October 12, 2011

Running--For a Crown

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Cor. 9:25).
The cloud started as just a speck, about the size of someone’s hand. With my imperfect earthly eyes, I could barely make out any of the details. But soon I knew there was no mistaking the scene that was about to unfold.
Jesus was finally coming to take us home.
I cannot adequately explain the joy that filled my heart in that moment. As my feet began to lift off the ground, my body went through an array of sudden changes.
The constant nagging pain in my left elbow? Gone forever. The half-healed scrape on my shin? Replaced by new skin. And, of course, those imperfect eyes were suddenly no less than perfect. I pulled off my glasses and let them slowly drift to the earth below—along with all the pain, guilt, fear, and insecurity I’d ever felt. For the first time in my life I knew that everything would be OK. Better than OK, actually; perfect. And nothing could ever change that.
2011 1528 page14Daniel and the lions’ den was always my favorite Bible story growing up. So upon arriving in heaven, I found the biggest lion I could, then went to find Daniel. After relying upon the biblical account (and my imagination), I wanted a firsthand account of what it was like inside the lions’ den. One by one I found all my Bible heroes to see what they looked like and listen to their tales. Amazingly, they wanted to hear my story too.
Of course, I flew all over the place, and ate fruit from the tree of life, and did so many more things I can’t do justice to with mere words.
But all these things paled in comparison to one moment: the moment I saw Jesus.
As He got closer to me, I felt my heartbeat rise and the hair on my back stand up (you can still get nervous in heaven). Before I realized it, He was right in front of me.
My Creator, Redeemer, King.
He looked me in the eye; then, with the most genuine smile ever seen, He placed a crown on my head and said the words I’d waited my whole life to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
What Heaven Will Be Like
Sometimes it’s hard to picture heaven. Putting words to it is even more challenging. But as I crossed the finish line after my first half-marathon I think I experienced a tiny taste (emphasis on tiny) of what it might be like.
For months I trained for the race; my focus centered on one goal. At every turn I discovered new perspectives and summoned strength I didn’t know I had. Of course, there were valleys and moments of weakness along the way too.
But at the finish line, as I paced back and forth catching my breath, the hardships seemed so small and insignificant . . . almost as if they’d never happened. Or maybe, memories of the pain are still there, but are dwarfed by the glory of what I see and feel now.
Actually, I think that’s a lot like how heaven will be.
What are you facing in life—health problems, financial instability, troubled relationships, all of the above? That’s the world we live in: a place where starvation, disease, and violence seem to permeate every street corner.
Though there are many choices along the way, life really comes down to one key question: Whether it’s good going or the going gets tough, will you keep running?
I know that I will fall, fail, and falter. I will let others and myself down. But no matter what, I will never stop running.
I want to see Jesus. I want a crown that will last forever.
Jimmy Phillips ([email protected]) writes from Bakersfield, California, where he is electronic media coordinator for San Joaquin Community Hospital. Visit his Web site at www.introducingthewhy.com. This article was published October 13, 2011.