Isaiah 61:3 (NLT)
To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
There are many days when I call my husband at work to check in. When I ask him what he is doing, he will say, “Putting out fires” which usually means dealing with all the problems that end up on the desk of management for resolution. It seems as though lately the fires in our life have been raging. With only a glimpse of life on the other side of the smokescreen, I have struggled to find the beauty for ashes that He promises, but reading this to today I see my error. He will give a “crown” of beauty for ashes. What are the ashes in our life? The residue of that which has burned away in the fire of refinement leaving us with nothing to hold on to in the natural requiring a firm foundation of faith. I used to think that as our faith in God grew stronger that the foundation of faith would grow larger and more comfortable, but I didn’t get it. The firmament of our life must be Jesus Christ alone which does not mean that the platform on which we are to build our life gets bigger but rather the roots of our love grow deeper. Big difference. Faith is not designed to make me more comfortable just totally confident. In fact, faith should do just the opposite it should make us uncomfortable to promote the kind of change in our life that produces total dependency on the Lord. He promises to give us a “crown of beauty” for the ashes in our life. Those times that we allowed God to burn away everything that was useless in our life to promote deeper love and greater dependency on our faith. When looking at what’s left of our life after going through a fiery trial, most people would agree that the faith that they found in the journey was well worth the discomfort and potential loss.
2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NLT)
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.
The crown of righteousness is a hard won fight. Jesus Christ has given us overwhelming victory but it is secured by faith alone. Those who do not step into right standing with God and run the race will not receive such a prize. What does all this mean? When I came to Jesus Christ at eleven, my heart desired and longed for the Lord. I remember the day like it was yesterday, but it was well over thirty years ago. I wanted to be saved but was not sure what came next. Oh sure, I walked down the aisle and prayed with a very nice pastor. However, there was no power or passion in that moment as I thought there would be. There was also no instant rescue from the sadness and heartache I was experiencing as my parents had recently divorced. I am not sure if I came to Jesus as God or Santa Claus hoping for a last minute miracle. Nevertheless, as I grew older I would rededicate my life in high school. I was more successful in the pursuit of righteousness as I was reading the word, attending regular worship services, and had an active youth group. I was attempting to tell others about Jesus Christ but truth be told I wasn’t really sure what I believed to be true. When my children were born, that desire rose up in me again to introduce them to the Lord although my relationship with Him had not been very successful. I had to bring them to Jesus even though I wasn’t sure exactly what the importance was. I wanted them to be saved. I wanted to be sure that I was saved. However, when you do not fully understand and accept the righteousness of God and have a real, genuine and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ this is very difficult. How do you get to know someone who you cannot see, hear, feel or touch? But then it happened, I finally had that moment when I experienced the Lord firsthand. Oh, I got rocked in a church service and finally figured out that God’s Word and His Way require interaction with His Spirit. But the moment that I knew that God was real was the moment when all hell broke loose, my life completely fell apart and our son was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer not sure if he would live or die. The test. The fire if you will. When the foundation of my life that seemed so stable crumbled beneath my feet and the only thing left to stand on was my faith – this would be the moment that I discovered righteousness for the very first time. You will never know the validity of your relationship with Jesus Christ which is salvation until everything is stripped away that you know, see and believe in this world and all that you have left is the Lord. Will what you believe be enough to survive the wildfire burning through your life? Will the trial end in total devastation? Will your desperation result in divine intervention based on the tiny grain of faith found in the midst of our rubble? I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have remained faithful. This is the point where the crown of righteousness we so desperately seek is discovered. For those who have been told that the best is yet to come, this is true. For those who think this means that it will be smooth sailing through the rest of your life without a care in the world, I am sorry but you are mistaken.
James 1:12 (NLT)
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
The righteousness that we have been given by Jesus Christ is the very thing that crowns us with life everlasting. With all the value placed on each moment of every day to be perfect because the world thinks you only live once, we miss the fact that in each moment of each day including every circumstance that we face God is working every detail for our good. Not according to my will, but His Will which is for me to live forever with Him in His Glory. My present condition in life needs to give way to His Righteousness not so much in what I do or say but it is fully reliant on who I am and what I believe. I am a Child of God because I have called on the Name of Jesus Christ and believe. My belief must be manifested in my life, otherwise I am an imposter. God blesses those who patiently endure testing. Afterwards, they will receive the crown of life. Does this mean that we will all be tested? Yes. The enemy is going to use your flesh every conceivable way to convince you that God does not love you and Jesus did not die for every single one of your sins. If that doesn’t work, then he will try to convince you that how you live doesn’t matter because of God’s Grace and Mercy. Righteousness is the access point of grace and mercy in our life. Jesus Christ is the gatekeeper. He will not let in anyone with the wrong intentions. We come boldly into the Presence of God because we are given a garment of righteousness that covers our sin. Each test is born of temptation. Temptation is a result of the desires of our flesh. Getting deep here I know. God is working overtime to turn every detail of our life for good so if we are being tempted by a situation or circumstance in our life, God is taking all the details of it to make good on His Promises. The sin in this world will always produce problems and pressure. This is an opportunity for the Lord to make beautiful details in the ashes of what’s left and produce a crown of righteousness reserved only for those who win the fight or finish the race of faith.
Luke 12:49 (NLT) “I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning!”
There are many reasons that Jesus could have been saying this in the New Testament. Just before the Lord was to die for our sins, I am quite certain in our terms that Jesus was saying in essence “let’s get this show on the road.” But when I read this today, I think there is a much sweeter message in His Words that He is inscribing on my tender and healing heart. When He came to die on the Cross for me, He saw me. He saw my life and the pain that I would have so He wanted to heal me. I think the Lord looked through time and saw a young man that would be diagnosed with cancer and the family that would love and support him and decided that all His Goodness had to make it to them. I believe that He was not mad at us or ready to punish us or even just wanting to get His Own Suffering done…Jesus wanted me. He wanted the fire to burn away all the consequences of my sin and shame so that my faith could produce righteousness as my crown so that when He came for me I could live with Him forever. Jesus wants to make my heart’s desire come true and is taking every ash with the intent to make it a thing of beauty in our life. He wanted to set the world on fire so faith would become a factor. He wished it was already burning because of His Great Love for you and me.
Revelation 4:8-11 (NLT)
Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.” Whenever the living beings give glory and honor and thanks to the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever), the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.”
When Jesus comes and we meet Him face-to-face, what will we have of worth to give Him? The elders tell us in their worship. “The twenty-four elders fall down and worship sitting at the Throne of God they lay their “crowns” before the Throne and call Him “worthy”. Those crowns are the ones called righteousness. The elders of a church are the examples that we follow. If all that I have to lay at the feet of Jesus Christ is a crown of righteousness, I want it to be enough. I want it to be worthy of the One who died to set me free, heal my body, deliver my mind and settle my soul. So if that means that I must live each day through fiery trials so be it. If it means that I must be tested, Lord turn up the heat. Whatever it takes to have something of worth to worship before Your Throne and be with you forever – that’s what I need so let it burn. I need that crown of beauty found only in ashes. I want the joyous blessing that is found in sorrow and mourning when I realize how unimportant the things have been that once consumed my life. Let me praise you for what is coming rather than succumbing to the possibilities of what might have been. I want the kind of righteousness that plants me deep in faith anchored by confident hope in Your Presence now and forever.
Revelation 3:10-12 (NLT)
“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.”
We have a gas fireplace that stays burning year-round. There is a tiny flame that stays burning like a pilot light. I decided to clean it last night as the dust and residue on the glass cover made it hard to see the decorative logs inside. The glass was covered in thick ash which seems crazy since it is a gas fireplace and the logs are not actually burning. There was ash all over the walls of it, too. You could write your name in the ashes. Ha! “I will write on them the Name of My God” so that’s how He does it sometimes. As we rise above the trials we face the beauty in the ashes is the Name of God written on our heart and clear for everyone to see – even me. It is in that moment that we discover how truly worth it our life of faith really is. Maybe that fire is not for Him, but really for me. Hold on to your faith today no matter how small. Jesus is coming back so make the most of today! Be sure that no one takes your crown away! Righteousness is worth having so that we will have something to give Him so let it burn!
I Corinthians 3:12-15 (NLT)
Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.
Start a fire in my soul
Fan the flame and make it grow
So there’s no doubt or denying
Let it burn so brightly
That everyone around can see
That it’s You, that it’s You that we need
Start a fire in me!