“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14 NIV)

I love prophecy. It reveals the multitude that no one can count standing around the throne. Dressed in white and waving palms, they cried out, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:10)

A few verses later we hear who they are and from where they came (above).

The saints who received salvation “came out of the midst of” the great tribulation. Their robes had been dirty with mud, blood, sweat, tears and who knows what else. Nevertheless, they appear before the throne white and clean. It is obvious from Revelation 7, the multitude earned something no one can ever take away.

What don’t we see? We don’t see anyone with a clean robe that had never been dirtied? Everyone, regardless of nation, tribe, language or people, came out of the great tribulation. No one before the Lamb escaped the test of patient endurance.

We live in a culture that rewards participation. We receive prizes for showing up, trophies for stepping on the field and ribbons for walking in the door. Some are paid for breathing.

The attitude that in order to be fair everyone should receive the same reward has made its way into Christianity through the error of universalism: Everybody receives a crown and everybody sits at the wedding supper of the Lamb. The only requirement is believe in Jesus—and even that may not be necessary. As far as outcomes, everyone should be equal.

Prizes for participating is not how life works. The real prize for participation is simply the opportunity to achieve, to succeed or to fail—and nothing else. God rewards, but his reward is for those who exhibit faith and who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

Heaven is not an entitlement. Paradise is not a default position. If it were, it would not be worth dying for or worthy of carrying our cross. Sacrifice would be unnecessary.

We should all aspire to give our Savior our maximum. (Isn’t that what He gave us?) Yet, many leaders advocate “minimalism”. Going to church, reading our Bible, praying, maybe not all the time, but… you know. They say, “Believing in God and being a good person is all it takes.” But is that true? Intellectual assent to some facts, if that were enough, would make heaven as meaningful as a certificate of participation.

Paul encouraged believers not to merely enter the race, but run to win (1 Corinthians 9:24).

We ought to be ambitious for eternal rewards. Find out what pleases God, then do it! (Ephesians 5:10)

In 1 Samuel 16 we see David taken from watching the sheep then anointed king of Israel. Afterward, he went back to shepherding. David allowed God to orchestrate events and provide his tests (like facing a giant, fighting the Philistines, etc.). David did not just walk in the next day and demand his crown. He embraced every chance to earn his destiny, and to listen for God to teach him what he needed to know. His self-respect and confidence needed time to develop. He knew the One who called him would place him in a position to act on a kingly level. To  not endeavor to live up to his calling, would–like his predecessor–condemn him to utter failure.

Superficial, untested belief is as good as a certificate of participation. That and some folding money will buy a cup of coffee.

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