Your Imperishable Crown

The Super Bowl hype has ended, the game is completed, and the Seattle Seahawks have been crowned the best team in the NFL. As the winners, they receive an abundance of rewards. Each Seahawks player will receive a championship ring valued at approximately $5,000. According to Forbes, each player on the winning team will get a bonus of $92,000. They even get all-expense-paid trips to Disneyland, high-paying product endorsements, and an audience with the President. Are you feeling jealous? You don’t need to.

Eradicated vs. Eternal Awards

As glorious as all the Super Bowl awards might seem, they will all disappear in the ultimate reality of eternal judgment. In New Testament days, athletic contests awarded the winners a “perishable wreath” (1 Corinthians 9:25). The crowns were made of the boughs and leaves of laurels, pines, or even green or dried parsley. Today’s awards are much more valuable but still ultimately temporary.

Second Corinthians 4:18 says, “For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Whatever the earthly value of any awards, they are passing away. The Apostle Paul tells believers that we compete for “an imperishable crown.” This crown is unseen for the moment, but will be very real and eternal in the ultimate analysis.

Know the Purpose of the Contest

The purpose of most athletic contests is to win for the sake of fame, fortune, bragging rights, and sports records. The contest of life is very different. The ultimate purpose of our “game” is the glory of God, accomplished by the supernatural advancement of the Gospel, resulting in transformed lives.

We may appear effective as Christians, serve faithfully, and accomplish impressive things “for Christ.” But if our motives and core purposes are misaligned, we will not win the eternal prize.

Know the Players in the Contest

Super Bowl winners know their plays, formations, team culture, and fellow teammates intimately. They have also studied their opponents carefully. This is the secret to a successful season and ultimate championship.

For us, the players are described clearly in Ephesians 6:12-18: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”

Our opposing team is unseen but manifests in various forms of spiritual, social, and family destruction. The other “team” is evil, devious, relentless, deceptive, and dark in every way. Our team is equipped, empowered, protected, and ultimately victorious because of the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. And we need one another. Each of us must rely on our fellow teammates to engage in the sufficiency of God’s word and prayer for mutual encouragement and victory.

Know the Rules of the Contest

Every wining team plays by the rules. Our eternally significant contest has explicit rules. Paul describes them this way: “Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:26 & 27).

Two key rules emerge here: the first is certainty. We must have a clear and certain faith in the character and supremacy of our Lord, coupled with an assurance that “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

The second rule is discipline. I define discipline as regulating conduct by principle, not impulse, emotion, or convenience. If we guard our hearts, our lifestyle, and our choices with Christ as our model and prize, we will win the eternal reward.

Know the Scoring of the Contest

The ultimate scoreboard is in heaven. This tally counts and lasts. First Corinthians 3:12-15 tells us that we must engage in the life-contest with the lasting materials of spiritual gold, silver, and precious stones. We must avoid the wood, hay, and straw of a carnal, earthly-focused life. Ultimately, the purifying evaluation of our life will be about what “sort” of life we lived – not the apparent success of our exploits or the size of our accomplishments.

Paul says, “If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” The scoreboard is all about why we have lived, how we have lived, and for Whom we have lived.

Know the Reward of the Contest

Our eternal “Super Bowl Ring” is a reward described as a crown of righteousness, a crown of life, and a crown of glory (2 Timothy 4:7-8; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10; 1 Peter 5:3-4). We will ultimately cast our crowns at the feet of the Kings of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 4:10, 19:6).

Our Christ has already won the ultimate contest. By the work of His cross, we are on the winning team. Let’s live in light of these truths and keep our eye on the prize in the ultimate game – for the gain of eternal souls, the advancement of the Gospel, and the glory of God.

Copyright © 2014 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.