Going for the Crown
There is a story I heard a number of years ago about a young man who considered himself to be the world’s greatest checkers player. In the same town there was an old man that the townsfolk considered to be the world’s greatest checkers player. One day the young man was walking by the home of the old man and saw him sitting outside his home having a drink. He thought, “Now is the time to show everyone how great I am.” So, he challenged the old man to a game of checkers. They put the pieces on the board and the young man quickly got off to a good start, taking a few of the old man’s pieces. But, the old man responded with a few good moves of his own. Then, the young man saw an opportunity and was able to snap up multiple pieces belonging to the old man.
After the next move of the old man, the young man went again and took more of the old man’s pieces. He thought to himself, “This old guy isn’t as good as people say. Doesn’t he know he can’t win by losing all his pieces!” At this point in the game, the young guy had taken all but one piece of the old man. Then, suddenly, the unthinkable happened. The old man moved his one remaining piece and began to jump over the young man’s pieces—click, click, click, click—and four pieces were gone. The old man had moved his piece right to the end of the game board in that one move and said, “Crown me.” Reluctantly, the young man did. Then, the old man finished the young guy off with another masterful move—click, click, click, click—taking each remaining piece that the young man had on the board. In the span of 10 seconds, the whole game had changed, and the old man was crowned as champion.
I wonder if there aren’t some lessons for us from this story. You see, there are certain pieces of our life that, like the wise old man, we can afford to give up, in fact we must give up, if we are going for the crown. Maybe it’s a sinful habit. Maybe it’s a lingering grudge. Maybe it’s an extra hour of sleep, or a few hours of television and entertainment, especially if we find ourselves too busy to pray or read our Bible. The apostle Paul said to the Christians in Corinth:
“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 Corinthians 9:25)
Paul compares life to a race. All athletes work hard and train hard to get a prize that won’t last. In contrast, there is a crown that does last. When we come to know Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, the race of life takes on a whole new direction because now we’re heading towards Christ, to obtain the crown that will last—eternal life. Before coming to know Christ we were running away from God, toward hell. Now, having received Christ into our life, we are running toward God, toward heaven. But, as we run this race we need to do so carefully and with purpose.
To run a race properly, a person needs to undergo “strict training.” In a similar way, the Christian life requires a certain amount of discipline and hard work. We can’t run the race if we don’t pray and read God’s Word, regularly. We can’t run the race well if we’re not in community and accountable to other serious-minded believers. We can’t run the race well if we don’t turn from sin when God convicts us of something that is wrong in our life. We can’t run the race well unless we daily resolve to live for God’s glory.
One day we will cross the finish line and stand before Christ. Live for that day. Live to hear the words, “Well Done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).