"I have fought the 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 4:7-9 (NIV)
There once was a man who discovered a mine of ancient legend. The riches that were to be found inside of the darkness of its depths were hardly imaginable. In order to own the mine, the man had to sell everything he had with the hope that what had been written down by others who had had the possession of the mine before him would be proven truthful.
The first day he descended into the darkness, he could not believe his eyes. There, in a thin but unmistakable pattern, was a line of precious silver on the wall. He spent hardly any time in gathering the silver with the small tools that he had with him. His heart was racing as he calculated the silver's worth. I have more than made up the cost of the mine to me in this one discovery! he exulted to himself. Because the mine had changed hands so many times before, the man wondered how the silver had been so easily discovered and obtained with such little effort. The man's joy was boundless as he came up out the mine.
Life was so good for the man that he was unprepared for the day that destroyed his new-found treasures bought by the silver. In fact, in the sweetness of the luxury of his life-style, the man suddenly remembered that the mine promised gold that he had not yet found. He realized he had no choice. He had been perfectly content to not go down into the darkness of the mine again, but quickly came to realize that if he didn't, he would soon be destitute.
This time there was no easy finding of the gold. Day after day the man searched the hard surface of the mine's walls with the small light he held in his hand. Although he spent hours looking, he found nothing but disappointment. The tools he used had grown each time he had come back to the mine. What had helped him dig out the silver the first time looked ridiculous now in his hands. He searched the written testimonies of those who had owned the mine before in an effort to uncover what they had found to be useful in the recovery of the treasure that was promised to be living in those dark walls.
One day when he thought it could not get any worse, it did. He had faithfully dug his way through the rock of the walls down a path where no one had gone before. He suddenly heard a rumbling overhead that made his blood turn to ice in his veins. He barely escaped with his life as he ran toward the opening of the mine. As he turned around, his heart sank. All of his hard work over the last year was covered with debris. He realized that in order to get back to where he had been before the cave-in, he would have to remove the blockage one bucket at a time.
The man was so angry at the turn of events that he threw the written testimonies of the previous owners into a drawer for another year. What a stupid investment I have made! he fumed. Maybe all the previous owners were just liars! Look at all this has cost me and for what?? he said as he shook his fist toward the heavens.
As much as he tried to ignore the fact, the mine called to him in his dreams. He could not get the words of those who had gone before him out of his head. They had spoken of things hidden from the eyes of most human beings. At last, finding no satisfaction in his anger, the man dared to descend into the darkness again. For six months, he worked with no reward. Every night, he returned to the written documents for encouragement. Somewhere along the way, his motivation for going into the mine had changed. The flash of gold and its luster had been replaced by a fervent desire to explore the mine as its own reward. His desire now was to be among those few who could write down with certainty that the riches really existed as they said they did.
As the man filled his bucket again, the wall of debris crumbled to the floor of the mine. The man suddenly gasped. The light in his hands was caught in a million prisms of sparkle from mounds of diamonds and other precious jewels. What was more startling was the evidence that showed that the gems had fallen to the ground of the mine out of the walls from the violence of the cave-in. The man quickly realized that had he not painstakingly dug his way through the debris that had covered the pathway to the riches, he would have missed the treasure shaken from the walls.
My dearest sister, how excited were we when we first met our Jesus? He was so close to us during those brand-new days of discovery early in our faith. He gave us reward easily without a lot of effort. His encouragement was constant. We were sure that we had made the right decision to give our lives to Him. Our Bibles came alive. We lived off the riches of His Word, but we didn't have to dig very deep.
Soon after, we realized that what had satisfied us before just wasn't going to do anymore. So we started to dig deeper. Jesus was still there, but life rushed in and reminded us that we had started to believe the lie that life would be a bed of roses until heaven. It wasn't nearly as easy now to believe the promises of God's Word. We had to dig and dig and experience days of earnest perseverance that went unrewarded in our minds.
And then came the day when the earth trembled and a great testing of our faith threatened to rip our world apart. We lost something or someone very dear to us. Even though we may not have said it out loud, we allowed doubts to enter our thoughts and hearts about the validity of life with Christ. We may have questioned why we chose this life. All we had worked for seemed for nothing. A feeling of betrayal seeped into our souls. In our hurt, we have thrown it all away and chosen to live life bitter.
My sweet friend, our crown of riches in on the other side of the debris of that shaking. But we will never see it in this pit bitterness and self-pity we find ourselves wallowing in right now. This life is not heaven! And God, in His severe mercy, will remind us of that truth over and over again so that we do not miss out on the true treasure--Himself. It's time to get up and get on with it. How has life been doing it our way without Him? The joy is there before us, girlfriends! Let's dig for those treasures that are hidden from most eyes, though our hands and hearts bleed in the effort, so that we can join with those who say, "Jesus is who He says He is! The crown is mine!"
Jesus, help me! You have said that there is a tremendous cost associated with the crown of perseverance that can be mine one day. I tremble under the weight of all that it requires of my sinful flesh. With these eyes of mine, I only see the drudgery of this life and not the joy ahead. One lasts seventy or eighty years; the other will be mine for eternity. Give me the desire to choose the right one as You allow me to catch glimpses of the riches that will be mine one day.