"Saul died for his unfaithfulness to the Lord because he did not keep the Lord's word. He even consulted a medium for guidance, but he did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse." (1 Chronicles 10:13, 14 HCSB)
Our salvation for heaven depends on the finished work of Christ. Redemption comes by faith. Our status in heaven depends on our finishing the work Christ has for us. Reward comes by faithfulness. You can win a crown--and you can lose it!
On the one hand, we are exhorted to pursue our crown, "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelation 2:10b HCSB) On the other hand we are encouraged to preserve our crown, "Hold on to what you have, so that no one takes your crown." (Revelation 3:11b HCSB)
Saul lost his crown.
A chill runs up my spine and a tear wells up in my eye as I consider this horrible possibility, documented in Scripture. I can be just like Saul. I can lose my crown.
He had so much potential. God had blessed Saul with great ability and grand opportunity. His beginning was one of humility and success, as one chosen of God. His ending, however, was one of tragedy and failure, as one cast aside by God. The specter of that possibility haunted even so devoted a man as the Apostle Paul. In fact, it was part of what drove him to such a high level of commitment.
"Don't you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified." (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 HCSB)
You cannot win the crown, if you stumble before the finish line.
There were three temporal losses which Saul experienced on his way to losing his crown. All the consequences of unfaithfulness may not await eternity. Many are suffered now.
We observe A DIRECTION THAT WAS UNCLEAR. Saul had spurned the Word of the Lord so much, that God said, "Have it your way!" The Lord would not listen to the one who would not listen to him. In a state of spiritual confusion and utter desperation, he even seeks a medium for direction. If you insist on refusing to seek God, and then one day in difficulty, decide to place an emergency call to heaven, God might graciously respond--or He may not. He is the Almighty God and not to be treated like an ambulance dispatcher! You can lose your crown!
There was also A DEFEAT THAT WAS UNAVOIDABLE. Saul had first surrendered to sin, before he suffered defeat on the battlefield. Having forsaken the Lord, he had no strength to win. The outward loss was inevitable, due to the unseen conquest of his soul, by not heeding his Commander's orders. We see the fall of some pastor, a fellow church member, someone we had confidence in--beaten down by the devil--and think it a sudden setback. Seldom, if ever, is that the case. Behind the scenes, a thousand little private defeats led to the public disgrace. God has torn away the curtain of Saul's life for us, allowing us to peek through the window of his soul and be warned. You can lose your crown!
Then, we note A DEATH THAT WAS UNNECESSARY. Saul falls on his own sword and takes his life. His sons, including the good and gracious Jonathan, fall in battle. Many a soldier had their blood spilled on the ground that day. Grieving widows and pitiful orphans were the heirs of this defeat. The effects of our backsliding are never limited to us. It is true that we will lose our crown, but how many others will we drag down with us? Our family? Our fellow soldiers in God's army? The larger our leadership responsibility, the wider the catastrophe. It was all unnecessary. Saul could have stood tall and stayed true, but he decided to do it his way. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." (Proverbs 16:25 HCSB) You can lose your crown, and this can lead others to lose theirs.
Now, I am not talking about losing your salvation, but losing your standing--our relationship is unalterable, but our reward isn't. Weigh these words:
"For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one's work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one's work. If anyone's work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:11-15 HCSB)
I fully expect to see Saul in heaven one day--without his crown.
You may think, "If I can just get into heaven, that will be good enough. I'm not concerned about crowns."
Really? If you have no desire for reward at all, are you certain that you are truly going to heaven? Even Saul, wanted to retain his crown. He just didn't meet the requirements to do so.
Our crown of reward isn't about our glory, however. Our crown of life is because Christ was crowned with death. The triumphant crown we wear in the future is because of the thorny crown He wore in the past. Thus, our crowns will be the means of glorifying our Savior. When we look at those nail-scarred feet that walked the Calvary road for us, we will be moved to take our crowns and cast them at His feet (see Rev.4:10).
That is--if we have any crowns. When the child of God stands before the throne of judgment and looks into the eyes of perfect love, our heart will be broken if we stand before Him with no crown to lay at His feet. Oh how thankful we will be to enter heaven, but let us strive for a triumphal entry!
"His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins. Therefore, brothers, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly supplied to you." (2 Peter 1:3-11 HCSB)
Let us pray more earnestly that we would live more faithfully. Don't lose your crown!