A Crown of Righteousness
Revelation 2:10 (NLT) says "Don't be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life."
There are many examples of faithful servants to God in the Bible. Paul was one of those who were faithful unto death. Shortly before he was expecting to be executed by the Roman authorities he wrote to Timothy..."I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."—2 Tim.4:7,8
Remembering our Vow in Baptism
It is a serious matter and commitment to be faithful to our consecration vows. The Heavenly Father is looking for those who are wholeheartedly for Him and not "lukewarm". In Rev.3:16 (NLT) the angel says, "But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!". We ought to be "hot" in our zeal to do His will until the end by seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness as Jesus said. (Matt.6:33) That means obeying this injunction to prove ourselves worthy of a crown of life.
Our relationship to God and our service for Him should take precedence over other things in our life. A Christian cannot plan out life simply to suit themselves or to promote their own self‑interests, and be pleasing to the LORD. It may seem easy to serve the LORD when all the circumstances are favourable. But we should be also willing to serve Him when conditions are unfavourable to our flesh. We are not to plan or worry about our lives like the children of the world, where we live. But how we live. We need to ask the LORD what we can do for Him under any circumstances? If we are the children of God who seek the kingdom of God first, then we would say, Dear Father, I’ll go where you want me to go. I’ll say what you want me to say. I’ll do what you want me to do. I’ll be what you want me to be. That would be the ideal mind‑set of the consecrated child of God.
Seeking The Kingdom Of God
There are two kinds of situations, one is favoured by our flesh and the other is not. Both will occur for the children of God in the LORD’s providence and thanks should be given to our LORD for both. One can look to Him for strength to bear whatever in His wisdom and love He may deem to be best for us. Paul said "Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." (2 Cor.12:9 NLT)
Many times there are opportunities to serve the LORD which lead to hardship, and when such opportunities are presented we should not hesitate to accept them, regardless of what the cost may be to our flesh. This was the attitude of the apostle Paul. He had put aside every other consideration in life except that of seeking first the kingdom of God. Paul went beyond what many would have done. He argued that he had a right under the Law to expect support in material things from brethren, but Paul decided that he would not take advantage of this provision. Instead, he would work and provide for his own food and clothing, and then serve the brethren in spiritual things. Thus he would be doing double service. Paul also said in 1 Cor.9:27 (NLT) "I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified." It was his desire to be used up completely in serving the LORD and the household of faith. The comfort of the flesh did not enter into his planning, but only how much he could sacrifice in carrying out the terms of his consecration vows.
The Race for the Crown
1 Cor.9:24 (NLT) says "Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!" We are to run for the prize of the high calling. (Phil.3:14) It is not actually a competitive race; but if we are to be victorious it is essential to "run" just as energetically as though it were. 1 Cor.9:25 (NLT) says "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." It is literally true of all athletes. They must be in control in their eating, get a proper amount of rest and take the necessary exercise and training until their final victory.
"What can I offer the LORD for all he has done for me?
This should be the everyday mind‑set of the one who runs for the crown. In addition to that, one ought to keep in mind what is said in Ephesians 5:16 (NLT) to "make the most of every opportunity in these evil days." We need to keep up the study of the Word having fellowship with the household of faith and be a witness.
In the matter of earning a living, the Christian ought to remember that they are merely stewards. What we earn as faithful stewards should be devoted whatever is possible of it directly to the service of the LORD, the truth, and the household of faith. As said in 2 Cor.4:17‑18 (NLT) "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! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever."
Laying Down our Life
Christians should be willing to lay down their lives in the LORD’S service regardless of the reward at the end. "We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne." (Heb.12:2 NLT).
That joy includes an unselfish prospect of blessing all the families of the earth. The trials involved in laying down his life as the Redeemer of the world meant he had the joy of serving the Father and doing His will. How wonderful it is that this same joy is set before us. If faithful unto death, there will be the privilege of being associated with the Master in the glorious future work. And there is no reason why we should not be faithful, for the LORD has made every possible provision to this end. He has given us His Holy Spirit to guide, comfort, enlighten and strengthen us. He covers our imperfections with the robe of Christ’s righteousness (Isa.61:10) so that our imperfect works are acceptable to Him. He has provided the armour of truth for our protection, and we can say of the LORD. "He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust." (Psa.91:2 KJV)
Gaining the Crown of Life
Let us continue to run with diligence the race that is set before us, and to continue to fight the good fight of faith. Let us lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light and having been given the exceeding great and precious promises whereby we might become partakers of the divine nature having escaped the corruption that is in the world and let us add to our faith, virtue and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge self‑control, and to self‑control, patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love. Peter says that if these things be in us, we will neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And that we will never fall away but will be given an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (Heb.12:1; 1 Tim.6:12; 2 Pet.1:4‑11)
The incorruptible crown for which we are striving is beautifully described also by Peter. He says "we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see." (1 Peter 1:4‑5 NLT)