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Winning Crowns in 2020

Somehow I doubt if the psalmist David enjoyed many trouble-free years in his tumultuous life, but my husband reminded me a few weeks ago that Israel’s greatest king praised the provision and providence of God during the year. “You have crowned the year with your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance” (Ps. 65:11). Despite 2020’s poor ratings in most people’s opinion, it’s given us many opportunities for winning crowns.

In an ironic twist of words, some of our Chilean kids at the beginning of the year imagined the infamous coronavirus everyone was talking about as a nasty bug that wore a bunch of crowns (corona means “crown” in Spanish). Understandably, the TV diagrams of the virus—a sort of round head with numerous spikes protruding from it—confirmed their impressions. This evil Prince of viruses ignited a panic as well as a pandemic in many hearts and minds, and not only children’s.

But the crowns I want to talk about today, at the crown (high point, climax) of the year, come from the hand of a good God. Sometimes as prizes or rewards. And sometimes just because He loves to give.

“Lord…You crown (man) with glory and majesty” –Ps. 8:5

The Bible talks a lot about wearing and winning crowns. God continually bestows crowns on humankind, as the brightest jewel of His majestic creation. He’s granted us the authority to rule the earth on His behalf. He sustains and supplies our needs, often more generously than we deserve.

That doesn’t mean we’re protected from all ache and agony. His compassion doesn’t exclude growing pains nor the rub and scrub of polishing. His loving care doesn’t eliminate work or weariness. That’s why the best crowns are won, after all.

Droplet Gift #31: I want to be winning crowns… to “crown Him (the real Prince) with many crowns.” Forget paying homage to a horned virus.

The Crown of Joy

Some Bible versions translate the “abundance” dripping along God’s paths in Psalm 65 as “fatness.” Think of it as the salty grease of Sunday morning bacon or the sweetness of the most delicious chocolate ever. Pizza and cookies. Or ice cream—isn’t that a food group?

At any rate, it sounds like a party to me. Though in reality, hardships—and possibly deep holes and dark horror—lie on the road of our quest for the Kingdom more often than not. Even Jesus, the Savior of the world, endured the cross and its shame before sitting down with the crown.

The “author and perfecter of our faith” ran His race “for the joy set before Him” (Heb. 12:1-2). The pit preceded the party.

“The Lord…redeems your life from the pit (and) crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion” – Ps. 103:4

When the Apostle Paul talks about his crown of rejoicing (I Thes.  2:18-20), he’s referring to His friends—the people whose lives he’s reached and touched. And you can tell he misses them! He explains, “Satan hindered us from coming to you—more than once.” Can anyone identify in 2020?

I call this corona the Teacher’s Crown. The Mentor’s Crown, if you will. And if I’ve learned anything this year from the greatest Teacher who ever lived, it’s that I can trust Him with the future. For the joy up ahead, for the greatest New Year’s party imaginable.

Because remember, God will have the last laugh. “Why are the nations in an uproar?… He who sits in the heavens laughs… But as for me, I have installed my King…” (Ps. 2:1-6).

The Crown of Glory

Another of this year’s winning crowns resembles the Crown of Joy. This Shepherd’s Crown traditionally gets awarded to the pastors of our flocks (I Pet. 5:4, 8-9). May God bless those who minister in that difficult and frequently thankless role. But I believe the task of shepherding—that is, caring for souls and defending from the enemy who “prowls around like a roaring lion”—falls to more than the few who occupy an official position in the church.

During this overwhelming year, many of us have had to step up to duties and burdens we never before considered. We’re certainly carrying crowns of responsibility, and mostly without the recompenses of royalty!

God bless you if you’ve taken time this year to…

  • nurture the young in whatever capacity
  • heal the hurting, the helpless and hopeless
  • offer words of counsel and encouragement to the confused and overloaded
  • or make your home a refuge from the storms swirling outside.

So perhaps you’ve gained a corona for loyal labor in a “pastoral” ministry. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t feel glorious or glamorous. But you’re winning crowns of glory.

“Your crown has been bought and paid for. Put it on your head and wear it.” –Maya Angelou

The Incorruptible Crown

I label this one the Athlete’s Crown, and it’s “incorruptible” because athletes in New Testament times won merely “corruptible” circlets woven of laurel leaves. Peter calls it “unfading,” and Paul adds the word “imperishable” (I Cor. 9:24-25). This crown lasts, accompanied by side benefits that endure. It’s well worth winning.

“Crowns aren’t made of rhinestones. They are made of discipline, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called courage.” –Unknown

Unfortunately, this kind of courage doesn’t come easy-peasy. It’s really more of an uphill battle, a tough slog through a slough. Like any athlete of excellence, we’ll need—and have had to acquire this year—a personal discipline and self-control that we’ve probably never managed before. 

“Run in such a way that you may win,” Paul advises. Do you have that unwavering persistence to keep plodding on day after day, when neither the finish line nor the prize look remotely perceptible? When the struggle hardly seems worth the sacrifice?

But if you’re still fighting, that’s a win. A crown encrusted with gems of mental muscle and spiritual steadfastness.

The Crown of Life

And if you’re still fighting—still obeying—that’s also a love note to Jesus. James, the Lord’s brother, tells us that the Crown of Life is promised to those “who persevere under trial” and “who love Him” (1:12). John, the Beloved Disciple, quotes Jesus: “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).

Winning crowns of life—what I call the Lover’s Crown—means loving God more than our idols and resisting the ever-present temptation to cry that if He really loved me, I’d live challenge-free. How I prefer my dark-side desires—my own “me-first” self—in place of God. How we are lured to love things of the Evil One instead of the One who loved us unto death.

But this world is neither my true home nor my true love. I must look and aim beyond the obvious and visible. The Kingdom belongs to me, and I to the Kingdom—NOW, but NOT YET.

“Always wear your invisible crown.” –Lily Pulitzer

I always think of this crown as the invisible one, the one nobody’s going to admire—or even notice—for a while. Maybe a long while. It’s a clandestine engagement tiara that I have stored away for my wedding day. It’s like a picture of my absent Beloved, tucked into a locket, cherished as the Love of my Life. “And though you have not seen Him, you love Him…” (I Ped. 1:8).

Can I love Him when I can’t see Him? Can I trust Him when everything goes wrong, when it feels like He doesn’t care? That’s winning crowns in 2020.

The Crown of Righteousness

We win this crown by doing what’s right when nobody else does, when wrong seems strong and right feels…well, lonely, to say the least. If the Incorruptible Crown comes from a sports tournament analogy, this one rides off the battlefield.

Paul talks about this Warrior’s Crown at the end of his life, the reward “laid up” for those who finish well and therefore “love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8). Paul’s war is almost over. Alone in his prison cell, about to face execution, did he win…or lose? “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” You tell me.

He remained obedient and faithful to the final home stretch. To the last day, the last opportunity, the last breath. He won a crown for recognizing what has value in life, what will stay with you till the end.

What counts with God? Love and faithfulness. Mercy and grace, truth and holy habits.

So the year of the crown-virus was, is, and will always be a year crowned with His goodness. As 2020 draws to a close, I remember Jesus’ crowning words in Scripture: “Yes, I am coming quickly.” I echo John: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

But Lord, don’t take me home… until I’ve won crowns to cast at Your feet.

2 Comments

  1. This was so encouraging. Sometimes it’s hard to continue when you don’t see concrete evidence of one’s labor. But then, we don’t have to. This is not our home. I love the idea of gathering crowns to lay at Jesus’s feet. We’re just so human, right? Thank you for your continued work and love in writing these posts. They really touch me. ❤️

  2. Dear Colleen, thanks for your encouraging comments as well. I believe we are all working through so much. It’s good to keep processing and reminding ourselves of what’s most important. Praying for you!

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