Christmas is coming! What’s on your wish list? A new book, your favorite cookies, new clothes, new jewelry, or maybe even thirty uninterrupted minutes to soak in the tub?? A day filled with love and laughter with friends and family, without a single tense moment? Your favorite Christmas meal, book-ended by long-standing family traditions?
How about adding a crown to your list? But this crown is not for your wish list. It’s for your hopes and dreams list, if we think of hopes as confident expectations. In our modern language, hope has taken on more of the meaning of wishful thinking. But when we read of hope in the Bible, it conveys a confident expectation. It’s something we trust in, and can stake our claim on!
What kind of crown should we be expecting? Paul writes to Timothy near the end of his life, “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. 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 Timothy 4:6-8 NLT) Do you look forward to Christ’s return with anticipation? Are you remaining faithful to him, knowing that no one knows the day of his return? If so, the Lord will give you a crown of righteousness!
Paul was not the only one to mention the reward of a crown. James wrote, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12) Enduring hardship is made much easier when done for the sake of one we love. Our love for God will be revealed in our faithfulness and obedience to him. What does He want from us? Jesus told his disciples, “This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:17) That’s pretty straightforward!
Peter also mentioned a crown for those who lead others: “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.” (1 Peter 5:2-4) Are you in charge of caring for and leading anyone? If so, do it as a service to God! From the babies in the nursery to the seniors full of memories and wisdom, lead with gracious compassion and love. Each one carries the image of God, and is precious to him.
Finally, in the book of Revelation, Jesus Christ has a message for the suffering church of Smyrna: “But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) We know that this life will come to an end, whether we die or Christ returns. Why do we try to hold on to it so tightly? Life will be so much greater on the other side! But while we remain, we live for God, and bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. Remaining faithful to him no matter our circumstances will bring eternal reward.
Most of the things we put on our Christmas list are not everlasting. They will come to and end and no longer bring satisfaction. But our eternal reward will last forever!
“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
May we run to win!