“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 to all them also that love His appearing.” (2nd Tim. 4:8) Take a close look at this verse, does it describe you, are you one of those that this crown is laid up for, is your crown waiting in heaven to be placed upon your brow. I believe there is a great differentiation within the idea of this crown, for though it is laid up for those who love His appearing, not all are lovingly looking forward to it in the same way.
If you will look for a moment at 1st John 2:28, I believe you will see what I mean. There are two types of Christians that John is speaking of here, those with confidence and those that will be ashamed, and although both of these groups are in the ‘saved’ category, not each of them will receive this crown. As with all five of the crowns that we will and have spoken of, they are earned, they are not handed out in random, there is no ‘close enough’ for these rewards, either you work for them or you do not get them.
First then, those that are excluded from the receiving of the Crown of Righteousness, those who are ashamed at His coming. One of the first items we must look at is why any Christian would be ashamed in front of the Lord Jesus Christ as we meet Him in the air, (1st Thess. 4:17) or when after the soul has left the body to return unto Him for judgement before entering into glory. I believe one of the first places we can look here is in 1st Cor. 3:15, “If any mans work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, but as through fire.” If we are to correlate this verse with the Crown of Righteousness, then we must determine if obtaining this Crown is by works, or by faith only. If faith without works is dead, (James 2:17) then it can quite easily be applied that there must be some type of works involved, for although we are saved by grace through faith, we are not speaking of the free gift of salvation at this time, but of the obtaining of a reward, and have predetermined in our previous studies on this subject that work is involved for the obtaining of any of the five Crowns. So then, what work is necessary to “love His appearing?”
As with anything that we do by the power of the Holy Spirit, without which all of our attempts would fail, we must be diligent in both our service and station, if we step outside of either of these, then our work will be in vain. If the Lord has called you to be an auto mechanic, then do that to the best of your ability, serving with honor and joy, do not try to be what you are not. This Crown is not a Crown of ambition, you will not obtain it just because you want it or think you deserve it, in other words, just thinking how nice it will be to be in heaven is not enough. It is not won in any earthly race, nothing you do here that is only done for the ‘good’ of the planet will grant you the right to wear this Crown. It will not be given to those who are only hoping for His appearance so that they will be saved, removed if you will, from the trials and troubles of this planet, so that they can escape them. These have not learned to suffer well in the Lord, and who desire only to elude any problems, and they think of heaven as only an escape route.
Nor is it for the nominal Christian, the symbolic Christian, if you will, for though this person is truly saved, they will be ashamed at His coming, knowing full well that not only did they not strive for the Crowns, they did no more service than was required of them, remaining a weaker brother of their own free will. Luke 17:10 is reflective of these individuals, for though they have completed all that they were commanded to do, it is all that they did, and are thereby called unprofitable. These are they that perhaps started the race well, but for reasons known only to themselves and God, have found that the track is too long, the path too difficult and for themselves only do they desire to leave this earth for the kingdom of Heaven, forgetting just what the great day of the Lord entails.
And that I believe is the best starting place to recognize the one that is working for this Crown of righteousness, for His very first thought in nearly all of his life is of others, and how he can either lead them to or strengthen them in the Lord. We will be leading no one to Christ in heaven my friends, He will be right over there if you would like to talk with Him. One of the first things that comes into my mind when I begin to look at my desire for this Crown is those that will be left behind, those that then must go through the great tribulation. About a year or so ago, I had a short conversation with a young man of about 22 years of age in a church setting who was constantly speaking of the rapture, how he could not wait, and in a way it was admirable, but after a short talk with him about just what he was praying for, all of those conversations came to and end. What he did not realize was that inadvertently and through no fault of his own, for at that time he was not aware of it, he was in effect praying for the day of the Lord to come, he wanted to go home only for his own sake and neglected all of those that would be left behind.
What work is there then that one must do to be rewarded with this incredible gift that is available to all would diligently seek it, what is required of them who want this crown so that they have another gift to cast at the foot of the Savior. First, we must be looking constantly for His coming, when the television turns to static, when the radio stops coming in, even when the lights flicker, all of these are the beginning, all of these are the definition of the word imminent, almost anything out of the ordinary should call our attention to the possibility that now is that moment of His return. Secondly, we must see all of the work that He has placed before us also as imminent, to be done with haste, as the Israelites on the night of Passover, done properly with much prayer and reverence, but done as if His coming is approaching within the next few minutes. Thirdly, all those who are your brothers and sisters in Christ must know that the time is short, that there is work to be done, that they should always be “looking up, for their redemption draws nigh,” (Luke 21:28) that the glorious moment is drawing near, and lastly, and this of course is the most difficult, we must warn the lost.
Do you recall the cartoon drawings of the disheveled man with the sandwich board the read “The end is near,” this in essence is what we are to be doing, telling them that the end is near, for whether they see the great day of the wrath of the Lord, or the end of their life on this planet, the end is near and it is our responsibility to warn them of this. For some of these individuals you will be the only Bible they will ever read, they are not going to show up to church, they are not going to listen to a Christian radio program, but if the Lord has lead them to you, they will listen to you, and somewhere within that conversation, whether it be the first, second or next, you are to warn them of what is coming, the plans that the Lord our God has for humanity, and the only one who can not only save them from this great and terrible day, but can save their very souls.
None of us who are working for the Crown of Righteousness are doing so out of our own ambition, but for the glory of God, for all of these five Crowns are His in the first place, He simply offers them to us for a period of time. If nothing else my friends, think on this, when you stand before Him on that day with absolutely nothing in your hands to offer Him, how are you going to feel, for although we had nothing when He called us, now He offers us the opportunity to obtain that which can only be offered by Him, that which only He can reward, that which those who receive it will gladly return it to its rightful owner.