Lately, I have been mentoring 2 men (and walking with a high school student) and have been reading James and Timothy with two of the men. I have been intrigued with these two writers, and as you know, James is one of my favorite books of the Bible. The one thing that has been catching my attention these days is the reference to crowns that we, as Christians, can strive for: The Crown of Life, The Incorruptible Crown, the Crown of Rejoicing, The Crown of Righteousness and the Crown of Glory. We are not only called to be disciples, we are called to holy priests. We are called to finish well. This isn't a sprint where we are done in three years and are left out in the fields to graze until retirement. Jesus want more, for he paid the ultimate price.
In James 1:12, we read, "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Revelation 2:10 states, "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." James tells us in his first chapter to consider it pure joy when we face trials and tribulations that if we do so we will persevere and grow in spiritual maturity.
Do not take this crown for granted, it is something that God promises us if we endure. I believe that this is not saying that we don't fall short or fail or miss opportunities to learn and to be an effective witness. Jesus tells us in the book of John that nothing can take us away from the Father once we are saved. Our sins are forgiven (sins of the past, the present and the future are bought and paid for) there is nothing else we can do to earn this grace and mercy. This crown is meant for our testing (as disciples) and for our endurance to receive this crown.
The Incorruptible Crown is found in 1 Thessalonians 2:19, "For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?" 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 states, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,[a] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." Some reference have been made to this crown for those who are good and faithful servants. These are men and women who can be trusted to do the task that God sets before them. I would even inject the Book of James into this by saying don't just hear the words (of the Bible) do what they say.
The third crown to strive for is the Crown of Glory. 1 Peter 5:4English Standard Version (ESV) 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. I believe that this is the crown for those who faithfully teach and preach God's word. This is a crown for those who are the first chair Christians. They are engaged and not only engaged but are in the game and their sleeves are rolled up. For we are 10, But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies."
The Crown of Righteousness, 2 Timothy 4:8, "Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing." The choice of the disciple in this process is to move away from the old self and strive to live in our new self. That is, one who is humble and willing to say that even though I still sin, I keep a humble heart and repenting heart attitude toward my daily walk. I call this crown the "trust" crown. Proverbs 3, "5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. 7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil." The most awesome thing about this crown is that there is nothing we do to earn it. That is, to say, that because of Jesus's (his sacrifice and resurrection) righteousness has been imputed on us - how awesome is that!
The final crown that we should strive for is the Crown of Rejoicing. 1 Thessalonians 2:19, "For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?" Philippians 4:4, "4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." We often find people around us, books, television and movies asking the proverbial question, "Why are we here? What is my purpose in this life?" In Luke 15:7 we get a much clearer endgame perspective, "7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Also in Revelation 21:4, "4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” This crown is often called the "soul-winner's crown". This side of heaven we will truly never know how much our lives impact others. When you put that into perspective it is a huge task and ask for us to follow Jesus's model with his disciples, that is, to go and make disciples throughout all the earth. He doesn't want just followers (benchwarmers) rather, he wants DISCIPLES!
I am not sure about you, but the idea that I can have the opportunity to pursue 5 crowns through my christian walk simply energizes me to finish well. The thing about this pursuit for me is that none are possible to achieve on my own volition. This is a gift from God through His Son, Jesus Christ, who paid for my sins and because of his death and resurrection, I am free to pursue these crowns. The joy of this is that I can have the opportunity to take these crown (like the Elders around heaven) and throw them at the feet of Jesus - For only He is worthy.
To God be the Glory Forever and Ever, Amen. Blessings,
By the way, which crown are you pursuing now?