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 (James 1:12).
Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown (Revelation 3:11).
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created (Revelation 4:9–11).
Read those passages again; and this time note that the last three come from successive chapters of Revelation. There is a crown reserved for each of us who love God, and who out of that love persevere and remain faithful. And one day, we will certainly have to follow the lead of the twenty-four elders and lay—nay, cast—those crowns down before Jesus. It’s hard to picture, isn’t it? But try, right now, before moving on.
Perhaps the most difficult part of this picture to accept is the idea that the only way to have a crown is if God should give it to us—and that God ever would give it to us. In fact, the knowledge that we deserve far less than a crown makes us want to hang onto the lesser things we do have all the more tightly.
But remember: Everything we have from God, ultimately, is a gift. When we truly accept this, we’re able to “give to God what is God’s” (Luke 20:25). We’re able to trust God with his own gifts.
Read that last sentence again. It sounds ludicrous when put that way—because it is ludicrous. Who else can we trust? Do really have a choice—besides either trusting or not trusting God?
“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1). Why then do we live as if this isn’t true—as if we need to have a contingency plan in case this “God thing” doesn’t work out?
For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory….
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:9–11, 17–18).
Whose image are we being transformed into? The image of our King. The one who deserves his crown—and ours. What the Lord has done for us is not contingent upon our own righteousness.
However, our faithfulness does play a role. We will be given crowns; but we will never possess those crowns. Everything, including us, is God’s. As we lay down everything that is us, and remain steadfast and faithful to him and what he has done for us, we shall receive the crown of life. As we remain faithful into eternity, we shall be forever entrusting our crowns back to our King.
Today is the day to begin—and to stay forever beginning.
Lay It Down Today
Matthew 7:7–8 promises, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Where is your lack of faithfulness showing? What are you still hanging onto? What are you trying to do yourself instead of asking for God’s help? And thus, where are you denying God’s life so that you can live your self life (however miserably)?
Spend time brooding on these questions—then repenting over the answers. Afterward, take the time to ask, seek and knock. Let go of your pride, your shame, your sense of self-sufficiency. Instead, ask God to show you the better things he wants to give—and for the heart to receive them on his terms. This gift, too, can only come from him.