(David Dann )


The apostle Paul compared the life of a Christian to the successful completion of an athletic contest, saying, "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown" (1 Cor. 9:24-25, NKJV).

Please notice that the reward awaiting the faithful Christian is far greater than that of the successful athlete in that the Christian will receive "an imperishable crown" (v. 25). This "crown" (Gr. stephanos) of which the Bible speaks is defined as "1a1) the wreath or garland which was given as a prize to victors in public games 1b) metaph. the eternal blessedness which will be given as a prize to the genuine servants of God and Christ: the crown (wreath) which is the reward of the righteous" (J.H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, 587).

Who will receive the victory crown that awaits the faithful?

1. Those who fight the good fight and keep the faith. Paul wrote to Timothy toward the end of his earthly life, saying, "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Tim. 4:6-8). As one who had faithfully obeyed the Lord here in this world, Paul was confident that he would receive the crown of victory hereafter. All those who keep the faith and "who have loved His appearing" may expect to receive the crown of victory.

2. Those who overcome temptation. James writes, "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12). While it is true that temptation is a common part of earthly life, it is also true that God always provides a way for man to overcome temptation (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13). According to James, the crown of victory awaits those who faithfully endure temptation, instead of yielding and practicing sin.

3. Those who rule well as elders. The apostle Peter writes, "The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away" (1 Pet. 5:1-4). Those who faithfully and diligently serve as overseers of the local church may expect to be rewarded with a crown of victory when the Lord comes again.

4. Those who remain faithful until death. Christ's message to the persecuted church in Smyrna is recorded by John the apostle as follows: "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). Those who remain faithful, even in the face of persecution and the threat of physical death, should expect to find a crown of victory awaiting them when the trials of earthly life are no more.

The Lord exhorted the saints in Philadelphia, saying, "Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown" (Rev. 3:11). It is a wonderful thing to consider that the Lord has promised a crown of victory to all those who faithfully serve Him in this life. But great care must be exercised in order to prevent the crown that awaits from becoming an opportunity that is lost. Based on how you're living your life, will you receive the crown of victory?