Like athletes on the road to victory
This race requires commitment, endurance, and willpower. However, the point is not to defeat others. Here is a training plan to follow, based on a divine service of the Chief Apostle.
The focus of the divine service in Manila (Philippines) on 18 November 2018 was on a crown. The reason for this was the Bible text, James 1: 12: “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
The New Testament often uses the image of the crown, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider explained: sometimes as the crown of life, sometimes as the crown of glory, or as the crown of righteousness. It always refers to the same thing: eternal life, eternal fellowship with God.
Like an athlete in a race
Paul often used this image, but James did too, as in this case. When they used it, they did not have a crown of precious metal in mind, but rather a laurel wreath. Anyone who won a race at the time was awarded such a wreath.
The Apostles used this comparison in order to make a point: “To obtain eternal life, to enter the kingdom of God, you have to behave like an athlete in a competition,” the Chief Apostle explained.
- Athletes need willpower and endurance, and they must be prepared to make sacrifices. “You can’t just stroll into the kingdom of God. It’s a daily challenge. We have to work hard on ourselves every day. We have to make many sacrifices and work hard to bring our thoughts and deeds into line with God’s will.”
- All athletes have rules to follow. “Whatever you do, do it out of love for Jesus, out of love for your neighbour. What is not done out of love is absolutely useless for salvation. That’s the rule. It is not an invention of the New Apostolic Church. This is a rule that Jesus Christ Himself gave.”
- In this competition, however, the other participants are not opponents: “We don’t have to compete against others. Our only opponent is the evil one. We don’t need to defeat our neighbour. God has prepared as many crowns as there are competitors.”
- In every competition there is a referee or a judge who makes sure that the rules are adhered to and who also decides on the winner. “This referee is Jesus Christ Himself. He will judge me one according to my deeds and thoughts, regardless of what others have done. We cannot use the behaviour of others to excuse our own.”
- The athlete cannot choose when the competition will take place. “The competition is taking place right now, in your current life situation! Let us put all our energy into winning the race, for then we can obtain salvation and will receive the crown.”
There is something special about this crown, the Chief Apostle said. Although Revelation speaks about the royal priesthood, who will reign alongside Jesus in the thousand-year kingdom of peace, Christ Himself will not exercise temporal authority, only spiritual authority. Nothing will then be able to prevent Him from completing His work of redemption.
And those who will reign with Him will not rule over mankind, but will be at the service of God to proclaim salvation to all of mankind. Although the tasks the Lord will entrust to them might differ depending on their abilities, the crown will be the same, the Chief Apostle said. “They will be with Jesus in eternity.”