“Well done, good and faithful servant!
You have been faithful with a few things;
You have been faithful with a few things;
Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Matthew 25:21 NIV
It is a fine morning in
! This morning as I head for the garden I am
pondering the possibility of not hearing Jesus say, “Well done, good and
faithful servant”. I know as a believer in Jesus Christ that my salvation
has been sealed and my name has been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
However, there is much responsibility attached to being a follower of Jesus
Christ. As I am running life’s race, it is to my advantage to consider the very
real possibility that I could become disqualified from the reward that is at
the end of the race. Heaven awaits, but will my failure to hear “well done” leave
me sorrowful at the Judgment Seat of Christ when I discover that because of my
neglect, selfishness, and disobedience I am about to experience loss of my reward? North Carolina
As I walk deeper into the garden I head for one of my favorite spots. It is a magnificent magnolia tree in the center of the garden. Fragrant blossoms surrounded by large waxy leaves provide another example of God’s amazing creation. I am anxious to speak to the Master Gardner because I want to discuss this business of “well done” and exactly what is required of me. As a believer, a little check up and accountability never hurt anyone.
The Master Gardner steps out from behind this beautiful magnolia tree and I notice that he has woven together a floral crown from the magnolia leaves. In my excitement I reach out to receive the beautiful crown he has undoubtedly made just for me. At this point he smiles and raises the crown up high over his head and says, “Not so fast Paula. The time has not yet come. I have laid this crown up for you in heaven, but only if you run the race well here on earth.” So I humbly bow my head and say, “Lord, what is required of me?”
Jesus begins to teach me some valuable and unchanging truths. I rejoice in knowing that hearing the Master say “well done” is well within the realm of possibility! It is not hopeless or impossible. In fact the Holy Spirit will be my constant companion and guide as I live out my days on this earth.
When I am reminded that “faith without deeds is useless” James 2:20b NIV my legalistic mind immediately rushes to thinking of all the things I can do to enhance my faith with works. But the Master Gardner, Jesus Christ, again stopped me dead in my over achiever tracks and said, only two things are required, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind an with all your strength. The second is this; ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 NIV This message is not particularly good news for my doubtful ears. Truth be told, I simply do not know how to do this. Then Jesus begins to eloquently elaborate.
Jesus begins teaching me that although many believe in him, few have what it takes to follow him. Some will even accept him as their personal Savior but remain in new birth faith their entire lives. They never grow, they hear but don’t obey, and they choose to do life alone, their way, not God’s way. They are weak and ineffective believers. Others jump in and get involved with Jesus. These individuals desire a relationship with Jesus and they learn that obedience is a key part to having that relationship. These folks become participants in a life well lived, and their life becomes an example that influences non believers. It is a life that makes others desire to find and follow Jesus Christ.
Jesus teaches that if we love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and others as our self we will do four things. The first two are how we love “on” God. The last two are how we love “on” others. And the neat thing is that if we do this well, God rewards us!
- Faithfulness – We must choose to persevere under the trials of this life. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 NIV
- Integrity – We must choose to be a person of integrity and when we do we will live life unashamed and long for our Savior’s return. “I have fought a 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 4:7-8 NIV
- Be Supportive to Other Believers – We must be counted among those who care for, encourage, shepherd, and mentor other believers. “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” 1 Peter 5:4 NIV
- Witness by Word and Example – We are to minister to non-believers. Our life must be an example that will cause others to see Jesus in our behavior and entice them to follow Jesus. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” 1 Thessalonians 2:19 AKJV
Here in the garden I am beginning to visualize the crown that has been laid up for me in heaven. It has my name on it. No one else can take it. It belongs to me alone. Yet, unlike my salvation it is NOT a free gift! It is earned. It is only earned by my faithfulness to God in and through all circumstances. It is earned when I choose to live a life of integrity that brings glory to the Father. It is earned when I live in peace and unity with the body of believers, and when I reach out and encourage others as I endeavor to help them to stay focused on Jesus and when I offer care and support to them in their time of need. It is giving a cup of cold water to those in need as a reminder that God has not forgotten them. It is earned by living an irreproachable life of example that causes others to ask questions so that I may tell them about my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is a pretty tall order! It is an order that requires me spending time alone with Jesus every day. It requires that I call upon the Holy Spirit to help me in my weakness. It requires selflessness, humility, and surrender to Jesus, one “Yes, Jesus” at a time. It requires me to be constantly accountable for my behavior. It requires me to manage my time and my money well. Let me just say right here, I am a constant work in progress on all counts!
The good news is that Jesus wants all of us to earn our crown! It is a gorgeous crown made up of his faithfulness and our faithfulness to him in return. It has blossoms of our righteousness which is only possible because we are clothed in his righteousness alone. This crown shines with his glory, and has beautiful colors, shades, sounds, and fragrances of heavenly rejoicing that we cannot even imagine! I for one do not want to become disqualified from earning this crown. If we are a Believer, our crown has already been set aside for us in heaven and it is worth all our effort as we endeavor to walk with Jesus. He has done so much for me. How can I do any less for him? Falling in love with Jesus over and over again opens up our heart to obedience. Obedience requires the discipline of training as we run the race. So we read the Word, we learn from other teachers of the Word, we spend time in prayer, and we train ourselves to listen for the soft gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit. We walk in blind faith and we worship our awesome Maker. These are the things that will equip and enable us to be obedient children out of a heart of love rather than obligation or fear. Obedience as we run the race will end in earning the prize and hearing Jesus say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
And then last but never least; we may choose to follow the example of the twenty-four elders as they lay their crowns at the feet of Jesus because he alone is worthy! Revelation 4:9 NIV It is not hard to imagine that we will desire to give something to the one who gave his all for us. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain! Our crown will be our reward given to us by Jesus. I don’t believe that Jesus will demand that we return our crown, but I can imagine that our hearts will be so full of gratitude that most likely we can do no less. How very sad it would be for me not to have crown to lay at the feet of my Savior.
- What are some of the things in your life that if left unchecked could disqualify you from earning your crown?
- Name two things that you are currently doing to foster and develop your relationship with Jesus.
- Is there something else that the Holy Spirit is prompting you to do?
- How important is it to hold yourself accountable for staying focused in this race of life?
- What temptations and selfish desires are pulling you away from the Father?
- Have you learned to rely on the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to help you in your time of weakness?
- Do you long to finish life well and hear Jesus say "well done"?
Dear Heavenly Father,
Oh how I long to hear you say well done. Father, I admit that the race is hard, exhausting, and dangerous. It is so much easier to blame, curse, and become angry with you when I experience trials and sorrow in life. Forgive me and help me to embrace your goodness and remain faithful to you in all circumstances. Lord, I also confess that my integrity can be challenged in a heartbeat, especially if no one is looking. Jesus, you know how busy I am and how the challenges and responsibilities of life pile up on me leaving very little time to fellowship with other believers, let alone having time to be a supportive, encouraging person to your children. It is so easy for me to be self-absorbed and neglect my responsibility to shepherd and mentor others. This world is always tempting me to spend my time and money in all the wrong places. If I am not careful I allow myself to become tainted by the world’s value system and then find that I have become bankrupt in my own spirit and have nothing to offer to non-believers. I fear that when I look in the mirror I will discover that I have become more like them and less like you. Forgive me Jesus. Help me Lord, to rely on the Holy Spirit in all of my times of weakness. Help me to fall deeper in love with you and run this race of life well. I pray that I will never forget that this life counts for eternity. I want to finish the race well and receive the crown that have been reserved for me. Lord, I pray I will remain strong and never become disqualified. Father, my hope is in you alone. Oh the joy and hope of heaven and all of its rewards!
In your name, the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.