I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 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.
2 Timothy 4:8
2 Timothy 4:8
As painful as it is to lose someone close to us, I find myself repeatedly turning to this verse whenever a person of the faith is called home. Why? Because these verses, penned by Paul, speak of the hope that Christians have in the life to come; a hope which we have because of Jesus Christ.
When Paul was inspired to write these words to Timothy and the church he served, he was imprisoned, had been persecuted for many years and knew that death was approaching. Yet he is encouraged by the knowledge that having kept the faith, God will award him with a crown of righteousness. And this crown will be given not just to him, but to all who are in the faith when they die.
So what does this mean for us? What does it mean to fight the good fight and keep the faith? And what exactly is this "crown of righteousness" being awarded by the Lord? I believe that Paul is referring to living out our Christian faith till the end, ever trusting God, seeking to serve Him and to grow our relationship with Him. This doesn't mean that we won't have low patches in our walk with God or times when we don't serve Him as faithfully as we should. But we shouldn't let these moments depress us, and instead turn to the Lord to ask for help and encouragement, no matter what our situation or where we are in our faith.
And for God's people, the biggest encouragement in our Christian walk is our hope in the life to come, in eternal life with God, where we will receive a "crown of righteousness". We can be encouraged that, because of Jesus' death and resurrection, we can one day live in complete perfection with God. What a comfort to our grieving hearts when times are tough or when we've lost a loved one who was in the faith! If you don't already know this verse off by heart, perhaps you could memorise it, so that whenever you see a crown, you will be reminded of what God has in store for us in eternity with Him.