The apostle Paul knew all about the original Olympic Games and the excitement when the athlete received the winner’s crown, the laurel wreath, and was cheered by all the spectators. And these days we watch Olympic winners receive a gold medal while their national anthem is played.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul talks of being a winner in Christian life. I imagine it as a picture of us receiving a gold medal from Jesus at the end of our life. Paul explains how he strives to exercise self-control in all things. He disciplines his body and keeps it under control. He is trying to put into practice what he preaches to others.
Elsewhere Paul talks of getting ‘crowns’ by winning souls for Jesus (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20), and by fighting the good fight of faith (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
James writes of a ‘crown of life’ which is given to those who have persevered in the faith under difficult circumstances such as persecution (James 1:12).
Peter writes a special encouragement to leaders and says Jesus will give them a ‘crown of glory’ for good leadership and care of the flock put under them (1 Peter 5:1-4).
And finally John gives the words of Jesus to the church in Smyrna; ‘Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life’ (Revelation 2:10).
Our ‘gold medal’ or ‘crown’ will be an eternal reward given by Jesus in recognition of faithful, loving service in the kingdom of God. If we love Jesus and do our best for Him in this life He will be proud of us when he comes again. He will say ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master’ (Matthew 25:23).
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