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Passionate About The Prize

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Passionate About the Prize

Miracle Of Motivation

       Five-year-old Steven loves climbing trees.  It’s not easy for him to scramble up the maple tree in his backyard.  He has to reach high over his head to grab the first limb.  Then he must pull himself up and wrap his legs around the trunk so he can claw and shinny his way over that first branch.  It’s a proud moment when he makes it to his perch 8 feet off the ground.  But ask him to put away his pajamas and suddenly Superboy, who is able to climb tall trees and run faster than a speeding parent, is reduced to a heap of tired flesh and bones.

       What’s the difference?  Motivation!

       Kids work hard to climb trees because they’re motivated by the independence, the challenge, the fun, the view.  They avoid things like putting clothes away because they don’t see what’s in it for them.

       As Christians, we often perform the duties of our lives with the same enthusiasm that Steven has for climbing trees.  We work hard, both on the job and at home, motivated by a desire for a bigger paycheck or better living conditions.  And that’s not wrong!  However, do we strive with the same intensity to know the Lord and make Him known, and to serve others?  Perhaps we don’t, because we don’t know what is in it for us?  What’s in it for us is the prize!

(Today, I come to encourage Pastor Hannah, Sister Hannah, and those of you who are with them to continue to pursue the prize.  We celebrate the calling and ministry of Pastor and Sister Hannah and we encourage them to keep on passionately pursuing the prize!)

       Ministry has a way of eroding the passion that we once had, but anniversary time is a great time to review what God has done and re-stoke your movitation for what He yet wants to do!  The Bible reads in

Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

God has created human beings with the inherent desire to strive to win rewards.  Maybe that’s why we are so attracted to sweepstakes prizes!

       The element of reward is prominent in the Scriptures.  The words reward, rewarded, rewarder, rewarding and rewards are used 60 times in the NASB.  So certainly the reward or the prize has a great deal to do with running the Christian race.

       Yet, I think that this concept of living the Christian life to obtain a reward is difficult for many Christians to understand.  Many think that Christians should not be concerned with rewards.  These same people usually confuse recognition with reward.

·        We get recognition and certain honor down here on earth.

·        We get eternal rewards only in heaven.

We are not to seek earthly recognition, but we are to seek spiritual rewards.  A lot of Christian teaching deals only from the perspective of serving Jesus from purely spiritual motives.  And I agree that surely our love for Jesus and desire to please Him ought to be the prime motivating factors for running the Christian race or serving Him, but we are human.  As human beings we also have some more visible and tangible motives and goals.  As Human Beings we are motivated by a number of things and one of them is winning a prize.  Although many people consider it sinful or ignoble to run the Christian race for the prize, this is exactly what Paul says in:

1 Corinthians 9:24 (NLT), “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.”

Paul knows that glorifying Jesus should be the number one motivation of all of us, i.e. Christians.  He also knows that we cannot please God with motivation alone.  The way to glorify Jesus Christ is to win the prize that is set before us in the Bible.

(Yet, it seems to me, that not many Christians are motivated by the prize.  Perhaps it is because they really do not understand what the prize is, nor its significance?  A short Greek study of the important words in verse 24 will give us some additional information on the prize.)

The Gr. word for race ‘implies’ a prize.

race 4712 stadion  “2. a race-course, i.e. the place in which contests in running were held; the one who out-stripped the rest, and reached the goal first, receiving the prize.”

       From this definition we can see that any race implies a prize.

The word ‘prize’ is


prize 1017 brabeion  “the award to the victor in the games, a prize, metaphorically of the heavenly reward for Christian character” (Thayer’s).

If we look further at the Greek, we see that the word ‘win’ also implies a prize.

win 2638 katalambano “1. to lay hold of so as to make one’s own, to obtain, attain to:  the prize or victory” (Thayer’s).

       Victory has a reward or prize attached to it.  After the race is over how can we identify the winner?  He is the one with the prize, reward, or trophy of victory.

       We can see from these definitions that we have just covered, that the prize or reward is very much a part of the Christian life.

       We, Christians, are entered into the Christian race automatically when we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.  We are running this Christian race because we are on His team.  We are not running to be saved; we are running because we are saved.  We are running this Christian race to win a reward for ourselves and glorify Jesus Christ.  But in the Christian race, winning the reward and glorifying Jesus Christ are synonymous.  The way that you glorify Jesus Christ is by winning the race and obtaining the prize, because the only way that you can do that is through Him.  Both the will and power to win the race comes from Him!  We are motivated by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to run in such a way that we may win.  Of course we have a part also:  to cultivate this power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

       So winning the prize is very important to us!

(But how important should it be to us?  What kind of effort should we put forth?  Let’s consider the pull of the prize.)

I.     THE PULL OF THE PRIZE (v 25).

For the athlete the pull of the prize is tremendous.  Paul states that the athletes who competed in the Greek games exercised self-control in all things.  These athletes denied themselves for a perishable wreath.

wreath 4735 stephanos  “a crown; the wreath or garland which was given as a prize to the victors of the public games”  (Thayer’s).

(How could a perishable wreath have so much pull or power on these Greek athletes?)

It was not the wreath itself, but what the wreath stood for.  The stephanos “was a collection of branches woven together and placed on the head of a person who had won a victory.  It was the victor’s crown.”[1]  The victor’s crown was extremely important because “This festival was held in honor of the gods.  In the Olympic Games the olives leaves were cut with a golden sickle from the most sacred olive-trees and handed over to the victor.  The gods were honored when the victor is crowned” (Kittle’s).  These athletes went through the rigors of training and the agony of competition for a wreath that was made out of the leaves of a wild olive plant.  They did all of this because the games were religious.  These athletes were running for their gods.  Their immediate reward was so fleeting that it withered almost as soon as they received it, but they put forth great effort to gain that prize.  At the end of the ceremony they would offer this crown to their gods.

       I believe that one day we will offer our crowns to the True and Living God, for His honor, per the typology of the Greek Olympic Games.  As a matter of fact, we get a glimpse of this type of ceremony being held in the future in

Revelation 4:10-11, “The twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created.’”

       Secondarily, the pull of the prize was great because of the honor associated with having the herald proclaim them before all as the winner.

       One day, we want to hear him call our name and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful over a few things and I am going to make your ruler over many cities.  Enter into the joy of your Lord!

       Thirdly, the wreath or crown was considered very valuable from an earthly, personal perspective.  “The victory celebration ended in the victor’s home, which was also honored by a wreath.  In this rite the victor offered his crown to the deity.  A victor’s crown in the games was regarded as supreme earthly fortune” (Kittle’s).

       They put for great effort because of what that wreath signified:  glory to their gods and personal rewards for themselves.

       Likewise, there will be great personal rewards for those of us who win the Christian race, for “eye hath not seen, neither ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the good things that God has prepared for those who love Him.”

       If they would put forth that kind of effort for a perishable wreath, what kind of effort should we put forth who are running for an imperishable wreath that will please the true and living God and give us eternal riches?  Much greater effort, of course!

(The prize should have great pull on us!  But exactly what is it about the prize that should exert such a pull on us?)


Paul contrasts the perishable wreath of the Greek games against the imperishable wreath of the Christian life.  Not only are we running to please God, but we ought to consider the permanence of the prize.  All that the athletes of the Greek Games won was transient and perishable, but we stand to gain permanent and eternal prizes.

(Let us consider the permanent rewards or prizes that we can win in successfully completing the Christian race.  There are four crowns in the Bible:  The crown of righteousness, the crown of life, the crown of joy, and the crown of glory.  Some people suggest that there five crowns because of the mention of an imperishable crown in 1 Corinthians 9:25, but I believe that the word “imperishable” is an adjective describing all of the crowns.

What is the crown of righteousness?)

A.    The Crown Of Righteousness (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NASB-U), “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; [8] in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

This crown is given to all Christians who love the appearing of Jesus Christ.  Only those who have lived a progressively sanctified life will love His appearing.

       “Paul here gives three related traits of people who are excited about seeing Jesus at the rapture and the bema, those who ‘love His appearing.’

1.     Though they may fail, they continue to struggle, to compete, to ‘fight the good fight.’

2.     They continue to follow Jesus and carry out the ministry course designed for them, i.e. they ‘finish the race.’

3.     They live lives that are not ‘disqualified’ by moral compromise, but are characterized by ‘keeping the faith,’ (to ‘keep the faith’ may refer to an Olympic athlete’s commitment to follow the rules).”[2]

These people will receive a crown of righteousness!  What a great day that is going to be!

       In a marathon only one can win the top prize, but in the Christian Race every one of us can win.  The following legend serves to illustrate the point that all of us can win the prize.

(The second crown in our list is:)

B.    The Crown Of Life (James 1:12).

James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

This crown is also referred to in

Revelation 2:10, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer.  Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days.  Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

This particular crown is promised to everyone who meets two requirements, namely:

1.     The Christian who perseveres under trial; and

2.     Those who love Jesus.

The Greek word translated “perseverance,” in James, is hupomenoMeno means “remain,” and hupo means “under.”  The Greek term therefore carries the meaning “to remain bravely, constantly, under whatever the pressures is that has come into our lives.”[3]

       “Pastor Hannah, remain constant under pressure!”

(The next crown that we will look at is:)

C.    The Crown Of Joy.

The crown of joy is mentioned in two passages of Scripture:

1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation?  Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?  For you are our glory and joy.”

Philippians 4:1, “Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.”

“Apparently this crown is made of the people to whom we have ministered, especially in the area of evangelism.  Perhaps we will have both a symbol (a crown) on our glorified heads, as well as the enjoyment of having with us in heaven forever the people to whom we have ministered.”[4]

       “What a thrill!  For all of eternity we will have ‘walking wreath-crowns’ living and enjoying with us the glorious presence and unspeakable delights of life in the kingdom of the Prince of Peace.”[5]

       “We can share in the crown of joyful exultation in at least three different ways:

1.     By personally sharing the gospel with someone in the power of the Holy Spirit, trusting the results to God;

2.     By contributing to the winning of someone to Christ through other activities that are related to the side-door evangelism;

3.     By supporting the ministry of evangelists, missionaries, and pastors (remember that Jesus promised a share in the reward given to a prophet or a righteous man that you ‘receive,’ or make provision for¾Matthew 10:40-41).”[6]

       “Pastor Hannah, win souls!”

(The final crown that we want to consider is:)

D.    The Crown Of Glory (1 Peter 5:2-4).

1 Peter 5:2-4, “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

This particular crown is the shepherd’s crown.  Some think this is the pastor’s crown.  There is no specific office of pastor mentioned in the New Testament.  Pastors are a group of leaders called elders or overseers.  The shepherd’s crown is not just given to pastors, but to elders or leaders in the church who meet the following criteria:

1.     They shepherd the flock of God.

Among other things the shepherd guides, guards, and grazes the flock.

2.     They exercise oversight voluntarily.

3.     They exercise oversight according to the will of God.

4.     They exercise oversight without greed.

5.     They exercise oversight with eagerness.

6.     They exercise oversight without lording it over the


7.     They are an example to the flock.

       “Pastor Hannah, patiently and compassionately—through the power of the Holy Spirit—shepherd God’s flock!

       Pastor Hannah, Sister Hannah, church, as we celebrate what God has done through you, “We must look beyond the discipline, temptation, trials, and pain of the Christian life and passionately pursue the prize.  The prize has a tremendous pull upon us, i.e. genuine Christians.  We look to the prize because of what it means to us and as the means to glorify our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  This is enough to motivate us to run in such a way that we may win!”

(Now is the day of salvation.  Come to Jesus, now!)


Call to Discipleship


[1] Joe L. Wall, Going For The Gold, Moody Press, Chicago, 1991, p. 126.

[2] Joe L. Wall, Going For The Gold, Moody Press, Chicago, 1991, p. 128.

[3] Joe L. Wall, Going For The Gold, Moody Press, Chicago, 1991, p. 141.

[4] Joe L. Wall, Going For The Gold, Moody Press, Chicago, 1991, p. 129.

[5] Joe L. Wall, Going For The Gold, Moody Press, Chicago, 1991, p. 153.

[6] Joe L. Wall, Going For The Gold, Moody Press, Chicago, 1991, p. 154.

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