How Not to Earn a Trophy


I’ve won two trophies in my entire life (not counting my trophy wife).

  1. 1st place in the broad jump. I was a kid at a Christian camp for boys, and I was literally days away from being in the next older group of boys. So, yeah, I beat out kids several years younger than me. (Don’t ask why I didn’t do that in any other event.)
  2. 3rd place in a high school speech contest. I won’t tell you how many actually competed, but let’s just say we wouldn’t be able to form a gospel quartet. And the judges topped it off by spelling my name wrong on the trophy. (Or maybe that’s how it sounded in my speech.)

Yep. That’ s it.  Now I don’t begrudge those among you with more trophies than me (which would be, um, pretty much everybody). But if I was a kid today, boy-o-boy, would I have a collection of trophies. As unathletic as I am—I miss the floor when I dribble a basketball—my parents’ mantle would be full of these:Partipant

Can I ask you a question? WHO REALLY WANTS A PARTICIPATION TROPHY?? That’s the sports’ version of “Bless his heart.”

I just want to give whoever came up with this idea his or her own participation trophy. It’s my way of saying, “Bless your heart. You tried, but that is the lamest way to reward those who succeed in winning. And it won’t motivate the rest of us to try harder.”

Trophies become meaningless when everyone gets one.

And even though most of us deplore these trophies, we want one.  (pause for dramatic effect) That’s right. Way too many Christians sit on the sidelines spiritually, but they fully expect Jesus to say to them one day, “Well done, good and faithful participant.”

The Bible is clear on two things:

1. Our salvation is fully secured in Jesus Christ. We don’t workvhard or earn our way into heaven. Jesus “earned” it for us.

  • For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

2. A reward awaits those who serve Christ.

  •  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14).
  • The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor” (1 Cor. 3:8).
  • Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).

I have no idea what that reward entails, but I know that it will be worth it, going far beyond the level of my service—and certainly beyond what I deserve.

Don’t just show up and sit on the bench. Serve Christ—and serve Him by serving others. You’ll discover that this “work” may take effort, but it comes packed with joy.

And that joy is better than any stupid participation trophy.

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