For a short period of my life, one of my favorite people was a guy named Devega. We were in the army together. I had signed up to field a basketball team in a local church league. I was getting older, and my friends who were part of the team were as well. Fortunately, all the other teams were comprised of people like us. The competition, just like us, were past their prime.
But Devega was different. He was young. He was tall. He was fast. He could jump—really high. Because he was on our team, we never lost a game. I knew it was unfair, but I didn’t care. I was still young enough to have the competitive juices flowing through my veins, and I just wanted to win.
It didn’t matter that my contributions to the team were small. I would set screens for Devega. I would pass the ball to Devega and watch him score. I would cheer Devega on and watch as the older guys on the other team would try to stop him—but fail. With Devega on our team, winning was automatic.
I knew the outcome of every game I played in before it started. I was a member of the winning team. My contributions were few, but I knew I would be one of the ones holding the championship trophy at the end of the season.
For people who love fair competition, my experience would be terrible. Where was the fun in playing in a league where everybody knew the outcome? That’s a fair complaint. But in one way, at least, it’s a good illustration of the Christian life.
Mark is the only Gospel that gives a little parable about a man who sows some seed in the ground. He does not know how it all works, but the ground brings forth the crop. In fact, in the Greek Mark says it is automatic. The crop is coming. It is a sure thing. We know the outcome (Mark 4:26-28).
In the parable, it is clear that the seed is the message of the coming kingdom of God. It includes the message that eternal life in Christ is a free gift through faith that can never be lost. But it also includes the fact that He will reward faithfulness among those who have believed in Him. The kingdom is coming. A great harvest of those with eternal life—along with their rewards—is coming. There is no stopping it. His promise guarantees it. It is automatic.
When we serve the Lord, we’re playing on the winning team. The Lord wants us to serve Him with all of our strength, and we should. In that way, we are making contributions to the team effort. But we must remember that the victory is guaranteed because He is our Captain. It does not depend upon our works or efforts. The coming of the kingdom we anticipate is a foregone conclusion.
We have the privilege of being on the winning team. We know that when we serve the Lord we’re participating in that victory. Devega needed somebody to pass him the ball. He needed somebody to set a screen for him. The Lord, in His grace, has given us the honor of being on His team and working together with Him.
Paul describes his own work in such a way. When he came to the city of Corinth, he was doing the planting for the Lord. But it was the Lord who caused the harvest to grow. The King had given him the grace to work with Him in laying up eternal treasure for His kingdom. Everything Paul did was a part of what Christ would bring about; Christ was the One who guaranteed success (1 Cor 3:6-7).
The bottom line is this: When we serve the Lord, we’re playing on the winning team. Eternal life cannot be lost. That’s not the issue. The issue is eternal rewards. We know the outcome. The kingdom is coming, and rewards for what we do are coming, as long as we do not “grow weary while doing good” (Gal 6:9). Even though we know it is our Captain who makes that victory certain, as long as we keep throwing Him the ball, we can have the privilege of holding the trophy with Him when all is said and done.