This chapter contains a life-changing story
that Pastor Rick Howard has shared in over
80 countries around the world! Don't miss it!
I was hard at work one Monday
morning in downtown Memphis when the phone rang. Mondays were especially
busy for a director of Youth for Christ. The phone call was from one of my
board members, an enthusiastic layman who always moved me by his
consistent witness and love for Jesus Christ. Ed had been an
uncompromising friend to me and a great support to my ministry.
“I need to see you for a few minutes this morning,” he said in a
“Impossible, Ed,” I replied. “It can’t be today. Could we meet midweek?”
“No, Rick, it has to be now. I’ll come down and wait for a break in your
I heard a click. The line was dead.
Ed came and sat in my office as I continued with my work. Then I heard him
ask quietly, “Rick, have you ever thought much about the Judgment Seat of
I did not even look up from my papers. “Oh, I know there’ll be one, Ed. .
There was silence. When I finally glanced up in curiosity, I saw tears
streaming down his face. I felt ashamed.
“Oh, Ed, forgive me! Obviously you have something to share that’s far more
important than this work.” Grabbing my Bible, I turned my chair toward my
friend. “O.K., what’s on your mind? I think I’m ready.”
For almost three hours Ed walked me through the Scriptures on the Judgment
Seat of Christ. When he finished, he put his hand on my shoulder and
prayed a simple, fervent prayer. Then he stood up, hugged me and was gone.
I was stunned. Years earlier Ed had been a Golden Gloves boxing champion.
Had he slammed me with his fist, he could not have made a bigger impact on
me than he had that morning.
I picked up the phone and dialed my secretary. “Verla, I need to go home.
Please line up others to do my assignments during the next few days.”
“Are you sick?” she asked in a motherly tone.
“Yes,” I replied, “but not in the way you think. I can’t talk about it
“All right,” she replied. “I’ll take care of everything. You go on home.”
My car was parked behind the mission. Sobbing and praying at the same
time, I drove the ten miles out Poplar Boulevard toward my garage
apartment. Twice I had to veer to the curb and wait to regain my
As I drove I was suddenly reminded of a dreadful experience in my freshman
year of college.
I had achieved a high enough grade point average during my first semester
to allow me the privilege of not having absences count against me during
the second semester. Without that privilege an automatic grade reduction
would begin after three absences in any class.
In my immaturity I had abused the privilege, particularly in one class,
which I had skipped for two weeks in a row. On the day I returned to that
class, I arrived ten minutes early and was shocked to find all the
students already in their seats, notebooks open. My heart skipped a beat.
I sat down quickly beside a friend.
“What’s going on, Jim?” I asked desperately.
He appeared amused. “You ought to come around more often, Rick. We do a
lot of exciting things around here. Today is the midterm exam!”
The shock on my face must have been obvious. “You’ve got to be kidding!” I
exclaimed. Then, feeling foolish and immature, I raced outside and caught
the professor on his way into the classroom.
Dr. Rogers peered at me over the top of his glasses.
“Dr. Rogers, sir,” I stuttered. “Sir, I understand you’re giving a midterm
exam this morning. . . .”
“That’s correct,” he said, frowning, probably knowing what was coming
Apologizing for my negligence, I pleaded for one more day to prepare.
Dr. Rogers was a kind man, but he answered firmly, “Mr. Howard, I can’t
punish you for missing class, but you are nonetheless responsible for
everything that goes on here. You must take the exam this morning or
receive an automatic F on this test.”
I can still remember staring at that exam and at my blank answer form with
a sinking feeling in my stomach. It was a moment I wish I could forget.
As I drove to my apartment after Ed’s visit, that same feeling was in my
stomach. A far more serious exam was now before me and I knew nothing
about it. I was totally unprepared. How could I have treated so lightly
the most important exam I will ever face?
I had been in the ministry for seven years, and a measure of genuine
blessing and fruitfulness was evident. But I had never heard even one
message on the Judgment Seat of Christ, let alone studied the subject for
myself. I entered the apartment and began four days of intense study,
poring over every Scripture and teaching I could find on the subject.
Something was about to happen that would boggle my mind-and bring me back
to a vivid experience from my youth.
When I was a boy, my father always called me Rick or Ricky. The notable
exceptions were times during my teenage years when Dad called me to
account for my actions. “Richard,” he would say, “give account of
yourself!” I knew what he meant: “Where were you? Who were you with? What
did you do?”
I would never have lied to my father. I never even considered lying to him
(although I did not always think he needed to know all the details!). As I
grew older, however, I came to understand his concern and could see the
wisdom of “throwing myself on the mercy of the court.”
I will never forget one spring evening in 1956. I was in high school and
had just begun to drive. My father had recently purchased a new car, a
1955 Chevrolet sports coupe with a black front, white top and back, and
white vinyl interior. It was beautiful!-only the second new car of Dad’s
life. My family did not own our home and never had a bank account. That
car was our only valuable possession.
The evening came when I was finally given permission to drive the car on a
date. My girlfriend sat up front, and my best friend and his girl sat in
the back seat. We were so proud driving through town! I was extremely
cautious because the road seemed awfully narrow and the car as wide as a
boat. At the end of the evening, I took my girlfriend home first. She
lived down a long, private lane. I parked carefully, walked her to the
front door and performed the expected amenities.
When I returned, I noticed that my friends had moved to the front seat.
What I did not notice was that the front door on the passenger side had
been left partially open. As I put the car into reverse and backed down
the narrow driveway, a tree caught the edge of the open door, crushing it
into the front fender.
That dreadful crunch still turns my stomach these many years later. I knew
that when I got home, Dad would say, “Richard, give account of yourself.”
It was a moment I was not looking forward to. Not willfully but carelessly
I had abused my privilege. That car was precious to my family, and I was
returning it worth less than when it had been entrusted to me.
In just such a way, God’s most treasured possession, His only Son, was
given at great cost to make salvation and fruitfulness possible. We will
give account for what we have done with this precious gift.
Terror in the Presence of the Lord
In the four days I spent studying in my apartment, I read one particular
passage at least fourteen times. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 became dominant in
"Let each man take care how he builds upon [the foundation]…which is Jesus
Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver,
precious stones, wood, hay, stubble-each man’s 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 through fire."
On the night of the fourth day, I fell asleep with my clothes on, too
exhausted emotionally and physically to change for bed. Several hours
later I awakened, my heart pounding and my clothes plastered to my body
with perspiration. I had seen a vision of the Judgment Seat of Christ. I
had difficulty catching my breath. I was weeping-and my eyes were wide
open in terror!
I well knew the scriptural description of the Judgment Seat, but I was
completely unprepared for the drama and terror of that moment. The Christ
I saw bore no resemblance to the Warner Sallman painting that hung in my
childhood bedroom, which portrayed Jesus as “gentle, meek and mild” with
chestnut brown locks and blue eyes. I saw Christ as He appears in the
first chapter of Revelation:
"His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes
were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace,
and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters."
Revelation 1:14-15, NIV
His presence was awesome and startling, and He was wearing a judge’s robe.
In my vision I saw the redeemed, as numerous as endless waves of wheat in
a Kansas grainfield. All Christians of every generation were there. I had
been brought up in small Christian groups, so the multitudes of
white-robed believers astonished me. As I gazed on the immensity of the
gathered Church, I recalled a time when I stood on the deck of the old
Cunard liner, the Queen Mary, and marveled at the vastness of the Atlantic
What came next was not a sight but a sound. I heard two contrasting and
clashing sounds. The first was crying-the weeping and wailing I had always
associated with the damned. Yet I knew instinctively that no lost people
were here. This was the gathered redeemed. In contrast I heard thunderous
rejoicing. What release! What praise! It sounded like a thousand Christian
camp meetings rolled into one, like the “Hallelujah Chorus” sung by a
multitude of choirs.
What an intense contrast!-uncontrollable weeping and unrestrained praise.
The sounds clashed like great opposing cymbals: weeping and rejoicing,
sorrow and praise-human responses to loss and reward.
Then my eyes were drawn to a group of Christians on my right. I saw a
figure among them that I knew to be the Christ. Jesus carried a torch of
fire in His hand, similar to an Olympic torch. After speaking to each
Christian, Jesus dropped the flaming torch into the pile of stubble and
grass at the feet of each believer. What was revealed by the resulting
flash of fire brought a cry of sorrow or joy from the believer.
My eyes immediately fell to my own feet, and my deepest fears were
realized. Wood, grass and hay were piled there.
I felt sweat on the palms of my hands and cried out, more to myself than
to anyone around: “O God, is this all I have to show for seven years of
ministry? Have my motives and my work been so impure?”
Immediately I heard these words in my spirit: Son, look around.
I quickly noticed that every believer had a similar stack at his or her
feet. Some stacks were smaller than mine and others larger, but I saw no
one without a stack of grass and stubble.
Just as clearly I heard the Spirit say, Son, only when all the dross is
burned will what remains be revealed. Wait for the fire.
My Spiritual Mentor
I lifted my eyes from the stack at my feet. I was standing in a small
circle of familiar people. My attention was drawn across the circle to the
face of a woman who had been very supportive of me in my father’s
congregation in Sharon, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Shipton and her husband had sat
in the front row during every service. For many years she had led the
congregation in monthly missionary services, which had influenced my life
greatly. Furthermore she had taught me when I was a primary student in
Because I had been born later in my parents’ lives, my natural
grandparents were deceased and she had always been “Grandma Shipton” to
me. She had interceded for me faithfully, and a bond had formed between
When I became a rebellious teenager and drifted away from spiritual
priorities, she would come up to me, put her small hand on my shoulder and
say, “Ricky, son, I’m praying for you. God has a great purpose for your
I would shake her hand politely from my shoulder and say with amusement,
“Don’t you pray for me, Grandma Shipton!” I couldn’t have meant it more.
I knew God answered her prayers, and at that moment, that was the last
thing I wanted.
One Sunday night during my years of rebellion, I was sitting with some
other teenagers in our customary place, the rear pew. We had passed
pictures and notes during my father’s sermon. But it was usually not the
sermon that brought conviction in those days; it was the altar call.
Sometimes the sermon lasted only fifteen minutes, while the call to walk
forward and commit our lives fully to Christ stretched out for more than
When I stood during the altar call on this particular night, God began
dealing with me. My head was bowed, my eyes were closed and my hands
gripped the back of the pew in front of me. Then, instinctively, I knew
Grandma Shipton was coming for me! I did not see her coming, I did not
hear her footsteps and I had never known her to approach someone
personally during an altar call. But I knew she was coming for me. Soon I
felt her hand on my shoulder. Her words were not a request but a command -
a command backed by fourteen years of prayer.
“Son,” she said, “it’s time.”
I broke down like a little child as she led me to the altar. I repented
and surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
During my vision the Lord reminded me of the last time I had seen Grandma
Shipton on the earth. She was in her nineties and partially blind. She had
become quite senile and often could not remember or recognize my dad when
he visited her, although he had been her pastor for almost thirty years.
Every morning her daughter, Ione, dressed her, sat her in her favorite
rocking chair in the darkened living room, put her shawl across her
shoulders and placed her old, worn Bible on her lap.
I had just returned to my parents’ home for Christmas vacation. My
ministry had taken me to Tennessee and I seldom kept in touch with my old
home church in Pennsylvania. During my vacation Dad had said, “Son, I
think you should come with me today to visit Grandma Shipton. It’s
probably the last time you’ll see her alive.” I accompanied him, although
I felt that little purpose could be served by visiting her in that
When we arrived at the simple, two-story frame house, Ione met us at the
door. She reminded me that Grandma now seldom recognized even her closest
family, but she thanked me nonetheless for coming. While Dad and Ione
talked in the entry, I stepped across the threshold into the living room.
Suddenly I heard her voice.
“Ricky, son, is that you? Ricky, I pray for you every day. God has a great
work for you to do.”
I was startled. Was I hearing things? No, Dad and Ione stood behind me,
with looks of shock on their faces.
She did not speak another sensible word in the hour that followed. Her
conversation was rambling and disconnected. But God had allowed her spirit
one clear, unrepeatable moment. She was irrevocably bonded to that little
boy through prayer and the vision God had given her for his life.
In my vision a voice, like the sound of many waters, startled me out of my
Jesus Christ Himself was standing before my spiritual mentor. I do not
think I had ever heard her first name-certainly not that I remembered.
“Lily Shipton,” Jesus said again. “Well done, thou good and faithful
He touched the torch to the grass and stubble at her feet. It burned
instantly in a flash of fire. When the flames had consumed the stubble, I
saw a pile of gold, silver and precious jewels at her feet.
She bent over to gather the valuables. Taking them in her arms, she laid
them at Jesus’ feet and began to praise the Lord. To this day I remember
that spirit of praise: “I love You, Jesus! I love You, Jesus!” I will
never forget what happened next.
An Unchangeable Verdict
My attention was drawn to a young man I had gone to school with seven
years earlier. I had not seen Todd (not his real name) for several years
but knew instinctively why he stood there with me at this vision of
Christ’s Judgment Seat. We had been bonded together despite our
What a contrast we had made! He was tall and handsome, a leader within the
student body at his college. I was a scrawny, underdeveloped teenager.
Although he was a college student and I a mere high school sophomore, we
had attended classes at the same Bible school and had grown very close
because of our mutual spiritual commitment. We each received the call to
preach during the same spiritual emphasis week and met frequently for
prayer and study from that time forward. Todd often prayed with great
fervency for the people of Africa, believing that the Lord was calling him
to mission work there.
My friend was dating a beautiful girl from the East Coast. She came from a
wealthy family, ranked near the top of her class in college and was
selected homecoming queen.
One spring evening in Georgia, while Todd and I sat in his car, he told me
that he had proposed to this beautiful girl. My heart sank when he
recounted how she had responded: “I love you and I’ll marry you, but not
if you become a preacher, and certainly not if you become a missionary.”
Although this girl professed to be a Christian, I feared their marriage
would compromise the call of God on Todd’s life. I pleaded with him to
reconsider but his mind was made up. Placing his hand on my shoulder like
a big brother, he said, “It’s all right, Ricky. I know what I’m doing.
Don’t worry, friend.”
Those words still haunt me.
Now, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the majestic Christ approach my
friend. The flaming torch He carried was spitting sparks out of its
intensity. Christ called Todd by a nickname used only by some of his
closest friends, then lowered the torch to the pile at his feet.
Suddenly all was burned. Nothing remained but a blackened circle of earth.
That black spot is engraved on my mind. To this day it makes me shudder.
As Todd came to the full realization that he had not pleased his Master
but had wasted his life, he covered his face with his hands and began to
weep and groan in agony.
I have no words for what I saw and felt. Not a day has passed since my
vision that I have not thought about that blackened circle of earth. What
a tragedy! Whether a person receives great reward or no reward at all, the
verdict at the Judgment Seat is unchangeable.
In my vision Jesus then approached me. I saw the Christ of Revelation
whose eyes were blazing fire. He stood before me, looked directly into my
eyes and spoke one word: “Richard.” I saw the torch dropping toward the
grass and straw at my feet.
Suddenly I started out of my sleep. The vision ended abruptly. My heart
was pounding, my clothes were plastered to my body with perspiration and I
was weeping profusely. Moving from my bed to my knees, I prayed during the
next two or three hours until the sun rose. I said to the Holy Spirit,
Thank You! Thank You for showing me this!
That morning I resolved, There will be a new focus in my life. I made
phone calls. I wrote letters. I got rid of bitterness. I reconciled with
people. I changed some habits. Because in the light of the Judgment Seat
of Christ, there were things in my life I did not want there, and other
things not in my life I did want there.
After the vision I felt washed and cleansed, determined and excited. I
began taking full responsibility for my actions, knowing they would count
My life has been transformed. It has become more effective, more fruitful,
more meaningful, more joyful. Although this vision took place more than
thirty years ago, not a day goes by that I do not think about the Judgment
Seat of Christ. It really is going to happen!
What does the Bible say about how to prepare for that awesome Day? How do
we lay up treasures in heaven? How do we become abundantly fruitful for
the sake of Christ’s Kingdom? How do we increase our healthy fear of God?
How do we purify our motives and develop a servant’s heart? In short, how
can we live in such a way that our lives will delight the heart of God?
The rest of this book is dedicated to helping you get ready.
- Chapter One of the book, This
Was Your Life,
by Rick Howard & Jamie Lash.
Many books claim to be
This one actually is.
Used by permission of Chosen Books, a division of Baker Book House
Company, copyright © 1998. All rights to this material are reserved.
Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval,
published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written
permission from Baker Book House
Click to order the book!
This Was Your Life
Howard & Jamie Lash
is published by Chosen books, a division of Baker Books.
Foreword by Jack Hayford
Founding Pastor, Church
on the Way
President, King's College and Seminary
2,000 copies of the book
"The skilled approach taken by Rick Howard and Jamie Lash to this
awe-inspiring theme is peculiar in this respect: It is both
entertaining and frightening. If 'entertaining' seems glib, know
that it is only in the sense that it is highly engrossing. If 'frightening' seems
undesirable, know it is only in the sense that one is led to a new
awareness of our ultimate accountability for our life.
It may strike some as a superficial generalization to say that every
Christian should hear this message, but it seems in today's mental and
moral environment that it would merit such priority consideration. This
message is a sobering summons to our souls - a sensitively discussed but
starkly honest presentation which will enrich the viewer. We need the
weight of such teaching to balance the truths of our expectations of God's
blessings with the truth of God's expectations of us. Here is ballast for
the soul - a blessing in both smooth and stormy times."
“This message jolted me with a dramatic glimpse of eternity. It has
shaped my life and rescued me from misspent years.”
Dawson, Best-selling author & President of YWAM
||"I read about half of the book and I wept and I wept and I wept. It has
really washed over my soul. That book actually revolutionized my life. I
don't know how many copies I've given away."
Thelma Wells, Women of Faith Conference Speaker
“This message was what my soul needed now—not only to be better prepared
to meet my Savior, but to be motivated in a greater, more solid way, to
work for Him.”
Cunningham, Past President of YWAM
"Wonderfully written and Christ-centered. From the very first
page to Booth's vision, it is a compelling book."
Rick E. Amidon, President, Baker College of Muskegon
"A life-changing book. Far from a depressing tone of doom and destruction,
This Was Your Life! covers nearly every aspect of Christian discipleship
recognizing that how we live our lives affects our heavenly rewards."
"...Will stir readers out of concern for themselves and into concern for
others. This prophetic message explains how the Judgment Seat of Christ
shapes our living faith in everything we do. An excellent book for a short
Bible study course or for individual reading, a strong addition to any
“The dynamic of this message cannot be overstated. You will rejoice that
you heard it while there is still time to change.”
Tompkins, Conference Speaker
“Absolutely the most life-changing
teaching I have ever heard.”
Fry (Ventura, CA)
“The impact of This Was Your Life continues to astound me. I am a
different person than I was a year ago.”
Newsome (Sulpher Springs, TX)
“Uniformly excellent. One of the best guides to the basic Christian life
I have ever read. Not once did the authors dip into the pool of selfish
theology. This is a book that shows how to get your eyes off of yourself
and on the prize. And what a prize it is.”
Dave Canfield, Reviewer for Cornerstone (Vol. 27, Issue 15)
"This book has impacted me more than any other I
have read. I plan to
read it at least once a year."
Jennifer Lockerbie (Fortville, IN)
“This is a wonderful book! If you long to hear Jesus say, ‘Well done,
good and faithful servant’--this book is for you.”
Barbara W. Rogers, Reviewer for Newsline (Oct. ‘98)
“Every follower of Christ should read this book. I wish I had this guide
much earlier in my Christian walk. I would not have wasted so many years
seeking man’s approval and praise. The authors guide the reader to an
uplifting knowledge of how to truly follow Christ. The book is filled
with practical instruction on how to change. I have already given away
ten copies to friends. After reading it, several have said, 'This is
exactly what I have been looking for!'"
Cummins (Arlington, TX)
“I believe that after THE GOSPEL, this is THE most important truth that
anyone can ever hear. If believers really embrace this, their lives will
never be the same. Since I read ‘This Was Your Life!’ in l999, there is
not a day that I do not think about living for THAT DAY instead of just
TODAY. I have now bought over 400 copies of the book and about 20 copies
of the video series! I have distributed these copies resulting in
overwhelmingly positive and grateful responses. Most people have had
similar reactions to mine and have in turn ordered more books to give to
the believers they know. There is just no way to measure the far-reaching
impact this book will have.”
Dyer (Dallas, TX)
“This Was Your Life!” has made a huge impact on my family. Not only have
I given several copies away, but my wife is an avid reader, and she has
told countless people that it’s the best book she’s ever read.”
Dr. Hal Stewart (Flower Mound, TX)
“There is a lot of great information available through various sources,
but this series is heart-changing and life-changing. God is renewing my
mind and transforming my thought patterns, removing the lies and false
teachings I had been programmed to believe. The Truth will set you free!
I cannot tell you how much these videos are impacting my life.”
“I'm not sure what to say or how to say it. This was something that, in
more than 25 years of being a Christian, I don't believe I have ever
heard. This truly is a life-changing word. It changes our outlook on
everything. It also puts a new understanding on a lot of confusing
Scriptures. When I first heard you speak on this, I knew that this was
something that my whole family needed to hear. When I watched the video,
the impact of the message was just as strong. I was truly "blown away."
I felt cheated that I had never heard this before, and it left me with a
hunger to hear & know more. It is hard to put into words the feelings
that I went through because words are inadequate to express what God does
in a heart. This is truly a Word that the Body of Christ desperately
needs to hear.” —
“That book is having a MASSIVE affect on our family, and we are going to
do a weekly focus group on the videos from our home. This is just
AWESOME, simply AWESOME! I really can’t get over it.”