who long for Christ’s return (2Timothy 4:8).
- Incorruptible crown for victors of the daily spiritual struggles (1Corinthians 9:25)
In Revelation 4:10, we have a picture of the twenty-four elders having crowns on their heads. This means that the Judgment Seat of Christ had taken place. They took their crowns and cast them at the foot of the throne saying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” So, when we receive crowns, we will cast them at the feet of Christ. That’s why when Christ returns (with us) in Revelation 19:12, He has on His head “many crowns.”
So then, if we don’t wear the crowns we receive at the Judgment Seat of Christ, what do we wear throughout eternity? Daniel 12:3 has the answer. It says, “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.” We won’t have crowns. We’ll wear a mantle of light – similar to the Mount of Transfiguration light Christ showed to Peter, James and John. I believe the degree of radiance – like different stars shine brighter than others – will be based upon our faithfulness to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance on earth.
So, do you see the finish line? What does it look like to you? Once again, the finish line is at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It’s when we all appear together at that place. It happens after the rapture of the church: “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Can you see the billions – like the stars in the sky – gathering before Christ?
Brothers in Christ, do you see the finish line? Do you see yourself carrying another brother that you helped overcome his addiction, or his anger, or whatever other sin was a weight that dragged him down in the race?
Sisters in Christ, do you see yourself arm-in-arm with other sisters who needed your phone calls, visits, hospitality, and prayers to overcome the pressures of life?
Pastors, who embrace the values of the cross of Christ as a good shepherd and mentor, will be surrounded by many they don’t know. These strangers will thank the pastors for their great love and care. “When did I show you love and care?” the pastor will ask. They will answer, “When you were a Christ-like role model and faithfully preached to my relative, friend, or neighbor – because they shared your messages and their very lives with me as you taught them.”
You faithful teachers will cross that finish line with kids and adults you don’t know along with your Sunday School or Bible study classes. You overcame your own insecurity about being a teacher and trusted Jesus to enable you. You emulated Christ. You taught your people to lead others to Christ and to love one another as Christ loved them. Now you see the results.
You deacons finish well with the parents, friends, and relatives of people in your congregation because you remembered to faithfully keep them in prayer after you heard prayer requests shared at church.
You single-person finish arm-in-arm with those with whom you faithfully fellowshipped, and with whom you served in ministry. You hear, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”
You mothers and fathers finish with your kids. And you hug the Sunday School, Bible study teacher, or youth leader who led them to the Lord and/or gave them those solid Christian foundational values.
Don’t be the Christian who finishes by the “skin of his teeth.” He finishes rather empty-handed and regrets all the missed opportunities to “touch” (Ephesians 4:16) and help others! There will be many tears at the Judgment Seat of Christ – let them be tears of joy – not tears shed for miserably missing ministry.
How much more time do we have to run this race? Only God knows. We must run well, help others finish well, and keep our eyes on the finish line.
As a teacher, author, columnist, and president emeritus of New Jersey Christian Ministries, Jim Biscardi has been “privileged for many years to help Christians grow in their knowledge of Christ.” You can find his books at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.