The life of a Christian is portrayed by Paul as a “warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). As with any “warfare”, a Christian should understand that there is the possibility of casualties and deaths. Paul himself would live his life in such a way that his life was taken due to his faithfulness to God. Paul’s courage and devotion is seen by reading “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Paul was a spiritual soldier that kept fighting until his life was no longer on this Earth.
All other Christians should be just as committed to the cause of Christ as Paul was. While writing the book of Revelation, John was inspired to write to the church in Smyrna, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). In order for those brethren to receive a “crown”/be victorious, they were required to be faithful children of God, even if it meant that they would have to die physically to remain such. That challenge still exists for Christians today.
The consequence of not being faithful is extremely severe. First of all, Jesus himself explained, “…No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). This indicates that once a man begins his life as a child of God, he should continue looking and moving forward. If a man were using an old-fashioned plow, then he would need to make sure that he kept looking forward. One of the reasons for such is that if he were distracted by what was behind him, then the rows that he plowed would not be straight and true. For our lives to be straight and true, we must remain faithfully committed to our Lord.
The Scriptures also graphically describe what it is like for a Christian to become unfaithful. Peter wrote, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Pet. 2:20-22). Such language should resonate in our souls. If we turn our backs on the Lord, then we are choosing to go back to the very thing that made us spiritually sick and filthy, a lifestyle of sin. The results of such will be the second death (Rev. 21:8; cf. Rom. 6:12-23).
Even though he lived before the church was established, the prophet Daniel is an encouraging person to study when examining faithfulness. It was Daniel who was given the decision to remain faithful to God, or to bow to the desires of men. Daniel had a practice of praying to God three times daily. When he did such, he did not hide the practice, but rather was able to be seen due to an opened window. Jealous men devised a plan to destroy Daniel by getting the king to sign into law that no man could “…ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king…” (Dan. 6:7). The punishment for disobedience to the new law was being cast into a den of lions. Daniel’s faithfulness is shown by reading Daniel 6:10: “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.” What courage and faithfulness! He eventually was cast into the den of lions, but God made sure that His faithful servant was not harmed (Dan. 6:22).
Christians should never let anything (fear, weariness, physical abuse, death) cause them to become unfaithful. Friend, the “crown” is waiting for those who are faithful. Will you receive a “crown”?
~ Corey Barnette