I am much closer to the end of my life than its beginning. That is an indisputable fact based wholly on age. While I do have a few concerns of goals unaccomplished, I believe Paul’s two out of three of Paul’s statement applies for me.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: [2 Timothy 4:7 KJV]
I do not yet see the finish line that Paul was able to see. There’s more for me to do. Yet I know that that I do love his appearing, and that provides for me a crown!
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 KJV]
In some ways it’s the easiest crown to achieve, simply love God. Following the first of His commandments achieves this crown.
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. [Matthew 22:36-38 KJV]
When God gives me that crown, it will signify that I acknowledged before God and man that I am not righteous.
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: [Romans 3:10 KJV]
Yet God provided the way to righteousness for those who heed Him.
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. [Romans 5:19 KJV]
Paul knew the scriptures and they were opened through his faith.
Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. [Habakkuk 2:4 KJV]
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. [Romans 1:17 KJV]
Both writers looked forward to His appearance, just as many of us do today. We have faith that God will judge us righteous, based solely on His word. Nothing provable by the standards others hold. In the eyes of many, this is a laughable position.
What have I given up to hold this position? Nothing. I am not missing out on anything of value that life has to offer. Oh, a bit of time each week given to church activities and considerable time in prayer. Those moments are the only differences over my non-believing neighbor’s schedule and mine.
Those differences, those tiny hours in a schedule, do not earn me a crown. God’s grace through His eternal promise, does.
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:5-7 KJV)