[forthright] Waiting for Our Laurels

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Fri, 08 Jun 2007 13:27:18 -0300
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross

Read more from Tim Hall in his weekly HEM-Lines
devotional. http:www.joycaster.com


COLUMN: HEAVENLY CONNECTIONS

Waiting for Our Laurels
by Tim Hall

A phrase we often hear speaks of people who "rest 
on their laurels". The "laurels" suggest 
rewards won in past contests. A champion in 
ancient Olympic games was awarded a wreath made of 
greenery, such as leaves from the bay laurel tree. 
In his later years, the athlete might not put 
forth as much effort, but would be content in 
glory from the past. 

Paul could certainly be regarded as a spiritual 
champion. But did he know anything about resting 
on his laurels? A quick reading of his second 
letter to Timothy will dispel any such notion. 
Instead of taking it easy in his later years, life 
got harder. 

One indication of Paul's difficulties comes early 
in the letter: "Therefore, do not be ashamed of 
the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, 
but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel 
according to the power of God" (2 Timothy 1:8, 
NKJV). Following years of dedicated service to 
God's kingdom, how was the aged apostle rewarded? 
With a prison cell and suffering. Does that seem 
fair?! 

Another mark of Paul's sufferings was how 
brethren often abandoned him. In 2 Timothy 1:15 he 
noted how "all those in Asia have turned away 
from me". He referred to Demas, a companion in 
his missionary journeys, who had "forsaken me" 
(4:10). Later in that final chapter of  Paul's 
writings, he stated this sad information: "At my 
first defense no one stood with me, but all 
forsook me. May it not be charged against them" 
(4:16). 

Clearly this man did not rest on his laurels. What 
kept him going through such hard times? What will 
keep any Christian going when thorns are 
substituted for laurels? 

One truth was always in Paul's mind: "But the 
Lord stood with me and strengthened me" (2 
Timothy 4:17). The most famous statement of this 
sustaining truth is found in 1:12: "For this 
reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I 
am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed 
and am persuaded that he is able to keep what I 
have committed to him until that day." 

Paul's faith was not in "what," but in 
"whom." And so it must be for every child of God 
who hopes to endure the trials that inevitably 
come. As Paul learned by experience, so will we: 
"Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ 
Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12). 

And about those laurels: They're coming.  Paul 
affirmed that in 4:8: "Finally, there is laid up 
for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, 
the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, 
and not to me only but also to all who have loved 
his appearing." 

Don't focus on people; they almost always 
disappoint. Keep your focus on Jesus. 

----
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