Category Archives: crown of life
The choices we make in life can be very important and some of them have eternal consequences. The life of a Christian is sometimes compared to a race and, as in all races, enduring to the end is important and necessary. When one feels like stopping or giving up, it is always important to press on.
But what if you didn’t know if you had quit? You might not have planned to but the end result is the same. Here are four things to consider and ask yourself to help determine if you are still pressing on.
- Which path are you following? You need to follow the strait and narrow path rather than the broad and wide one.
- What do you take along with you? Do you carry along the sin and distractions of the world or do you lay them aside?
- Do you turn back at the sign of difficulties and struggles? Are you like the rocky soil that wilts at tribulation?
- Do you allow distractions to catch our attention? Are you like the thorny soil that allows distractions to keep it from bearing fruit?
These are some questions that we need to ask to help determine if we are indeed pressing on. But they are external to the process. A more internal one can be found in Philippians 3:13:
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Php 3:13-14)
Paul’s famous statement here shows one other thing that we need to do: Let go of the past. The past can entangle us in a lot of problems such as regret for past mistakes. Choosing to forget those things and press on will help ensure us that we finish the race.
The point is though that it IS a choice to press on, or to stop! Which choice will you make?
This mornings sermon was entitled “Choosing to Press On” and you can listen to it if you wish.
The beginning of the year brings all sorts of desires, decisions, and declarations of change and improvement. We are going to start good habits and terminate bad ones. While times of reflection and changes are common during birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and such, most people think about who they are and who they want to become at the beginning of the year.
A question that will help you do this is the following:
What one thing, if you started doing it today, would help you make the biggest progress toward your primary goal? Perhaps you might even ask what one thing, if you stopped doing, it would have the same effect?
Of course, having goals to improve are only as good as the primary goal. If your goal is to climb a ladder and you get to the top but find out you are on the wrong wall, what good is it? If your primary goal is to lose weight and be healthier, it is probably going to be a poor secondary goal to set the record for consecutive days of eating Big Macs.
Hopefully if you answered the question about what would move you toward your primary goal, your primary goal was something like “getting to Heaven” or “serving God”. Paul’s mission statement or primary goal from Phil 3 was just that.
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Php 3:12-14)
Paul in his desire to get to Heaven, to gain the prize, to reach his goal did several things that were born out of his desire to gain Christ and to be found in Him. Two things that he did were first, not to think of himself as already there. By keeping a more humble perspective, Paul was then able to continue pressing on toward the goal. He didn’t pull up, he keep the effort going. The other thing that he did was to forget what was behind him while he pressed on.
The past things in our life have a tendency to affect our present. If we remember past successes, we may feel as if we deserve more than we do. If we remember past failures, the guilt or shame of that may cause us to give up. Paul did not focus on past successes or past failures. He pressed on toward the goal of the prize of the upward calling in Christ.
All this though is an explanation to his audience of how, even though he could have confidence in the flesh, he chose rather to have his trust in Christ. He rejoiced in the Lord, a calm happiness regardless of the efforts necessary to live that life. He does this to encourage his readers to imitate him and those that follow his example. We learn from mentors and Paul encourages us to have them.
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.
(Jas 1:12) ESV
James began his letter by telling us to rejoice when we meet various trials. He talks about the trials producing steadfastness, gives some advice about obtaining wisdom, and gives counsel to the rich and the poor. Even that counsel to the rich and the poor is within the overall theme of standing fast in trials because each economic status brings its own sets of trials.
The question is often asked: Does verse twelve belong with the section above or the section below? I honestly think that it applies to both. James uses this statement as a transition from trials/temptations in general to a specific type of temptation, one that entices to sin. Some versions pick up on the slight difference by using “trial” in verse 3 but use “temptation” in verse 12. The ESV uses “trial” in both verse 3 and 12.
Temptations (direct enticements to sin) are definitely discussed in verse 13 but not all trials (temptations-NKJV) are direct enticements to sin. The death of a loved one, the need to find a different discipline for the youngest child who responds differently than the first two (thus the need to pray for wisdom),or some financial set back can test us and may lead us toward sin but throwing our faith away is not the most likely response. Of course, if enough of those trials are heaped on top of us, we may choose to buckle but Job did not buckle under his trials and, as far as I know, they were not direct enticements to sin, with the exception of his wife’s advice to “curse God and die.”
In either case, James ties our reward in Heaven (the crown of life) to standing fast. The only way to be able to say that one has stood fast in this context is to die faithful in the Lord. In other words, it is the summation of a Christian’s whole life not a few victories and then a sliding away. This is a similar to Revelation 2:10 “be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life”. The idea then is that trials will be present throughout our life, but this should not disturb us.
Verse twelve also reminds us who this reward is for. He says that the crown of life is promised for those who love God. Much is made of the fact that God loves us. John 3:16 is a well known and comforting verse. However, to be loved by someone does not mean you love them in return. The greatest commandment is that we love God with our whole being, so it stands to reason that this promised crown of life is to those who love him in return. How do you know you love him? In this context, when you have stood fast through your whole life, your love is shown.
As we go through and grow through these trials, our hope is set on Christ and that crown of life that awaits us. Our steadfastness in trials and temptations will allow us to say with Paul:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.