CROWNED CONQUERORS (Olympic Lessons 4) 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrew 12:2
In the Olympic games in Paul’s day the winner was honored by having an oak-leaf cluster placed on his head as a symbol of victory. The victor was thus publicly “crowned” for all to see. This is the word Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 9:25: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” Today we put a gold, silver or bronze metal on a ribbon around the victors’ necks, but they both are recognition of a special accomplishment.
As Christians, God’s honors faithful Christians with a “crown.” If Olympic athletes do all they do for a lesser, temporary prize, why don’t we as Christians do all we can to strive for a greater, permanent prize?
Dave Johnson, US Decathlete, said: “Sports, for me, is an extension of my devotion to God. Each time I go out and compete I do my best for God. He did His best for me when He gave His Son to die for me on the cross, and this is my way of saying thank you. All of us have a finish line in life. All of us are in a race. For some it’s as brief as a 100m sprint. For others it’s a marathon. I know that as I grow older my body will not be able to stand up to Olympic competition. But my life is more than the decathlon. I have something more than gold. I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that will bring me through the finish line of life a winner. I won an Olympic medal, but I’m convinced that each of us has to think about what we really want to be remembered for when we reach the finish line of our lives. What is that crown at the finish line of life that lasts forever? I believe it’s the crown God gives those who lived their lives on earth for Him, who made the most of what God gave them to do and did it for His glory, not their own. Life’s ultimate prize is to know God. And it’s for everyone.”
The Bible mentions several crowns God will give faithful Christians. There is a crown for living for Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:24-25), for leading others to salvation (1 Thessalonians 2:19), for looking for Jesus’ return (2 Timothy 4:6-8), for persevering through persecution and martyrdom (James 1:12) and for faithfully serving others (1 Peter 5:4). All who put their faith in Jesus will be in heaven when they die, but only those who do their best to faithfully live for Him will get a crown.
We don’t have to be perfect, just striving to live for Him. We don’t have to be sinless, just confess our sins when we do sin (1 John 1:8-10). We don’t have to be well known, just faithfully do our best with what God has given us (1 Corinthians 9:27). Any believer can do it if they keep their eyes on Jesus, living in obedience to Him (Hebrews 12:1-2; Proverbs 3:5-6).
It’s not what we do in life, but why we do it. That which is done out of selfish motives won’t last, but what is done to honor and please Jesus will last for all eternity (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Helping someone in need, praying for a friend, saying a good word about Jesus to another person, contributing time or money, studying your Bible, encouraging those who struggle, sacrificing for someone else – all these and many more will be rewarded if you do them out of a motive of love and commitment to Jesus. If you do them to impress God or others you won’t be rewarded.
Elana Meyer is a distance runner who got a silver medal in the 10,000 meters. She says: “As a Christian it doesn’t really matter if I win or lose, as long as I do my best. Every competition is a challenge for me, but I don’t make a separation between Elana the runner and Elana the Christian. God’s love for me is unconditional — it doesn’t depend on my winning a gold medal. In the long run, Christ is my highest goal and my greatest joy.”
Paul puts it this way: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
What will we do with these crowns when we get to heaven? That’s the best part of all. We’ll bow before Jesus and lay them at His feet in recognition that they wouldn’t have been possible without all He has done for us (Revelation 4:4, 10). They’ll be the only thing we have to give Him in heaven. He wore a crown of thorns for us. We will gladly give our crowns of gold to Him. Do you want to have crowns to lay before Him? Now is the time to lay them up. Live a faithful live of love and obedience to Him and you’ll become more and more like Him. He’ll crown you for it!
Thank God for your free salvation and assurance of eternity in heaven. As if that isn’t enough, He promises extra blessings for those who faithfully live for Him. Thank Him for the crowns and rewards He has waiting for you in heaven. Ask Him to motivate you to keep on living for Him.
cto Rev. Dr. JERRY SCHMOYER
Christian Training Organization
(India Outreach, Spiritual Warfare, Family Ministries, Counseling, World View)
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