153. Crown of Righteousness.
The one who wins the marathon race at the Olympics, is crowned with a crown made with an olive branch, which doesn't last but all those who finish this spiritual race are given the "Crown of Life" which lasts forever. 'Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? ... 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.' (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
However, in this race, you don't need to come first but just have to finish the race and not give up, no matter what! This is what the 'Living One, who once was dead but now alive', had to say to the Church in Smyrna : "Be faithful even to the point of death and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelation 2:10) Keeping the faith till the end matters more than our accomplishments. That is why Paul didn't take pride in his works but rather said, "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 ..." (2 Timothy 4:7-8) - The 'crown of life' is also called the 'crown of righteousness' because it is the reward for those who have been faithful to live a righteous life after attaining the righteousness of Christ by faith. It is our faithfulness which will be rewarded at the end and not the size of our faith. Why should we be rewarded for the 'measure of faith God has given us' (Romans 12:3) as a gift (Ephesians 2:8)?
Christ was crowned with many crowns because he was counted 'faithful and true.' John saw 'heaven standing open and before him a white horse whose rider is called Faithful and True ... and on his head were many crowns.' (Revelation 19:11-12) If we are found faithful and true, then we too will be crowned. 'Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because when he has stood the test, he will receive the "crown of life" that God has promised to those who love him.' (James 1:12) The reason we remain faithful is because we love him. And because we love him, we are asked to take care of his sheep.(John 21:15-17) And 'when the Chief Shepherd appears, we will receive the "crown of glory" that will never fade away.' (1 Peter 5:4) Therefore he says, "I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have so that no one will take your crown." (Revelation 3:11) Amen.