The Bible often compares the Christian life to a race. We read from the book of Hebrews – “…let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1 NLT) God has given each of us a race to run. Our race is not a competition with each other to see who will gain fame and fortune. Our race is within ourselves to determine whether or not we will be faithful.
Consider some of Paul’s final words concerning his race.
2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 8 And now the prize awaits me — the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return. NLT
To eagerly look forward to Christ’s return is not just a wish that He will soon come and get us out of this mess. It is a desire to be found pleasing in His sight, when at the end we find ourselves standing before Him.
Romans 14:10 …Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow to me and every tongue will confess allegiance to God.'” 12 Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God. NLT
Christians will not stand before God to be judged as to whether or not they will enter into heaven. Heaven is determined by what we do with Christ. The Bible says: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 NLT) The word ‘condemnation’ refers to a judgment that brings damnation. There is no lingering sentence of damnation upon those who now belong to Christ. They have already been completely forgiven of all of their sins. Why then will believers stand before the judgment seat of God?
For the believer, their judgment is not to determine where they will spend eternity, but rather how they will spend eternity. The Bible speaks much about special rewards and crowns that will be given to Christians in heaven. There is a crown for those who were able to overcome their old sinful nature. (1 Cor 9:25) There is a crown for those who sought to bring others to Christ. (1 Thess 2:19) There is a crown for those who lived with anticipation of Christ’s return. (2 Tim 4:8) There is a crown for those who faithfully shepherd God’s sheep. (1 Pet 5:4) And there is a crown for those who remained faithful during to the trials in their life. (Jas 1:12) What a blessing it is to know that God will reward those who have faithfully ran their race.
In closing, consider this word of encouragement from the Apostle Paul:
1 Corinthians 9: 24 Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. 25 All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. NLT