Monday, August 29, 2011

A Crown That Lasts

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 Corin. 9:25 NKJV
In the previous post, we talked about what it means to live a "memorable" life and about the reality of there being rewards in heaven. When we live our lives in a way worthy of reward, our heavenly Father will be faithful to acknowledge each and every faithful deed and reward us accordingly. And it is important to remember that in order to receive a heavenly reward, we need to be sure to not seek an earthly one. Any "reward" or recognition we receive now is all the reward we are going to get. Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

But for the rest, for all of those moments that seem to go unnoticed, God has seen every one of them and has stored up an eternal treasure for us in heaven. And one tangible way that we will be rewarded is with heavenly crowns. There are five that the Bible speaks of. The first one is mentioned in the verse above. Bible teachers refer to it as the "winner's crown", also the "imperishable" or "incorruptible" crown. This crown is reserved for those who have run the race with faithfulness and endurance, as seen here:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me-- the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. 2 Tim. 4:7-8 NLT
He has fought the good fight: Fighting the good fight means living that "memorable" life that we talked about last time. It means putting Christ first, putting others ahead of ourselves, laying aside our own desires, ambitions and comforts and living with the sole purpose of serving others and glorifying God. Philippians 2:3-8

He has finished the race: Living the Christian life isn't a one-time decision to accept Jesus as our savior. It is a daily, hourly, even minute by minute choice to submit to Christ and surrender your will to his. And it is a struggle, as sin wars within us against our calling to obey (Romans 7:14-25), that we must continue to fight until the day we meet Jesus face to face. It is a life-long choice to abandon everything that our human nature and the world we live in would urge us to pursue and to instead run after the not-so-popular life that Christ modeled for us. Romans 12:2

He has remained faithful: Faithfulness is something that has become almost a lost concept in our society. Don't like your job? Get a new one. Don't love your wife anymore? Get a divorce. Not having fun anymore? Move on to something that's more "entertaining". Don't like something your pastor said on Sunday? Find a church that suits your taste better. In a world where our attention span and capacity for true loyalty to anyone or anything is about as long as a 30 second sound bite, the idea of staying fully committed to a god that we cannot see or touch is nearly non-existent. Our God requires the kind of faithfulness that says, "I will love you, praise you, and serve you when I'm having fun, when life is going great, when I lose my job, when my husband or child dies, when everyone at work thinks I'm weird and crazy for talking about Jesus all the time, when I'm tired, when I can't do anything else." It is the kind of loyalty that says "for better or worse" and truly means it.

The prize is for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing: When your heart aligns with Christ's in such a way that allows you to fight the good fight, to finish the race, and to remain faithful, then your one and only desire will be to run into the arms of the one person who makes all of that possible, and for that day to come as soon as possible. The longing for heaven and for the company of Jesus should be so strong within you that there is an actual battle raging within you. Just as Paul was so painfully conflicted between his desire to depart and be with Christ and the need of his brothers and sisters for him to stay (Philippians 1:21-24), so we should be equally torn. Notice, however, that Paul's struggle was not, "I love my life. I want to experience all that life has to offer before I go. I want to enjoy what I have while I have it. I want to try new things before I die, etc." The source of his struggle was not in what he could gain, but in what others needed of him and how Christ could potentially use him to serve others and to further God's kingdom. This should be our struggle. If your struggle lies in not being ready to give up what you have here on earth, then you must reevaluate where your priorities lie. We need to be able to say, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus! There is nothing here for me." We need to be able to run after him and never pause for a moment to even look back. Genesis 19:26
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33
So many times in life, it can feel like we are fighting a losing battle, like the whole world hates us and everything that we stand for, like the world is out to get us, and all truth and justice have been abandoned. When you feel like you no longer belong to this world and are truly an alien in a hostile battleground, you will know that you are truly fighting the good fight, finishing the race, remaining faithful, and eagerly awaiting his return.

And once you know this, then you will know that when no one else around you sees or acknowledges your faithfulness, God sees it all, and He is keeping a record. He has seen every act of kindness, heard every prayer, and witnessed every secret moment of service. The one who is worthy of all praise has seen your heart and is eagerly preparing to place a crown upon your head.

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