Getting What You Didn’t Earn: An Olympic Illustration

I love watching Olympic competition. I’m one of those guys that chants, “USA, USA” even though I’m cheering for an event that ended hours ago, 5,000 miles away.

One of my favorite Olympic moments is the medal ceremony. I’ll admit to getting a little choked up when an athlete stands on the podium, medal hanging around their neck, beaming with pride as their flag is raised to the playing of their national anthem. That moment represents the culmination of years of hard work, hours of rigorous training and significant sacrifice.

The rewards of being the best in the world are many. Sure, there’s the shiny piece of metal, but there’s also the pride of accomplishment, your name in the record books, accolades from heads of state, lucrative endorsements, and the admiration of a nation.

But what if you were given all these things and you didn’t deserve it? How would you feel if someone else did all the work and you got all the reward?

The Bible describes just this kind of situation.

To state the issue as simply as possible, our sin makes us guilty and deserving of punishment. We need to be made right with God, but unlike an Olympic athlete, no amount of effort, hard work or determination can earn it… but Jesus did.

When we place our faith in what Jesus did on the cross for our benefit, the results are staggering. Romans 5:1 says, “… since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Part of peace come through forgiveness. Forgiveness is when I did something bad and deserving of a consequence, but the consequence doesn’t come. I’ve been forgiven. I’ve been pardoned.

While forgiveness is great, the work of Jesus does much more.

The benefit of forgiveness is that my guilt is removed and I’m not held responsible for what I’ve done. But, forgiveness only brings me back to neutral. That is, it only brings me back to where I started before I did something wrong.

Being justified takes things a step further and adds a positive… it adds righteousness.

Righteousness is a performance record… a really, really good performance record. It’s a record that says, “You’re the best! You made it! You have what it takes!”

When we place our faith in Jesus and are “justified,” the performance record of Jesus is given to us. Jesus is the one who does the hard work of living a sinless life. Jesus is the one who makes the sacrifice of His life, boldly defeating sin and death.

Then He does something amazing. Jesus gives us His record of accomplishment. He takes the prize that He earned, places it around our necks, puts us on the podium and says, “Enjoy all the benefits!”

Is it hard for you to believe that Jesus offers you all the benefits of His hard work? Do you appreciate being justified as much as you do being forgiven?