The Crown of Righteousness
Have you ever had a strong desire for something? Maybe you’re a young man who is in love with a young woman. She fills your thoughts, and you yearn for the time you can spend with her. When you’re together, you try to please her and are thrilled just to be with her. That’s how we should feel about Jesus. We’re never separated from Him but we should always think about pleasing Him, and we need to introduce Him to family and friends. Not only should we desire to please Him now, but we should desire for Him to appear and take us Home.
The Apostle Paul had dedicated his life to missionary work in the purest sense of the word: he spread the Gospel without. Because of his persistence in talking about Jesus, he had been arrested and sent to Rome where he would be executed because of his faith. He was torn between his desire to continue spreading the Gospel and his desire to be with the Lord, but he knew that he could be content either way. Paul could look back on his life and know that he had done everything he could for Jesus, and he also yearned for the time that he would see Him.
“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 Timothy 4:8).
Do you love the thought of His appearing? Various Bible translations say “look eagerly forward to his appearing” and “set their affection on his appearing.” No matter how it’s phrased, the meaning is the same. Like the Apostle Paul, we should yearn for His appearing. Paul says there’s a crown of righteousness waiting for you if you do. Not only is there a crown waiting, but the Lord Himself will give it to you.
Too often, Christians get caught up in the pressures of life. Paying bills, being with family and friends, hobbies, etc., can easily come between us and Jesus. It doesn’t have to be an “either/or” situation; but when the bills pile up or friends pressure us to compromise our beliefs, it’s not the secular pursuits that take a back seat.
We hold jobs in order to pay bills, but when the desires of our flesh become more important than the desire to serve Jesus, out come the credit cards, and the bills pile up. New cars and designer jeans are expensive and cause the monthly bills to run high. This can move our focus from yearning for Jesus to yearning to get out of debt. The dissatisfaction of too many bills can cause us to buy more things in an attempt to ease that bad feeling inside.
The cycle keeps turning. We buy more things in an attempt to “feel better,” but secular “things” can never spiritually satisfy. Only Jesus can fill our lives with peace and contentment, but we need to seek Him above all the riches and comforts of this temporary world. Jesus talked about putting our needs in the proper order.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you“ (Matthew 6:33).
What things will be added to us when we seek after the kingdom of God rather than greedily seek worldly possessions? The previous verses tell us that God knows our needs, such as food and clothing. Seek God, yearn for the appearing of Jesus Christ, and your needs will be met. If you’re unemployed, God will lead you to a job so you can buy necessities, or He will guide you to plant a garden to provide food. First and foremost, seek after the things of God and yearn for His appearing.
Recently, I’ve been inundated by medical bills. I can honestly say that I worry about paying them, and that worry can interfere with my concentration on writing these commentaries. That’s when I pray and ask for God’s peace and assurance. He always provides, and I know He always will. He has provided food, shelter, and clothing, and I’m very thankful. Above all, I do yearn for His appearing.
When we yearn for the appearing of Jesus, we will see Him everywhere. When we meet someone in need, instead of seeing a person who has made bad choices and “deserves what they get,” we will see a human being who has been placed in our path so we can help. If that person doesn’t know Jesus, share the Gospel. If you’re led to help that person with food or whatever the need is, be sure that they know it isn’t you helping them but that Jesus saw their need and is using you to fill it.
Jesus never failed to help those in need. He healed lepers, cast out demons, and fed thousands of people. His message was the Good News that the Messiah had appeared and walked among them.
Missionary work is to spread the Gospel, and your neighborhood is the mission field. Do others see His appearance in your life?
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me“ (Galatians 2:20).
Jesus gave His life for you, for me, and for the sin of the whole world. If we yearn for His appearing, then we need to share His Gospel with those who have never met Him.
Surprisingly, there are some Christians who don’t yearn for His appearing. They cling to this world as if it can satisfy their needs. There are some nice things in this life, but they are just a shadow of what lies ahead for Christians. A hot fudge sundae might be tasty and give temporary satisfaction to our sweet tooth, but it will pale and be forgotten when we behold the Bread from Heaven, the manna, which is Jesus.
“This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever“ (John 6:58).
Eternal life can only be found through faith in the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made, and only He can satisfy every yearning. The temporary things found in this life can bring no eternal reward or pleasure. Everything that you yearn for in this life is temporary. Fame and fortune will serve no purpose when you die. Yes, one day you will die, unless He appears to call us Home in the Rapture first. Either way, the things that got in the way of your love for our Lord won’t matter at all.
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also“ (Matthew 6:20-21).
When you yearn for and seek after a treasure, be sure it’s of eternal value. Yearn for Jesus Christ.
One day very soon a trumpet will sound; and, in the twinkling of an eye, Christians will be changed from this life to life eternal with Jesus. If that doesn’t give you goose bumps of anticipation, then I don’t know what will.
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words“ (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
When the Lord descends with a shout, if you’re still alive, you’ll be caught up (harpazō/Rapture). Any Christian who has already died will rise first. Do you take comfort in that truth? I do.
Every worldly desire that you have today won’t matter one iota on that day unless you yearn for the appearing of our Lord, Jesus the Christ. At that time, your works will be judged, and the selfish things you’ve done in this life will have no value and be burned. Only the things you’ve done for Jesus will stand the test of that fire. Then you’ll be given rewards for the works you’ve done in Jesus’ name.
“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 Timothy 4:8).
You may not think the rewards in Heaven will be any big deal, but you’re wrong. They’ll be very important to you when you’re standing before Jesus and have full understanding of the price He paid for your salvation. Only through His righteousness are you standing there. You will want a crown…not for your own self, but you’ll want to cast that crown before Him in gratitude and love. Oh, my Lord, I want a crown. I want to lay it at Your feet.
Salvation is through faith alone, but it isn’t too late to earn that crown of righteousness, or any of the other crowns that your works can earn. Get busy.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God breathed.
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