The Victor's Crown
Today, I recorded five more podcasts for our devotional which we call “Thrive in the Word.” I have been teaching verse by verse through the book of Second Timothy. As I taught today, these scriptures stood out to me. They are found in 2 Timothy 4:7–8. (NASB95) Here is what Paul wrote to Timothy from his prison cell where he is awaiting his execution. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up 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 loved His appearing.”
Paul had been sentenced to death. The Romans would not give a date for execution to heighten the torture of their victims. Paul does not know when he will die but he has an understanding that death was imminent. He writes to Timothy these last words of comfort and encouragement. Let us consider these words and find encouragement and hope in them.
I have fought the good fight. Paul knew he had been in a fight. Paul was not talking about a physical fight. This fight was the fight of faith. He had written to the Ephesians many years before this and taught them how to wrestle or fight the schemes of the devil. Paul’s fight of faith was not easy. The word that is translated as fight is the Greek word agōn. We get our English word agony from it. It means an agonizing struggle that is both physical and emotional. Paul said that this fight was good. That is not the way I would describe an agonizing fight. There was a reason why Paul said the fight was good. The Greek word Paul wrote here is kalos. This word was used to describe something that is a positive moral quality. Paul knew that this fight had changed him. It had made him a better person. Our struggles in faith can and will change us and make us stronger.
The next thing that Paul says is that he has finished the course. Paul realizes that his race is coming to an end. This was his last letter, his last message to the free world. He had finished what he had started so many years ago when he was sent out from Antioch to be an apostle to those who had not heard. If you have ever finished a project, you understand the joy of having completed the task. Paul did not quit; he finished his course. The Greek word for the English word finished means to have completed the course. Paul had come to the point in his life that the course had been completed successfully. The race was complete and all there was left for him was the coronation ceremony.
The last thing that he told Timothy was that he had kept the faith. Many times, we forget that faith is a noun. It is a thing. When Paul said he had kept the faith, he was talking about the Word of God. He had been faithful to God’s Word. He had kept the doctrines of the Bible. He did not change what he believed even though they had placed him in prison. When we study the word kept, we see that Paul was saying he had guarded and watched over what he believed. Many people today are being tempted to discard the faith, the teachings of the Word of God. We need to have the same resolve that Paul had and keep the faith. Do not let your faith, what you believe, be tarnished with teaching and beliefs that have no foundation in God’s Word.
Because Paul had fought, finished, and kept the faith, he knew there was something waiting for him. I call this God’s layaway plan. When I was a young man, I did not make enough money to have a credit card. I wanted a stereo that played cassette tapes and had a radio in it. The local Walmart had one on sale. I did not want to miss the opportunity to get it on sale, so I went and put it in layaway. I could hardly wait for the day when I had enough money to get it out of layaway. When the clerk brought that stereo to the counter, I was so excited! Even though I owned that stereo, now I possessed it. I could listen to it.
When Paul stated that there is a crown laid up for him, the words that Paul used paint the picture in my mind of a layaway plan. As believers, we all have a crown on layaway. It was bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus. It is called the crown of righteousness. At this time, we await the day that we will possess that crown. It is still in the future even though it has already been purchased.
The crown that Paul is talking about is not the crown of a king or royalty. Paul uses the word stephanos when he speaks of this crown. A stephanos type of crown was a victor’s crown. It was not a crown given because of heritage. It was the crown given to those who won the race. I it was often made of olive leaves and could only be worn by winners.
This crown was always awarded by the judge who watched over the race or athletic event. He had judged the event and was the only one to place the crown on the winner’s head. Paul tells us that Jesus is our only judge. This crown is given to us at the end of our race. It is the crown of righteousness and we have already been made the righteousness of God in Christ. Paul said it would be given on that day. The Romans gave a victor's crown at the end of an event or race. I personally believe that this crown is given when we enter heaven.
The last words of encouragement that Paul gave Timothy in these verses are to those who love His appearing. I am looking for Jesus. I hope you are too. If He comes for me in rapture or in death, I will love His appearance.