There’s a lot of things that drive me crazy and one of them is the Participant’s Award. You know the one…the award for simply being there. In fact, even if you did nothing you got it. (Probably for your “part” in taking up space at an event…with little “pant” involved) They hand them out to everyone there…most likely after a “we’re all winners” awards ceremony. While off to the side are those who played and fought hard crying “foul” inside with a roll of the eyes. They anticipated this day…the event…the wait is over and they should feel accomplished for their effort.

The ribbon itself is typically faux-silky blue with the 1st Place (formerly reserved for the “best pie, quilt or pig” at a fair) removed and Participant written down vertically in gold leaf. (That’s how it goes if there are no “place” positions.) It’s given to a person who more than likely takes it home and tosses it in some dresser drawer with all the others. The event and its significance fades like the ribbon with the other junk in the drawer. They were just fortunate enough to be there. They left their home…so we give them an award for participating in life?

If you’ve read this far you have earned your participants ribbon, congrats…pat yourself on the back. I’d ask you to read further for a real award.

The point I’d like to make is that those awards hold little value to people since they didn’t put much if any effort into it. Meanwhile, there are those again who’ve put effort into training, sacrificed time with family and friends, practicing and competing in a game, race or something they value enough to invest the body wearying effort.

Let’s look at this from our Christian walk’s perspective.

For many that accept Jesus Christ they are content to simply acquire salvation as a participant in His work on the cross. They show up in Heaven with their ribbon pinned to them, wink at St. Peter and in they go. Now, based on Salvation 101, knowing John 3:16 and Eph. 2:8-9 we cannot argue what God has done for them. Grace is free. You just get flustered (maybe frustrated) on seeing how much they miss out on. You’d think if you loved God so much and were grateful for their salvation that they’d simply beg to serve Him. It’s like getting fire insurance but not making the effort to install smoke detectors. I would hope and like to think that their very salvation, their love for God, would motivate them to want to give back…to serve…to put an effort into…ummm…maybe, working out their salvation?

What would make some put out no effort and others to undergo strenuous daily effort? I believe it is the nature of one’s love for Christ. Love that has grown out of getting to know Him on a deeper level. Who wouldn’t bend over backwards to show love to someone they truly love? The more they fall in love with Him the more they will want to serve Him. In fact the more they love Him the more intense stuff they do and the rougher places they go…willingly! Participants must look at them as crazy.

Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Paul talks about running the race…fighting the good fight…achieving a crown.

Now THAT’s an award.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.

There are five heavenly crowns mentioned in the New Testament that will be awarded to believers. They are the imperishable crown, the crown of rejoicing, the crown of righteousness, the crown of glory, and the crown of life. In Revelation 4:10-11, part of John’s vision of heaven, it says: The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”
These elders model for us our own response when we encounter Jesus in heaven. Our gratitude and desire to worship Him will cause us to give it all to Him…all honor and glory…yes, all our prizes or rewards we may have earned because He alone is worthy of them. It would then make sense for us to give back to Jesus every bit of any recognition or glory we receive, understanding that such a prize is nothing compared to His great gift of salvation and His absolute worthiness of all our praise.


Our privilege to run the race for His Glory…to serve Him for Who He is…that is why and how we serve. What a rush or runners high…euphoria to give to Him the rewards of His sacrifice for us. The point of being in the race we are in is to bring Him Glory!

We are His reward!

Are you ready to lay yourself at His feet…or are you happy to settle for the Participants Award?

Pastor Steve