The Rewards at the Bema of Christ: The Motivation to Live Life with the Intensity of an Athlete

Do you remember when you were a child, how wonderful and proud you felt when your parents gave you a reward for something you had done?  Do you remember how you cherished the moment of a reward that was well-deserved and well-earned? Often you would work tirelessly just to receive a reward of money, ice-cream, or some other delightful thing . What about our Heavenly Father? Can you imagine how awesome the future rewards must be that He has promised for his children who love and serve Him? How awe-inspiring these rewards must be! How perfect they must be! How wonderful they must be! How good they must be! They must be beyond anything our human heart can imagine. These heavenly rewards will last forever for all for God’s people to see.  God’s rewards will not fade, diminish or run out.

How good is God to recognize our labor for Him by giving us rewards in such a measure that they must be a thousand times greater than any sacrifice we have made for Him. God does not forget what we have done for Him. God does not have a memory lapse when it comes to the blood, sweat, and tears we have poured into our service for the gospel. God remembers every good work. God remembers every act of love and kindness. God remembers every gentle and encouraging word spoken. God simply does not forget. Long after the good work may have faded in our memory, God has stored such acts of goodness in His heart and will abundantly reward us at the appropriate time.  

I Corinthians 3:5,6,8,10-15 (NIV):

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is

Paul? Only servants, through whom you

came to believe-as the Lord has assigned

to each his task.

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but

God made it grow.

The man who plants and the man who

waters have one purpose, and each will be

rewarded according to his own labor.

By the grace God has given me, I lay a

foundation as an expert builder, and

someone else is building on it. But each

one should be careful how he builds.

For no one can lay any foundation other

than the one already laid, which is Jesus

Christ.

If any man builds on this foundation

using gold, silver, costly stones, wood,

hay or straw,

His work will be shown for what it is,

because the Day will bring it to light.

It will be revealed by fire, and the fire

will test the quality of each man’s work.

If what he has built survives, he will

receive his reward.

If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he

himself will be saved, but only as one

escaping through the flames.

II Corinthians 5:10 (Amplified):

For we must all appear and be revealed

as we are before the judgment seat (bema)

of Christ, so that each one may receive his

pay according to what he has done in the

the body, whether good or evil [considering

what his purpose and motive have been,

and what he has achieved, been busy with,

and given himself and his attention to

accomplishing].

Revised English Bible:

For we must all have our lives laid open

before the tribunal of Christ…

Moffitt:

For we have all to appear without disguise

before the tribunal of Christ…

Romans 14:12 (NASB):

So then each one of us will give an account

of himself to God. 

I Corinthians 4:5 (NIV):

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed

time, wait till the Lord comes. He will bring

to light what is hidden in darkness and will

expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that

each will receive his praise from God.

The glorious rewards for Christian service and good works will be given at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Every born again son or daughter of God will give an account of their character, their conduct, their words, their actions and their motives of heart, in the service of Christ. Our lives will be openly revealed and made completely visible as to full and true reality of our character. Jesus Christ will uncover the motives and passions of our heart, as he will not simply look at what we did, but will examine the motivations of our heart as to why we did it.

The Judgment Seat of Christ should not be confused with the Great White Throne Judgment of the Book of Revelation, as they are two different judgments. No one before the Judgment Seat of Christ will be cast into the Lake of Fire and receive the sentence of the second death mentioned in Revelation 20. The Judgment Seat of Christ has nothing to do with obtaining salvation, as we are saved by grace because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and not by works. Jesus Christ paid the price for our salvation, and we have eternal life as a gift of God’s grace. The Christian believers will already be in heaven with their glorious new bodies after the Rapture when they stand before Christ’s Judgment Seat. This judgment is to determine our eternal rewards and our position of responsibility in His kingdom. God will examine the fruitfulness of our lives and the total pattern of our conduct while Christians upon the earth. God will bring to the light the plans, purposes, and motives of our heart  and give amazing rewards for those works of goodness that pass His test.

The Judgment Seat of Christ will issue forth the final verdict as to our eternal rewards and destiny in His kingdom. Will we be decorated with rewards and victor crowns and given great responsibility before God and His Son Jesus Christ in the future kingdom, or will we barely get into the door and that only by the grace of God? What will be our destiny before the Judgment Seat of Christ? Our lives are the testing ground for eternity, as each day we are either making or marring a destiny, winning or losing a reward, and securing or losing a crown.  Will our motives, our heart, our plans, our purposes, and our works withstand the test of fire at the Judgment Seat of Christ? We need to set our heart on eternity as Christians and adjust our motives and heart accordingly. It is never too late to begin to accumulate and earn future rewards in the service of our Lord. God has equipped us with everything we need to walk in obedience to His Word and serve Him. God is ready to help us in anyway He can to secure these wonderful future rewards. God earnestly desires us to be abundantly awarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ and has given us the power, strength, courage, and love to accomplish His plans for our lives. God’s purpose and plan for our lives will not only result in a bumper crop of spiritual fruit, but also a  decorated awards ceremony for our faithfulness to Him.

The words “judgment seat” are the translation of the Greek word bema,which means “a raised place or platform reached by steps.” It literally means the step forward made by a foot. In ancient Greek culture, it referred to both a seat of judgment and a platform where athletes were awarded for their performance in the games. It was also used of a platform where the Roman magistrate or Emperor would address a public assembly, conduct official business, make speeches to the people, and administer justice.  A judge or jury would also pronounce their verdict from the bema, or raised platform, in both Greek and Roman culture. The city of Corinth had a bema on its main street, where the authorities rewarded citizens and rendered justice.

When the bema was used as a platform to give rewards for athletes in the various Greek games, the judges would observe and evaluate the actions of the athletes in the contests. If any athlete broke a rule, one or more judges would point to him and cry out “disqualified!” This contestant would miss the prize regardless of how he placed in the competition. The victor’s wreath would be lost because he was disqualified for not following the rules of the games. Also, once the particular event in the game was completed,  the athletes stood before the bema to hear the judges’ announcement of the results and to receive any prize they won because of their performance in the games. This was an awesome awards ceremony from the bema,giving great honor and recognition to those contestants who distinguished themselves in the competition. 

The Judgment Seat of Christ will be an awards ceremony that will take your breath away. Nothing on Earth can ever match it. I remember watching in awe many Olympic games and the amazing opening and closing ceremonies, along with the emotion of the medal ceremonies. Although these events are truly awe-inspiring, nothing will compare to the magnificent honor and privilege of receiving eternal rewards at the bema, personally given to us by Jesus Christ himself. Do you think a life of Christian service, a life of trusting and loving God with your whole heart and walking in obedience is worth the sacrifice and commitment?  How about when Jesus Christ smiles at you, hugs you, and announces from the bema the wonderful everlasting rewards you earned because of your commitment to Christ. I can’t express in words just how tremendous, glorious, and awesome this event will be for the faithful in Christ Jesus.

According to I Corinthians 3, every born-again Christian believer is an expert builder, which from the Greek means “architect, skilled craftsman, and master worker.” By our works, we are constructing a building on the foundation of Jesus Christ. This building is the sum total of the quality and character of our deeds, words, and actions throughout our Christian life. We can build good works on this foundation by using the good materials of gold, silver, and precious stones, or we can build selfish works using materials of wood, hay, and straw. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, the quality of our workmanship will be tested and we will be rewarded according to how the building passes the inspection. A wise master builder does not throw together the building haphazardly, but contemplates every detail, and works tirelessly to bring about the best, quality product.

God is our co-worker, our fellow-laborer, and our building partner, and He will help us build a beautiful structure of good works that is unmatched in quality if we only let Him. God has magnificent architectural plans and drawings for your beautiful house and is so excited to help you build it. God has all the right contacts, knows all the right people, and knows all the proper building techniques to construct the best home that perfectly suits your life. Whose architectural blueprints are we going to follow? God’s or the world’s? Our new creation in Christ’s plans or our sin nature’s plans? Isn’t God the best suited to help us build a quality Christian life that glorifies Him in word and action? God is the ultimate wise master builder, and without His help our building will not pass the inspection.

Every Christians building will go through a complete and thorough testing process at the bema. The word “test”  in I Corinthians 3 in the Greek means “ to put to the test for the purpose of approving.” It is a critical examination of something to determine its genuineness. The word was used in secular Greek literature to describe the action of the examining board putting its stamp of approval on those individuals who passed the examination for the degree of Doctor of Medicine. It was also used of a candidate who passed the test as fit for public office. This Greek word describes a process of approval, not condemnation or punishment. You either passed or failed, as the testing was not done to determine how much good or evil was in the product or person being tested.  The testing was done to determine whether the thing tested passed the examination according to specifications.  It was also used in classic Greek to describe the testing of precious metals, usually by fire, to determine if they were truly authentic and measured up to their stated worth. The word also implies that the testing was done with the expectation and hope that the person or thing being tested would pass the test with flying colors.

God fervently desires that our building will pass the inspection at the bema and we receive abundant rewards. God has given us the gift of holy spirit, the revelation of His written Word, and a restored relationship with Him. He fully expects us to utilize these tools to construct our house of life. He will guide us, counsel us, comfort us, and strengthen us in this journey of building a quality, good, holy life for the service of our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  The whole quality of our life and character will be tested at the Judgment Seat of Christ to see if God puts His stamp of approval on it and finds it worthy of a reward, or rejects it as unfit for any type of recompense.

Both I and II Corinthians state that if our works pass the test, we will be recompensed, or receive a reward. The word “reward” in the Greek means “wages or pay.” It is pay that is due for labor or service performed. This will not be minimum wage or a paltry pay for our labor. Who will even be able to measure the greatness of this reward that will be mingled with praise and love? Who can value the depth and vastness of these wages? By the grace and love of our wonderful God, these rewards will be a million times greater than the work that was performed, and they will last forever. These magnificent rewards will reflect the essence of God’s goodness. When we make His goodness our lifestyle and practice good day after day, God will reward us at the bema with good rewards that for eternity will radiate the brilliance of His goodness.

The first usage of this word “reward” in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, is in Genesis 15:1, when God is referred to as Abram’s (soon to be Abraham) exceeding great reward. Isn’t it amazing that God Almighty calls Himself “the exceeding great reward?”  Abraham, the father of all of us who believe, understood that above all else that life had to offer, God was his great reward. That should be our mindset as Christians-God is our reward. For many, money, fame, material possessions, and  praise are the rewards that they seek after. Some people’s reward is in their looks, their clothes, their car, their image, and their job. These rewards are temporal and will ultimately disappoint and discourage. It is like cleaving to and embracing a fleeting shadow and a journey of nothingness. But how can anything compare to God as our reward? Isn’t it time that we seek, pursue, and follow after God and the abundant rewards He promises? Isn’t God the reward that we should seek with all our heart and soul? Not only will God reward us in this life with peace, joy, goodness, and strength, but He will eternally reward us at the bema for our quality of service for Him.

C.H. Spurgeon in his sermon titled “Abraham’s Great Reward,”  proclaims:

I do not think the human mind can ever grasp

the fullness of meaning of these four words.

“I am your reward.” God Himself the reward

of His faithful people! This I feel sure of-that

although I can enjoy the sweetness of this text

for myself, my feeble lips can never tell even

the hundredth part of the precious meaning of

it…. Have you, dear Friend made any sacrifices

for Christ? Have you lately been called to

imperil your own interests by pursuing a right

course? Have you been steadfast even though

you lost friendships? Have you been so firm

in your adherence to principal that you have

been judged to be obstinate? Well, if so, you

shall be no loser through your faithfulness! As

certainly as God is in Heaven, you shall prove…

that in keeping His commandments there is      

great reward…Is not this an “exceeding great

reward”-to know God, to love Him and to be

loved by Him? What more can we desire than

this? Yet we have even more than this, for

loving God we come to realize that we have

possession of Him, so that we can say, “This    

God is our God forever and ever.” We say of

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, “My Beloved

is mine, and I am His.”…Just think, for a minute,

dear Friends, what the possession of God means.

God is yours in everything that He is. His

Omnipotence is pledged to strengthen you. His

Omniscience is engaged to direct you. All His

attributes are employed on your behalf. He is

everywhere present and, therefore, He will show

Himself everywhere strong for your defense! He

is Immutable so He changes not in His love to

you.He is Eternal so His mercy endures forever…

When we have God as our possession, we have

an “exceeding great reward!”you should also

rejoice that…when He shall appear, in whom

your life is hid, you shall be like He is, for you

shall see Him like He is. Oh, it is worthwhile to

have lived, is it not, when this is to be the end

of it all?

If we hold on to God as our exceeding great reward in this life, we will receive exceeding great rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ. God does not want us to receive a small or partial reward at the bema, but He wants us to receive a full reward.

Ruth 2:12 (English Standard Version):

The Lord repay you for what you have done,

and a full reward be given you by the Lord,

the God of Israel, under whose wings you

have come to take refuge.

II John 8 (NIV):

Watch out that you do not lose what you have

worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 

What can we do as Christians to assure a full reward at the bema? Jim Cymbala, in You Were Made for More, sets forth some wisdom in this regard:

I love the fact that no matter how ungodly the

world becomes, some people still maintain their

devotion to God and one another. No matter

how much betrayal and debauchery we see on

every side, some people still believe duty, love

and honor…What the world calls great is often

an abomination to God. And what the world laughs

at-devotion, consecration, faith-is what God calls

great. Greatness should not be measured by

whether you get your name in The New York Times.

What heaven is registering has little to do with what

happens in the stock market, on the Broadway stage,

or at the next Olympic Games. Heaven is more

interested in those who live for God every single

day, doing the right thing in ordinary circumstances.

Those who show gentleness, kindness, and trust…

The everyday decisions of life-how we act on the

job, how we pay our bills on time, how we give to

God’s work, how we treat our children, how we care

care for our relatives, how we respond to adversity-

these are the God is watching. The longer we walk

with God, the more we realize that greatness lies in

the small aspects of life. It is perfectly all right for

us to be ordinary and unacclaimed in the world.

God knows what is truly going on, and he values

the common person of integrity…Ordinary people

can make an extraordinary mark when they yield

themselves to the purposes of God. They don’t need

to try to pump themselves up. They simply live and

serve with honor and diligence, letting God

accomplish what he called them to be, whether

small or great…God’s plans for his people are not to                                        

be compared with the passing rewards of this world.

What he has in mind for those who love him

wholeheartedly is more than you will ever dream.

We will receive a full reward when we have a heart that is devoted to pleasing the Lord in everything we do. Our aim, our purpose, and our passion is to please God. As the Apostle Paul exhorted the believers in the Book of Colossians:

Colossians 3:23,24 (Revised English Bible):

Whatever you are doing, put your whole heart

into it, as if you were doing it for the Lord and

not for men.

Knowing that there is a master who will give

you an inheritance as a reward for your service.

Christ is the master you must serve.

I Thessalonians 4:1 (New Living Translation):

Finally, dear brother and sisters, we urge you

in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way

that pleases God, as we have taught you. You

live this already, and we encourage you to do

so even more.                                                 

The Bible gives us some glimpse into the magnificent nature of these rewards by setting forth five crowns that are the ultimate and highest awards for Christian service. The Greek word for “crown” is stephanos,  and Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament explains the meaning of this word:

It was the crown given to the victor in the Greek

athletic games, the runner who first crossed the

goal, the athlete who hurled the discus farthest,

the wrestler who pinned the opponent to the mat.

It was given to the servant of the State whose

work deserved to be honored. It was worn at

marriage feasts. A stephanos was therefore a

symbol of victory, of deserved honor, and of

festive gladness. The crown was woven of oak

leaves, of ivy, of parsley, of myrtle, of olive, of

violets, of roses.

Although the Bible does not tell us the exact nature of these crowns, these rewards must be simply breathtaking in their beauty and represent an eternal symbol of victory, deserved honor, and overflowing gladness. It will be a more magnificent crown than any victor’s wreath that ever graced the head of a Greek athlete. It will be more splendid then a thousand gold medals at the Olympic Games. It will be more superb than all the Nobel Peace Prizes ever given in the history of the world. Imagine what a privilege it would be to be handed a glorious crown by the Lord Jesus Christ! What an inspiring moment that would be! What an awesome recognition for a job well done. How remarkable would it be to wear a crown throughout all eternity that sends forth the brilliant message of our love and commitment to Him? Nothing can match the exceeding greatness and honor of these five crowns.

The first crown is the incorruptible or imperishable crown (I Corinthians 9:25)  that is given to the Christian who has given his all in winning the spiritual race that God has marked out for each believer. It is given to the Christian who exercised self-control in everything and with great discipline gave all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength to do their best for the Lord. It is given to the Christian who excelled in their walk with God, keeping their body, mind and heart under control, directing it to the service of God and the good works He has planned for us to accomplish. 

The second crown is the crown of rejoicing (I Thessalonians 2:19) that is given to those who have diligently won others to Christ. The crown represents every single person whom they have led to the Lord Jesus Christ and ministered the saving grace of His Word.  It is given to those Christians who with great joy witnessed about the Lord Jesus Christ and the good news of salvation, righteousness, justification, and all the  wonderful things Jesus Christ accomplished through his death and resurrection. It is given to those who stand against all the hindrance and obstructions of Satan and still hold forth the Word of Life and its wonderful message of deliverance. This crown is the glory of soul-winners.

The third crown is the crown of righteousness (II Timothy 4:8)thatis given to those who long for Christ’s return and love His appearing as the exalted head of the Body of Christ and King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  It is given to those Christians who have fought the good fight of faith with their eyes riveted to the hope of Christ’s coming as the anchor of their soul. It is given to those Christians who have a deep yearning to see the Lord they love face to face and rejoice in his glorious presence. 

The fourth crown is the crown of life (James 1:12) that is given to those Christians who endured and persevered through trials and temptations, remaining faithful to the Lord. The Christian who receives this crown has stood faithfully in their love and obedience to God, despite attempts by the devil to storm the depths of their heart and cause agitation, fear, and unbelief. The crown of life is given to those who are steadfast in their stand for the truth, regardless of the afflictions, pressures, pleasures, persecutions, and troubles that are thrown against them.

The fifth crown is the crown of glory that is given to leaders in the church who willing and eagerly shepherd God’s people, as these leaders shine forth as great examples of heart, service, lifestyle, and conduct for the Lord. It is given to those who follow the heart and example of the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, as they lovingly serve and take care of God’s precious children. The motive of these spiritual leaders is not money, fame, or pride, but love and passion to do God’s will as they carry forth their responsibilities in the ministry of the gospel.

Surely these five magnificent crowns should provide us great motivation for a lifetime of Christian service. Nothing could compare in this life to the thrill and honor of receiving the ultimate reward of a crown or crowns at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Perfect justice will be decreed from the bema, as each Christian believer will be  compensated and rewarded for their works, words, and actions they accomplished for the Lord. The final verdict as to rewards will be absolutely perfect, fair, and good. Not one Christian will be cheated, overlooked, ripped off, or passed by when it comes to the proclamation of their eternal rewards.

The Bible describes a range of emotions that will be present at the Judgment Seat of Christ, as we stand face to face with Jesus Christ to give an account of our Christian lives. There will be confidence for some because of their devotion and faithfulness to the Lord. There will be shame for some, as the quality of their building and works did not measure up to the test. There will be cheerful courage and assurance for some, because of their intimate closeness and fellowship with the Lord as they carried out His work. There will be disappointment for some, who know in their hearts they failed to live up to the great purposes and plans of God for their lives. There will be unspeakable joy for some, whose heart will thrill at seeing their loving Lord face to face. There will be fear for some, because they dedicated their words and deeds to the service of their selfish sin nature and turned their backs on serving the Lord. There will be loss and sorrow for some, as they received little or no rewards because their works did not reflect God’s goodness, love, and grace.  There will be guilt for some, as their eyes are opened to see that their character really missed the mark of quality God expects for His children. There will be humility and praise, as every knee shall bow to Jesus Christ and confess him as Lord to the glory of God our Father. There will be amazement and awe at the magnificent nature of this event as we stand in our new bodies in the presence of Jesus Christ. There will be love for the Lord and extreme gratitude for his sacrifice for each one of us.

What a day that will be, and we can make the decision now to live our lives in such a way that we stand at the bema before the Lord in confidence, courage, love, and joy.How we live from this day forward will determine to a great extent what emotions we will have before the Judgment Seat of Christ. In that day, we will see that it was worth the sacrifice and it was worth the effort to give our all to labor for the Lord doing His good work upon the earth.

But after the final verdict for rewards is given at the bema, I Corinthians 4:5 declares that every single Christian will receive praise from God.  The word “praise” in the Greek means “praise upon, applause, commendation, and worthy of praise.” Detzler, in New Testament Words in Today’s Language, says, “the basic meaning of this word is ‘applause’. It speaks of expressed approval or public recognition.” God will stand and with great love in His heart give us applause as we enter into His kingdom. Even if the only thing we ever did with our life was to get saved, God will still give us applause and praise at the bema for that one great decision to come to the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation. That wonderful moment gave us everlasting life and the finished, glorious work of Jesus Christ is so big, so enormous, and so complete for us that it merits the applause of God. We are the praise of the glory of His grace, according to Ephesians, and

He has bestowed upon us the greatest gift to be called and accepted as His beloved. One person who was lost and now is found by the Great Shepherd causes waves of joy to  flood the depths of heaven, for this was God’s great purpose for the ages. God will give you recognition at the bema for simply making that momentous decision of accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. But don’t we want more? Don’t we want an even greater level of praise andapplause because we faithfully loved God with all our heart and soul in the midst of the darkness of this world? Don’t we want the honor and recognition from our Lord for boldly standing for the truth of the gospel, regardless of the opposition from the kingdom of darkness? As a mighty warrior and superior spiritual athlete, don’t we want the thrill of eternal victory to burst forth from our heart? This makes life a mighty adventure with our Lord, as we give everything we are to bring His goodness into the hearts of men, women, and children. No sacrifice is too great and no work is too hard when it comes to serving the Lord.

Paul used the imagery of an athlete when describing the intensity of commitment and devotion of heart that a Christian should have in doing God’s work.

II Timothy 4:7 (NIV):

I have fought the good fight, I  have finished

the race, I have kept the faith.

(Wuest):

The desperate, straining, agonizing contest

marked by its beauty of technique, I like a

wrestler have fought to the finish, and at

present am resting in victory. My race, I like

a runner have finished, and at present am

resting at the goal. The Faith committed to

my care, I like a soldier have kept safely

through eternal vigilance, and have

delivered it again to my Captain.

I Corinthians 9:24-27 (Message):

You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the

athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run

to win.

All good athletes train hard. They do it for a

gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re

after one that’s gold eternally.

I don’t know about you but I’m running hard

to the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve

got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert

and in top condition.

I’m not going to get caught napping, telling

everyone else all about it and then missing out

myself.

New Living Translation:

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs,

but only one person gets the prize? So run to

win! 

All athletes are disciplined in their training.

They do it to win a prize that will fade away,

but we do it for an eternal prize.

So I run with purpose in every step, I am not

just shadowboxing.

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.

Philippians 3:13,14 (New Living Translation):

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not

achieved it, but I focus on this one thing:

Forgetting the past and looking forward to

what lies ahead,

I press on to reach the end of the race and

receive the heavenly prize for which God,

through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Ephesians 6:12 (The Message):

This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll

walk away from and forget about in a couple

of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight                                                

to the finish against the devil and his angels.

As Christians, we are in an intense battle with our spiritual enemy, the devil and his kingdom, and God wants us to fight the good fight with the discipline, intensity, and effort of an athlete. The word “fight” in the Greek means: to contend in the Greek games for a prize with great physical exertion and intensity in an enormous struggle against an adversary; to labor fervently with persistent effort and to exert oneself as an athlete with every ounce of discipline, conviction, strength, and ability in a strenuous conflict; and to contend with adversaries with strenuous zeal. It means an all out push for victory with every ounce of physical and mental strength striving for the honor and reward of triumph. Nothing is left on the sidelines. The root of this word comes into English as the word “agony.” These Greek athletes were engaged in the intense competition of the games even to the point of physical agony. To understand some of the intensity and motivation of the Greek games, we need to know that the Greek boxer wore fur-lined gloves covered with cowhide that had lead and iron sewed into it, and the loser of a Greek wrestling match had his eyes gouged out. Do you see the intense motivation and physical struggle of these athletes to the point of agony in these games? Everything was on the line, and it demanded their full and complete effort.

Should we have any less intensity, motivation, discipline, and passion to do the good works of God than the Greek athlete had to win a prize? Should we labor any less fervently for Christ than the Greek athlete labored in the games? We should make it our aim as Christians to fight the good fight and finish the race God has called us to run with everything we have. No half-hearted, weak effort is acceptable. Fight the good fight! This is not a fight against our jobs, our spouses, our families, or opposing political views, but this is a fight for good and against evil. This is a fight for Christ and against Satan. This is a fight to stand up for God and proclaim His goodness with every ounce of our being. It is the biggest spiritual Super Bowl on the face of the planet, and it is the forces of good against the forces of evil. We are at war! This is your destiny, and God has given us everything we need to fight the good fight. God is our team captain, and He urges us to get in the spiritual arena and compete and fight for His will and purposes. We should accept nothing less than an all effort in this fight.

For too long Christianity has been too weak, too entangled, too preoccupied, too half-hearted, and too soft to fight for the truth of the gospel with an intensity of an athlete. Are we willing to lay everything we have on the line for the Lord Jesus Christ? Or is our Christianity a convenient Sunday show for an hour that does little to wake up the world to Christ or transform us into His likeness? You are in a fight, the ultimate contest, the supreme event, and you can either get into the ring and fight or stay on the sidelines of life, never adventuring to take the hand of God as your team captain and give it every fiber of your being to finish the race. It takes courage, it takes fortitude, it takes energy, it takes conviction, it takes passion, it takes commitment, and it takes tenacity to stand for Christ in this world. Are we willing to make the sacrifice to do the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in as Christians? Are you prepared to make the sacrifice to accomplish His glorious purpose for your life upon this earth? Are you prepared to push yourself to the point of physical and mental exhaustion for the cause of Christ?

When you really shed all the layers and the subterfuge, what else is there in life worth living for? Beauty fades; power corrupts; fame diminishes; money destroys; ego hardens; and people disappoint. Evil always fascinates and lures. but it will ultimately crush, steal, and destroy everything about you and leads only to misery. Don’t sell out to serve evil, because it only leads to destruction of character, destruction of life, and destruction of heart.

Romans 12:21 (Phillips):

Don’t allow yourself to be overpowered with

evil. Take the offensive-overcome evil by good.

New Living Translation:

Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer

evil by doing good.

NIV:

Do not be overcome of evil, but overcome evil

with good.

We need to take the offensive and overcome evil with the goodness of God in our words and actions. We no longer need to let evil get the best of us, because we have God’s goodness to combat evil. We need to sell out to God and proclaim the goodness of God from every mountaintop and every valley. Give your life to do good, not evil. Give your life to love, not hate. Give your life to serve. Let people see our good Savior in your words and actions. The character of our lives should inspire people to want to love the Lord with their whole heart. We desperately need to excel in all the good works He has called us to do.

God’s goodness will transform your heart, your character, and your works. We need Christians to wake up to the goodness of God. Now is the time for Christians to wake up and heed God’s call to get into the spiritual arena and fight. Run to win! Train hard! Live with gusto for God! Do good! Discipline your mind and thoughts to track with your Heavenly Master, Teacher, and Guide. Refuse to be a mediocre Christian anymore. Refuse to sit on the sidelines anymore. Refuse to accept anything less than God’s ordained purpose and calling for your life.

Jesus Christ endured extreme physical agony on the cross for you and me. Our names were engraved in the stripes on his back. Our names were engraved in the whelps on his head and face. Our names were engraved in the nail holes in his hands and feet. He suffered more than any human has ever suffered for you and me. We were worth the sacrifice. We were worth the pain. We were worth the suffering. Don’t we want to have the same intensity of commitment to him? Don’t we want to do something worthy and noble for our Lord because he paid such a high price for our salvation? Don’t we want to give our heart to him all of our days? We need to shine with the brilliance of Christ in us and reach out and help someone with the mighty message of His love and goodness. Each day should have the intensity of commitment for our Lord of the two minute drill in football; the final winning shot in basketball; the bases loaded hit to win the World Series; the final sprint of the thoroughbred horse to triumph in the Kentucky Derby; the intense push of the swimmer to win the gold in world record time; and the winning goal in overtime to win in hockey. All athletes are willing to make the sacrifice to win the prize.           

The Tour de France is a grueling bicycle race for twenty three days covering over 2200 miles. It is arguably the most physiologically demanding of any athletic event. There are 21 stages and only two days of rest allowed for the event. Often the countryside is rugged, and mountainous with the climbs compared to climbing three Mount Everests. One of the participants said that he rode his bicycle for 22,000 miles a year to train, riding 5 to 7 hours a day with only one day of rest a week. Some ride even more, averaging 500 to 700 miles a week. Some of the riding is very intense with sprints and hill climbing, leading to extreme pressure on the demands of the human body.  Diet is strictly watched, and it takes an all out commitment to strict training to even have a chance to compete. The intensity of their commitment to this event is amazing. Yet, as great as this sporting event is, it is still done for a temporal prize.

Do we have the same intensity of these athletes to do the work of the Lord for an eternal reward? Do we approach training and discipline with the same commitment as these athletes? Are we absolutely dedicated and devoted to grow in the Lord and do what God tells us to do? Or do we have the commitment and intensity of the arm chair quarterback who sits in a chair, drinks a beer, and watches a game that he will never participate in?  Don’t you want to get in the game?

How is our spiritual health for the Lord? Are we toned spiritually and robust in thoughts, mind, and heart for the service of the Lord, or are we spiritually flabby and lazy, not wanting to go to the trouble of standing up and doing something for Christ? It is time for Christians to get in shape spiritually for the great vision and purpose God has for each one of us for our generation.

Acts 13:22,36 (NIV):

After removing Saul, he made David their

king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have

found David son of Jesse a man after my

own heart; he will do everything I want him

to do.’

For when David had served God’s purpose

for his generation, he fell asleep; he was

buried with his fathers and his body decayed.

David was a man after God’s own heart and accomplished the purpose God had given him for his generation. David had a heart to do everything God wanted him to do. Where is our heart concerning the good works that God has called us to accomplish for our generation? Will we follow God’s heart with the intensity of an athlete and the heart of a warrior? God has called us for a purpose, a reason to do something great for him in this generation. Do we dare follow Him above all else with a do or die commitment of soul? Are we committed to the goodness of God and to tell the world about His wonderful love, goodness, and character? Are we committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ above everything else in life? Or has it been a decision in life that has not carried much significance in our daily living?  Are we just going through the motions, or is passion for

God directing and motivating our lives?

Matthew West, in his wonderful song “The Motions,” describes his heart that he does not want to go through life asking, “What if I had given everything instead of going through the motions?” Let these words of this song speak to your heart, as “just okay” is not enough; we should want to go all the way for the Lord.           

This might hurt, it’s not safe
But I know that I’ve gotta make a change
I don’t care if I break,
At least I’ll be feeling something
‘Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
“What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?”

No regrets, not this time
I’m gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love make me whole
I think I’m finally feeling something
‘Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of this life

‘Cause I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
“What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?”

Take me all the way (take me all the way),
Take me all the way (’cause I don’t wanna go through the motions)
Take me all the way (I know I’m finally feeling something real)
Take me all the way

What if we really gave everything? How would our lives be transformed? How would our hearts be healed? How would Satan’s kingdom shudder? How we would impact our families, our neighborhoods, our cities, our country, and the world if we sold out to Christ? God does not want a flash of emotion or commitment that fizzles out. God does not want a sudden burst of concern or love that fades away.  God wants our hearts.

God wants our devotion. We have to realize we are headed for eternity and must live for Him like there is no tomorrow.  We need to start pushing back at Satan’s kingdom with the goodness and power of God. The devil wants to take the fight out of you. The devil wants to take the passion out of you. The devil wants to brand your heart with apathy for the things of God. Don’t let him do it. Fight back and resist with a heart of a warrior for God.  God has a great need for hearts that are on fire for Him. God needs us to accomplish His great good work upon the earth. Our work is never in vain for the Lord. Our labor is never forgotten by God. Our work is never worthless for Christ, because there are eternal rewards for our faithfulness to Him.

I Corinthians 15:58 (NIV):

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let

nothing move you. Always give yourselves

fully to the work of the Lord, because you

know your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Amplified:

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm

(steadfast), immovable, always abounding in

the work of the Lord [always being superior,

excelling, doing more than enough in the

service of the Lord], knowing and being

continually aware that your labor in the Lord

is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose]

The word “vain” in the Greek means: empty, hollow, fruitless and without effect or reward.  Nothing is more tragic than an empty, wasted life. No feeling is worse than emptiness and hollowness. No condition of the heart is more devastating than an overwhelming sense of worthlessness. Everyone wants their life to mean something.  No one wants to have lived in vain. No one wants to live a meaningless existence. Jesus Christ is the answer to the empty life. Our labor for the Lord will never turn out to be empty, worthless, futile, hollow, or without return. Each good work accomplished for the Lord will yield a return a thousand times greater than our heart can even imagine.

Isn’t it worth dedicating our lives to something that is not empty or hollow, but has eternal implications? We will never be wasting one day, one hour, or one minute when our words and deeds are done in the service of our Lord. Each good work will be remembered and treasured throughout all eternity. What a joy to know that our life is not empty, hollow, or worthless but has enormous value to God and the Lord Jesus Christ.                                            

I love the website braveheartedgospel.com, as it contains some amazing, soul-stirring sermons that convict your heart to do more for Christ. I have shared below parts of a sermon from K. P. Yohannan that inspired me to push myself as an athlete to live for Christ.  Some of the sermons on this website may not be popular with some Christians, but the truth of these words should resound into the depth of our souls.         

The reason why we in America with all the teaching,

all the music, all the stuff going on; our lives are

shallow – still struggling with sin, and struggle in our

private thought life, with things you know that are not

pleasing God. And a lack of victory in your life, a lack

of authority of God in your life, seeking to please men

rather than God. Ever so busy we can’t be quiet – in

the car, in the shower, in the room, everywhere we go,

we  have to be kept busy because we are a restless people.

Why is it? Why is it? It is simply because we do not want

to accept the cross of Christ into our lives. The cross

means self-denial, giving up our own wishes and dreams

for the sake of the cross. For the sake of  Calvary. And

that is what we are missing here. That  is the reason with

all the stuff, we miss so much of reality. When will we

learn – what does it take for us to learn – the call of Christ

for us is as the Father has sent Me, so send I you. You are

my hands, you are my legs, you are my eyes, you are my

ears, you are my tears, you are Mine! Go into the world

and touch the poor, the needy, the lepers, the dying and

the hurting and the ones going to hell and grab them and

rescue them. That is the call of Christ! The call of Christ

is to die not to live. You must by the grace of God make

a decision – that Lord I want approval from You and no

one else. So much of Christian work originates in the

flesh and carnality. “Lord I only want your approval.” I

know those are strong words – unless you are sensitive to

the Lord, you can easily misunderstand. We have a

problem in America, in our church – we misunderstand

obedience for legalism and bondage. I’m telling you,

I’m telling you – the day is soon coming you will regret

and repent – too late will it be over the debased life we

spent for ourselves here. The world out there that do not

know Jesus and our priority number one, number one

must be – “Lord I love you and out of that I give all to

touch the lost world.”

In the book, The Bravehearted Gospel, Eric Ludy, states:

In the early days of the first century A.D., 12 men

picked up this gauntlet when thousands of others

shook their heads and walked away. They followed

their Master fully. They loved the lost with His

passion, they spoke the truth with His thunder, and

though often persecuted and oppressed, their lives

sparkled with His light. Almost everyone of them

within a few decades, had followed Jesus to their

deaths at the hands of a world that still loved

darkness rather than light. But their sacrifice was

not in vain, and by the time the last apostle had

breathed his final breath, it was commonly said,

“These were the men who turned the world upside

down.” (Acts 17:6). Twelve against the world.

Twelve who chose the gritty bravehearted path.

Twelve was enough. May it be so today…..

illuminating a path trod by the greatest men and

women in history-the path of the Bravehearted

Gospel. To many, at first glance, this path seems

too hard, too straight, or too narrow. But I encourage

you to press on, for the testimony of those who have

walked this sacred corridor before us is that its fruit

is sweet, its air clean, its company is unequaled, and

its destination is unmatched-and all with the smile of

God warm upon the soul. So press on to the mark!

Lay hold of the prize! The King has called. Who will

answer? The race has been set. Who will run? The

bravehearted path is the path of our Master; it is a

way of thorns and it is a road of glory, and those who

run it must run it with all their might.

Are you ready to do what God has called you to do? Are you ready to turn the world upside down with the goodness of God? God’s goodness is radical; God’s goodness is life-changing; God’s goodness is revolutionary; God’s goodness is transforming. God wants to reproduce His good character, His good words, His good works, and His good nature within you and me. Are you ready to be transformed? Are you ready to fight the good fight? Are you ready to run the good race?  Are you ready to excel in good works for your loving Master?

We are the voice, the touch, the light, and the representation of God’s goodness to the world. Are you ready to deliver the message of His goodness that will revolutionizethe hearts of men and women? God is waiting for daring men and women who want to stand up for His goodness and show the world His awesome characteristics and heart.  God needs us to throw back evil and stand up for the good. God needs to us to reject evil and cleave to His goodness with all our might. Once you have tasted of the goodness of God, nothing else can ever take its place. We must be the patriots of His goodness to the world. Our times cry out for the goodness of God to touch our generation. Our times need the good works of Christ to shine as light in the darkness. Our times need an unwavering trust and faith in our good God and His message of deliverance. Will we answer the call? A lost world is desperately awaiting the tender touch of the goodness of God. 

            My heartfelt prayer for you is contained in two wonderful sections of Scripture in Thessalonians and Hebrews.

II Thessalonians 2:16,17 (English Standard Version):

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself,                   

and God our Father, who loved us and

gave us eternal comfort and good hope

through grace,     

Comfort your hearts and establish them in

every good work and word.

Hebrews 13:20,21 (English Standard Version):

Now may the God of peace, who brought again

from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd

of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,

Equip you with everything good that you may do

his will, working in us, that which is pleasing in

his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory

forever and forever. Amen.

            I am so thankful that our God is good. My fervent desire is that your heart has been forever touched and transformed by the goodness of God.  

About goodnessofgod2010

author, attorney
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