"Beginner or advanced," The track attendant asked, clipboard in hand. I knew that if I got in the advanced race I would get stomped. I had seen others win trophies, and I coveted one. "Beginner," I said, hoping it would ensure a win. I had registered for my first official BMX competition. I was nervous as I pushed my bike up to the starting gate. I had been eager for this moment to come for weeks as I had practiced. My heart thumped like a war drum- that is until I saw the competition. She lined up next to me and smiled in my direction. I had expected a row of battle-hardened competitors, instead, there was only one. That one competitor was Staci. She was three years younger than me, on a pink Walmart brand bike, with glittery handlebar tassels. She didn't even put her front wheel against the gate as all us super-duper-pro-wannabees did. This nemesis looked more like a character from the wonder years than a serious BMXer.
Once the bell rang and the gate dropped, I took the lead. I pedaled as I'd never pedaled before. As I screamed over my third ramp, I looked back to see if she was gaining on me. Come to find out, she had barely made it out of the gate. I watched her from a half-length ahead. At the peak of every ramp, she would stop, put both her feet on the ground, and skid down the ramp slowing herself with the souls of her shoes. She was not as bad as she looked, she was way worse.
I won the race, got a trophy, and felt really embarrassed. I had chosen to race in the beginner category, and therefore I felt really foolish when I accepted a trophy for beating out a child on a barbie bike. I don't remember anyone cheering at all.
The race for the advanced riders followed mine. It had all the action of an X-games final round race. Everyone in the stands cheered like they were losing their minds. As I watched these riders fly I felt a sense of loss. I had missed out on a great adventure. This heaped even more embarrassment on me. I had chosen the cowardly route. I watched as those who prevailed in that most excellent challenge accepted their trophies with pride and enthusiasm. I wished I had chosen to race in the advanced race. I wouldn't have been beaten, but I'd rather be beaten by great riders than win against someone who had no business being on the track in the first place. My win proved nothing.
I went home with a sense of shame. I had suffered a mild kind of loss, even though I had received a trophy.
I relate this story to our future experience in heaven.
Did you know that there will be a trophy ceremony in heaven? Did you know it will be possible to feel shame and even experience loss at the award banquet in Heaven?
Who will be at this trophy ceremony?
Eternal life (being saved) comes by faith alone in Christ. So the only ones who can receive rewards, or suffer loss in heaven are those who are in heaven. That means believers.
All believers will stand at the Judgment seat of Christ. They will receive rewards for their good works done during their mortal lives. There will be believers there who worked hard and obeyed Christ. These Christians will be rewarded for their hard work. However, there will also be believers there who were lazy. These Christians are saved (have eternal life - and enter heaven) but will suffer loss. (Check out 1 Cor 3.10-15 to see this scene)
Rewards for good deeds will include (but are probably not limited to)
1. Positions of leadership in King Jesus' future government. (2Tim 2.12, Rev 20.6, Matt 24.47)
2. Closeness to Christ in The Kingdom. (John 15.14)
3. Crowns and other types of rewards. (see below)
There are a number of different types of Crowns and rewards mentioned in the New Testament that a believer can receive.
1. Crown of Life - for those who persevere through trials. (James 1.12),
2. Crown of Righteousness - For those who loved the lord's appearing. (2Tim 4.8)
3. Incorruptible Crown - For discipline and self-control (1 Cor 9.25-27)
4. Crown of Glory - For Godly Leadership (1 Peter 5.2-4)
5. Crown of Rejoicing - For Soul winners (1 Thess 2.19)
6. Prize for Race winners (Phil 3.12-14, 1 Cor 9.24-27)
7. Overcomers Award (Rev Chapter 2, 3 & 21)
These are crowns that not everyone will get. In fact, John says we must guard what we have so that no one will take away our crowns. (Rev 3.11) He also says we should be diligent so that we may receive our "full reward." (2 John 1.7-8)
This means that some will not have the full reward. In fact, some will have no reward at all. They will only have the eternal life that Christ gave them for believing in him, but no rewards beyond that. There will be those that suffer this kind of Loss in the Kingdom of Heaven. (1 Cor 3.10-15)
So how does one suffer this kind of loss in heaven?
1. Good deeds done for the wrong reasons won't be rewarded. (Matt 6.2)
2. Deeds of no spiritual value will not be rewarded. (1 Cor 3.12)
2. Rewards will be lost when no good deeds are done at all. (1 Cor 3.15)
Remember, your eternal life is a free gift received when you believe in Jesus, but these rewards are above and beyond eternal life and will be given based on your performance of good works in this mortal life.
Paul says, "run in such a way that you will obtain it [the prize]."
Let's get out there and run this race today. Challenge yourself. Don't do what I did as a kid in BMX. Don't choose the beginners track. Put yourself in the thick of the action. Run with all you've got. Work until you have spent every ounce of energy.
We don't want to experience shame on trophy day in the Kingdom of Heaven.