One night last July, my husband was flipping channels and landed on the ESPYs on ESPN. It happened to be just as they were honoring one of their Sportscenter anchors, Stuart Scott. I was thankful to not miss this important moment. I graduated from high school and college with Stuart and have been following his battle with a rare form of cancer. It was first found seven years ago but has come back twice, and he is currently still fighting for his life, mainly to still be here for his two daughters. In recognition of the inspiration he has been to others in the way he has endured over the last seven years, he was given the Jimmy V Perseverance Award. If you aren’t familiar with the story, Jimmy V was the coach of the NC State basketball team when they won the national championship in 1983 and also battled cancer in a way that was inspirational to thousands of people. Part of his legacy is a foundation that raises money for cancer research.
As I was going to bed that night, I was thinking about Stuart and his life. And then it occurred to me that God also gives a Perseverance Award. It is called The Crown of Life. James talks about it in James 1:12: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
The Christian life is one of perseverance. Of following the Lord to the end, even when things are hard and confusing and you don’t understand what God is doing. Of following God to the end even when temptations arise to turn and follow the world after money and sex and power and more. Paul describes it as a race. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” I Cor. 9:24-27
There are lots of motivators to keep running our Christian race to the end, but these men pointed to the motivator of eternity – of eternal life. I love the definition of the word “life” as used in James 1:12. The word is “zoe” and the lexicon in my Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible defines it this way: “Referring to the principle of life in the spirit and soul. Distinguished from ‘bios’, physical life, livelihood, of which ‘zoe’ is the nobler word, expressing all of the highest and best which Christ is and which He gives to the saints. The highest blessedness of the creature.” You can’t find a better Perseverance Award than that!
I have another friend who received a Perseverance Award. His name is John Roper, and he was one of the leaders in Campus Crusade for Christ when we were at the University of North Carolina. He was a couple of years older than I am and was someone I looked up to and respected. John received his Perseverance Award from Jesus in March of 2007. Here is how his family described him in his obituary:
“Christ was the centerpiece of John’s life. While he enjoyed many accomplishments, the hallmark of his character was a devotion to his Savior. The light of Jesus shined through his love to his wife, daughter, parents, siblings, friends and colleagues, so brightly that it could not have been missed. John was by the world’s standard talented, successful and accomplished, yet his joy was born out of dedicating his time, talents and treasure for the glory of God’s kingdom. His family and friends take great joy in knowing Jesus met John at the gates of heaven saying, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master’.”
John finished his race well, with perseverance, following Jesus with his whole heart to the very end. I want to do the same.
When life is difficult and it is tempting to stop trusting and following God; when the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil come to pull you away from following Christ; keep your eye on the prize. There is so much more ahead – more blessings than we can ever imagine. And it is worth it. Amazingly, God is so gracious that He provides incredible blessings on this earth, too, as we persevere and follow Him.
It is worth it. It is worth it. It is so worth it. May we all finish well and receive Perseverance Awards from Him one day.