What’s the Ultimate Prize?

Super Bowl rings and Olympic medals are considered among the greatest crowning sports achievements. But there is another crown that is infinitely greater.

Many people will soon be focusing on two of the biggest sporting events in athletics. Sunday, Feb. 2, is the NFL Super Bowl, where the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos will play for the NFL title. Each player on the winning team will receive a diamond-embedded ring, while the losing team will go home with broken dreams, thinking they fell one game short.

And just a few days after the Super Bowl, the Winter Olympic Games begin, where athletes from all around the world will be competing for gold, silver and bronze medals. Yet of the thousands who will compete, only a small handful will come home with medals.

A life of devotion and sacrifice

Most of these athletes have dedicated much of their lives to training and preparing for these games.

Many of the football players began playing as young children and developed their skills throughout elementary school, high school and college—before being drafted to play professionally. Much of their leisure time was sacrificed toward the goal of being the best players they could be.

And now, after years of hard work, bruised egos, sprained ankles and numerous other injuries, they will compete in a game only 60 minutes long for a metal ring and some short-lived fame.

Likewise, the athletes in the Olympic Games have similar dedication, some even practicing as toddlers. Most of these athletes sacrificed their childhood and much of their lives to the training necessary to compete at the Olympic level.

Is the prize worth the cost?

Many who compete in these games pay a high price, whether they win or not. Many of these athletes—especially football players—suffer from numerous injuries and pain their entire lives. Some athletes suffer crippling injuries like concussions and back, leg and knee injuries.

And then there are those who, after their athletic careers conclude (generally at a fairly young age), end up in financial ruin because of a lack of financial education or preparation to earn a living in another way. Many athletes experience depression after their retirement.

So is all of this worth a ring or a medal?

The ultimate crown from the ultimate race

The apostle Paul was probably familiar with the Olympic games of his time. And in an analogy he compared a physical race to the ultimate spiritual race.

The high calling of God is the ultimate prize. It isn’t always easy, and there will be tough times and sacrifices. As spiritual athletes, we must discipline our minds and bodies to make them subject to God.”“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25, emphasis added).

Yes, a Super Bowl ring and an Olympic medal are perishable. Some have literally been lost; some have been sold to pay debts; and some have been stolen. But even if they are kept throughout an athlete’s life, the old saying is true: You can’t take it with you when you die.

Jesus Christ tells us that there is a different prize that is eternal—a spiritual crown—and that we need to hold on to it (Revelation 3:11).

What is this spiritual crown?

The spiritual crown Christ is referring to is rulership in the Kingdom of God. 

Those who compete in these upcoming sporting events were picked by recruiters and coaches. They were chosen because of their athletic abilities.

True Christians are those who have been hand-picked by God the Father to lead in the soon-coming Kingdom of God (John 6:44; Revelation 5:10). God has chosen Christians not because of their natural ability; but rather “God has chosen the weak things of the world,” those who are not part of the elite of society, “to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

Will you respond?

Many people try out for a sports team but quit because of lack of dedication and effort. The athletes who are competing in the coming events are there because of their strong commitment.

Likewise, God has called many to be part of His team (Matthew 22:14). While some won’t put forth enough effort and will quit the team; others will try hard and excel (Matthew 13:18-23).

Yes, the high calling of God is the ultimate prize. It isn’t always easy, and there will be tough times and sacrifices (Acts 14:22). As spiritual athletes, we must discipline our minds and bodies to make them subject to God (1 Corinthians 9:27).

And if we endure, our prize will not be a perishable ring or a medal. Our reward is to reign and rule with Jesus Christ forever (1 John 3:2; Matthew 25:34; Revelation 5:10).

Yes, this incredible calling of God pales into insignificance being on a Super Bowl team or an Olympic team!

So as you watch the games, think about the perishable crown they are competing for and the imperishable crown God is offering you and me!

To learn more about the ultimate gift God promises true Christians, read our article “Children of God.”

About the Author

Tim Groves

Tim Groves

Tim Groves attends the Jefferson, Georgia, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, where he serves as a deacon. 

He has been married to his wife, Teresa, for over 30 years. Together, they have two daughters and two sons and live in South Carolina. They moved there from Ohio in 1997 to flee the cold northern winters and allow him to do the things he really enjoys, like roaming though automobile junkyards looking for hidden treasures from times long past.

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