Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Crown Won Through Pain

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. James 1:2-3

It's definitely easier said than done, and we all know that hindsight is 20/20. It's so easy to look back at a trial that we've come out of and readjust our attitudes once we've had time to lick our wounds. It's easy to watch someone else suffering through a trial and offer sound biblical advice about what the appropriate godly response should be. But in the moment? That's not quite so simple.

Sometimes we'll get it right. Sometimes the truth will win out and we'll find ourselves living out Christ the way we ought to. A rude driver will cut you off in traffic and you'll simply slow down and let him pass. You'll get the news at work that you're getting laid off and you'll thank God for removing you from a job that he clearly does not want you at anymore, joyful at the thought that whatever he has next for you is exactly what you need, regardless of how comfortable or appealing it may or may not be. A friend or relative will say something hurtful and you'll respond in love, recognizing that you have no right to be angry and remembering that no matter what anyone says or does to you, they can never wrong you more than you have wronged Christ. Sometimes, you will... and sometimes, probably a lot of times, you won't. I certainly have not, far more times than I care to admit. But we all keep running back to the word, asking God for the same forgiveness that we have been unwilling to give others, and He stands us back up so we can try again...

And for those times when we do get it right, for those times when we face pain, suffering, wrongs, and hurts, particularly when it is a direct result of the fact that we follow Jesus, and we do respond correctly, we do use it as an opportunity to draw closer to God, we do persevere, and we do turn those blows from the enemy into an opportunity for praise, then we will reap an eternal reward: the crown of life.

This second crown, the crown of life, also known as the martyr's crown, is for those who have endured pain and suffering in this life and have reflected Christ through the midst of the trials. It is first and foremost for those who have suffered the ultimate persecution, martyrdom, for their belief in Jesus Christ and their refusal to deny him, no matter the cost.

But this crown is not limited to those who have died for Christ. It is reserved also for those who choose to truly live for him. The Lord knows that sometimes it is harder to live for Him than to die for Him. And he has this crown waiting for all who choose to do so. We can choose to live in the moment, seeking the thing that will give us instant satisfaction: a snap back after a hurtful comment; a spiteful attempt at "getting even"; an outburst; or simply a refusal to make sacrifices out of a desire to live a "comfortable" life rather than one devoted to honoring God in everything we do, no matter how awkward or inconvenient it may be. OR, we can choose to give up our "rights" and allow God to seek justice in his time, to do his will in our lives, and to reward his children when and how he sees fit.

For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 2 Corinthians 4:17

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