based on the book & video series by Rick Howard & Jamie Lash
In 1987 a friend told me about a video that he
said contained "the most motivating teaching" he had ever heard
in his life. It was entitled "The Judgment Seat of Christ" by
Rick Howardówhom I had never heard of.
(I have since learned that Rick Howard has shared this message
in over eighty countries around the world.) I asked if I could
borrow the video. I was so stunned, I watched that tape sixteen
times! Never has a single message impacted my life so greatly.
Even though I had already been a Christian for
many years, I had never been taught about the Judgment Seat of
Christ. Now I feel like Iím getting ready for the Olympicsóonly
itís a million times bigger than that.
Much of the church has been lacking incredible
motivation God intended us to have because weíve neglected an
incredible truth God intended us to have. Martin Luther said,
"There are only two days on my calendar: Today and that
Only believers will be at the Judgment Seat of
Christ. Unbelievers will be judged at the Great White Throne
Judgment (See Revelation 20:11-15). The issue at the judgment of
believers is not punishment. Christ has already borne the
punishment for our sins. God will be evaluating our
livesólooking for things to reward!
God sent His Son to make both salvation and
fruitfulness possible. Salvation gets us to heaven; our
fruitfulness will be evaluated once we get there. How we serve
God in heaven forever is being determined by how we live
this life! The importance of how we live this life cannot be
On that Day, some Christians will rejoice "with
great joy" (Jude 24) while others will "shrink back from Him in
shame" (1 John 2:28). All who put their faith in Christ will be
in heaven, but some will hear "Well done, good and faithful
servant," and some will not. Some will wear crowns indicative of
the Father's pleasure upon them, and some will not. Some will be
invited to "enter into the joy of their Master," and some will
not. This is very serious indeed!
We are called to live lives of love, purity, and
fruitfulness. Do you want your life to count? Do you yearn to
hear Christ say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"? Is
this the cry of your heart? If so, the secret is to live
with eternity in mind. We need to live this day for that
At the Judgment Seat our works will be tested by
fire. This momentous Day is described in 1 Corinthians 3:9b-15:
"You are Godís field, Godís buildingÖ Let each
man take care how he builds uponÖthe foundationÖwhich is Jesus
Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation using gold,
silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble--each manís work
will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it
will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of
work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on
the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's
work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will
be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."
If a Christian builds entirely with "wood, hay,
and stubble," then nothing will survive the fire. Such a person
will be like a man who barely escapes from his burning house.
His clothes are singed and the smell of smoke is on his body.
He's very grateful to be alive, but then he turns around and
watches everything he's ever worked for turn into ashes.
This person is saved on the same basis any of us
are saved--by having faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is a free
gift, but his life has brought no honor to Jesus Christ and he
will spend eternity with no reward.
Letís live every day like we believe God is
telling the truth--thereís a fire coming! To make wise decisions
during our short time on earth, we must constantly remind
ourselves, "Donít forget about the fire! Donít spend your life
being driven by worldly goals, pursuing pleasure, possessions
and the praise of man. Donít fall in love with wood, hay, and
How tragic that many Christians have read this
passage but donít take it seriously. How tragic that many have
never even heard about the upcoming fire. God is urging us to
invest our lives in things that are eternal.
Bearing Much Fruit
The Lord doesnít call any of us to a life of
insignificance or even to a life of small significance. He wants
to do great things in us and through us. Jesus says, "By this my
Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit"
(John 15:8 italics added).
Is it important to a farmer that his field bears
fruit? The Bible says, "You are Godís field" (1 Corinthians
3:9). In James 5:7 the Bible portrays God as a farmer: "Be
patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.
Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth..."
Like all farmers, God works His field. If He is
at work in your life, rejoice! Nothing that He does is of little
value. If you bear fruit, He will prune you that you might bear
more fruit. He wants to bring you to the place where you can
bear much fruit. He wants to use your life in wonderful ways.
Ironically, the first step in our bearing much
fruit is admitting that, apart from Christ, we can bear no fruit
at all. "I am the vine, you are the branches," Jesus says,
"apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:4-5).
Apart from Christ we cannot do anything that
really matters. We can earn fame and fortune perhaps, but we
cannot produce the kind of fruit that Jesus is talking
about--"fruit that will last" (John 15:16 NIV). We cannot make a
positive eternal difference in the lives of others. We cannot
please God. We cannot do anything God can reward. If our works
do not flow from the life of Christ, they are worthless.
To God Be the Glory!
Christ supernaturally empowers our lives and
enables us to do good works. Then He rewards us for the works
that He Himself empowered in the first place! What a wonderful
God we serve!
When the twenty-four elders cast their crowns at
Jesus' feet in Revelation 4:9-10, they are simply giving credit
where credit is due. They are acknowledging, "Everything good in
me comes from You. Everything good I've ever done has come from
You." Constantly they acknowledge, "This reward should really go
If you receive great reward, your reward will
bring continual honor to Jesus Christ. On the other hand, if you
go into heaven with no reward, your life has brought no honor to
Him at all.
Is It Selfish to Seek
At one point in my life I told the Lord, "I
donít want reward; I just want to serve You." Like many
Christians I was not motivated at all by the verses about
reward. I was not allowing those scriptures to have their proper
impact on my mind and heart. I realize now that I suffered from
a common misconception. I thought it would be selfish to seek
reward because I didnít understand what the reward is.
Those who are rich in heavenly treasure will not
be sifting gold coins through their fingers as they giggle
uncontrollably. They will be rich in God's pleasure. They will
be able to enter into the joy of their Master. They will enjoy
wonderful intimacy with God. They will be useful to Him forever.
They will be able to "take hold of the life which is life
indeed" (I Timothy 6:19).
Is it wrong to seek these things? Obviously not.
On the contrary, Jesus commands it! He tells us to lay up
treasures for ourselves in heaven (Matthew 6:20). He urges us to
become "rich toward God" (Luke 12:21). Itís a healthy ambition,
a holy ambition. In fact itís an ambition that frees us from
selfishness because it trains us to seek the pleasure and glory
If we never think about reward or if we hold the
false notion that all will get the same reward in heaven, we
will lack motivation God intended us to have.
How many Christians do you know who seek to
please God with as much diligence and intensity as an Olympic
athlete seeking a gold medal? What would happen to Christianity
if Christians came to believe that the rewards God wants to give
us have value exceeding that of an Olympic gold medal by a
million fold? That's not an over-exaggeration; that's an
The one thing that will provide us with the
motivation we need is the truth. If we simply believed the truth
about what is at stake, we would be more motivated than the most
motivated Olympic champion.
Paul expresses his yearning that we would
understand this truth in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25:
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners
run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way that you
will get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into
strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last;
we do it to get a crown that will last forever."
Paul likely had the Isthmian games in mind when
he wrote the passage above. The Isthmian games of the Greek
peninsula were a forerunner of our modern Olympic games. The
umpire of the games presided from a raised platform called
the "judgment seat." From there he watched the events, and
from there he ultimately rewarded the winners.
Shining Like a Star
After a seminar on the Judgment Seat, a woman
asked, "But won't all Christians be perfect in heaven?" She
thought everyone's experience of heaven would be equal because
we will all be equally perfect in heaven. The Bible teaches that
our experience of heaven will depend upon how we lived our lives
on earth (See 2 Corinthians 5:10). While all Christians will
be perfect in heaven, we will not all walk in the same amount of
God's power and glory and joy. Light bulbs may be perfect, but
not all shine with the same power. Some are 1/4 watt
night-lights, some are 30 watts, some are 60 watts, and some are
Daniel 12:3, an astounding passage, speaks to
this very issue:
"And those who are wise shall shine like the
brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to
righteousness like the stars for ever and ever."
Youíve probably known people whose faces shine
because of the joy of the Lord in their hearts. How much joy
would have to be inside a person for that person to shine like a
star forever? How much of God's glory would have to rest on that
person? I want to find out, donít you? (I donít want to be a
How Do We Define Success?
Many people waste their lives because they adopt
a false definition of success. In Luke 12 Jesus tells the story
of a man who becomes exceedingly wealthy. His labor and
investments paid off to the point where it was no longer
necessary for him to work. He planned instead for a life of ease
and pleasure. What he didn't plan on was dying that night.
"God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is
required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will
they be?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not
rich toward God" (Luke 12:20-21).
When I stand before God face to face, I donít
want to hear that particular greeting, do you?
What is real success? In light of the Judgment
Seat of Christ, three things are vital:
fulfilling our calling
loving and serving other people
What good is it for us to be successful in any
other endeavor if we fail to please the One for Whom we exist?
When our intention is not to please God, we are wasting
our time and rebelling against God--whether we are conscious of
it or not. We have gone off course, and we need to repent.
Paul writes, "Öwe make it our aim to please Him.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that
each one may receive what is due him for the things done while
in the body, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).
The intention or purpose of our hearts
determines the direction of our whole lives--much like a rudder
determines the direction of a ship. For this reason the
intention of our hearts is central to God's evaluation of our
lives. (See 1 Corinthians 4:3-5).
The ship may be running well, making wonderful
time, but if itís headed in the wrong direction, what good is
that? To correct our course, we must purpose in our hearts to
One of the most common ways to go off course is
to live for people's approval rather than God's approval.
Proverbs 29:25 warns us, "The fear of man brings a snare." We
are ensnared not only when we are afraid that others will hurt,
humiliate, or reject us, but also when we seek to impress
It is an easy trap to fall into. We become
ensnared simply by entertaining this thought: "What do people
think of me?" It doesn't matter whether we conclude that people
have bad thoughts about us or good thoughts. The bondage comes
not from answering the question the wrong way, but from
entertaining the question at all. The question itself is an
invitation into the realm of the fear of man.
At a Christian university where I use to teach,
some of the students had adopted an unusual ritual. At around
10:30 on Sunday morning these students would get out of bed and
hit the showers. The men would shave; the women would put on
their make-up and fix their hair. They would then put on their
Sunday best and proceed to the dining hall for lunch. Although
they didn't go to church, it was very important to them to give
Here is a picture of people enslaved to the fear
of man. It is also a picture of people ignorant of the Judgment
Seat of Christ. Understanding the Judgment Seat destroys the
motivation to pretend we're something we're not. In Luke 12:1
Jesus warns us to "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which
is hypocrisy." In the next two verses Jesus then provides the
cure for hypocrisy by revealing a very sobering truth about our
"Nothing is covered up that will not be
revealed, or hidden that will not be made known. Whatever you
have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you
have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the
Fulfilling Our Calling
The calling God has on your life is a thousand
times more important than you have ever dreamed, because God
wants to impact His Kingdom forever through you.
It is an amazing fact that God has called your
name in heaven--to do certain tasks. What does the God of the
universe want to accomplish through your life? You were
designed for "good works that God prepared beforehand for
you to walk in" (Ephesians 2:10). Nobody else can fulfill your
calling. Nobody else has your unique set of contacts, gifts, and
talents. Nobody else will be in the right places at the right
times. God has a great purpose for your life.
God wants us to bloom where we are planted.
Focus on the present. Everyday we are being presented with
opportunities to love people, to serve people, to be fruitful.
God wants to use our current situation to teach us things, to
prepare us for what He has in store for us. Many people feel
restless and discontented because they yearn to bloom where they
are not planted.
What tasks has God already given you to do? Do
them well. Do them as unto the Lord. Do them with all of your
heart. Do them as an act of love toward others. By so doing, you
will be developing into a vessel fit for what God has in store.
Remember you must be faithful over little before you will be
ready for God to call you to bigger things. Make the most of
your preparations for you shall have need of them.
Loving and Serving Others
Jesus says that if you want to be great in Godís
Kingdom, you must become a servant. If you humble yourself, God
will exalt you.
Pride is preoccupation with self. Some people
think about how incredible they are; others think about how
pathetic they are. In both cases, their minds are riveted on
self. Real humility involves lifting our focus off of ourselves
altogether. Philippians 2:3-4 tells us how to develop a
"With humility of mind count others as more
important than yourself; do not merely look out for your own
personal interests, but also for the interests of others."
Here God says we're proud whenever we go through
our day without considering the interests of other people! When
we only serve ourselves, we are subconsciously considering
ourselves more important than everyone else. We donít have to
feel proud to be proud. We donít have to think weíre superior to
be proud. We exalt ourselves by preoccupation with ourselves and
our own interests. God therefore commands us to humble
As we consider this passage, letís not ask, "Am
I familiar with these verses?" or "Have I heard this before?"
but rather, "Am I doing this? Am I obeying these
verses? Do I regard others as more important than myself? Do I
look out for their interests?" If we meditate on these verses
and apply them daily, we will become rich in good deeds and rich
Joy and fruitfulness come from loving
others--from getting our focus off of ourselves and saying, "How
can I be a blessing? How can I help somebody? How can I give my
How astounding it will be when Jesus reviews our
lives with us at the Judgment Seat, unveiling the full
repercussions of each act of kindness, of each word of
encouragement, of each dollar given to His Kingdomís work. For
example, we may discover that helping one friend to find
salvation has--through the generations--resulted in the
salvation of a thousand others.
If only we could realize how
much this life matters.
God tells us in advance about the Judgment Seat,
not because He doesn't like us, but because He loves us. He
wants us to do well there. Letís delight His heart by fulfilling
our calling and by showing many people His kindness. Letís live
this day for that Day.
ó by Jamie Lash,
Director of Student Development at Dallas Baptist University and
co-author of the best-selling book, This Was Your Life!
This Was Your Life
Rick Howard & Jamie Lash
is published by Chosen books, a division of Baker
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