Is it okay to pursue Jesus for a reward? Some would dismiss this question out of hand. “No,” they would say, “it would be selfish and narcissistic.” I suppose some may have this very self-absorbed intent. The same could be said for someone who is courting or pursuing a mate: “You fulfill me; you complete me…” etc. Me, me, me….
But, is it possible to pursue someone with the innocent desire of deepening the relationship and thereby win the “Prize”? Perhaps a Both/And experience?
In our main text, the Apostle Paul is writing his final words to his dear son-in-the-faith, Timothy. His purpose is to encourage and spur his young padawan on to persevere in Jesus. In his encouragement, Paul observes that a crown is waiting for him. But did he fight the good fight, run the race and keep the faith for this crown? Or for knowing the Lord Jesus more intimately (see Phil. 3:10ff)? Could this be a Both/And and not an Either/Or situation?
What spurs the soldier on to win the fight? Love for his general or self-preservation? What propels the runner to the finish line? Does he run to please his coach or win the laurel wreath? What reinforced Paul’s loyalty to his Master? Love for his Master or merely for the garner of praise?
Even our Lord Jesus endured the cross and scorned it shame for the joy set before Him (see Heb. 12:2f), and He was clearly not selfish….
Not sure how to resolve this, except to say, it must be a Both/And, but the pursuit of the crown is not the primary focus. Rather, we focus on Jesus and in Him we have this crown.
Intriguingly, Spurgeon’s devotion for today speaks to this:
In our Christian pilgrimage it is well, for the most part, to be looking forward. Forward lies the crown, and onward is the goal. Whether it be for hope, for joy, for consolation, or for the inspiring of our love, the future must, after all, be the grand object of the eye of faith. Looking into the future we see sin cast out, the body of sin and death destroyed, the soul made perfect, and fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. Looking further yet, the believer’s enlightened eye can see death’s river passed, the gloomy stream forded, and the hills of light attained on which standeth the celestial city; he seeth himself enter within the pearly gates, hailed as more than conqueror, crowned by the hand of Christ, embraced in the arms of Jesus, glorified with Him, and made to sit together with Him on His throne, even as He has overcome and has sat down with the Father on His throne. (Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening: Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.)
So, what are your thoughts on receiving a crown from the very hand of Jesus? Is it a Both/And or merely an Either/Or exercise—vacillating between the extremes of selfishness and selfishness?
Main Text— 2 Timothy 4:6–8 (NIV84)— 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 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.
Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get 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 (NIV84)
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”—Mt 5:11–12 (NIV84)
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.— 1 Peter 5:4 (NIV84)
Lord Jesus Christ, as I run toward You, keep my eyes fixed on You . Be my strength as I persevere to the finish line. You are my Crown and my Reward. In Your Name, Amen!