Have you ever been to one of those closing programs of a camp or Bible School in which every kid gets some kind of award, ranging from First Place in a running race, to Best Haircut, to Stayed Awake During Chapel? Just to cover a child who doesn’t seem to stand out in any way, youth leaders can buy a “Certificate of Participation,” so no kid goes unrecognized. I’ve heard some people complain about this: “If everybody wins, nobody wins; there have to be losers if we’re going to cheer for winners.”
I don’t know, I kind of like the “Certificate of Participation” idea. I’ve “won” a few of them in my time. The Apostle Paul was in prison awaiting likely execution when he wrote these words:
As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (1 Timothy 4:6-8)
What had Paul done to earn God’s achievement award when he leaves this earth and enters eternity? He completed the boxing match standing up; he reached all the way to the finish line in the marathon race of life. He doesn’t say anything about winning. He certainly doesn’t feel like a winner. He feels like a “libation,” a liquid sacrifice being poured out on an altar in worship, about to be burned up in the fire. At this point late in his life, Paul is satisfied just to be there, having completed what God called him to do.
Paul says, “Lord, just give me a Certificate of Participation. That’s all I need.”
–Pastor George Van Alstine