At the conferral of my doctoral degree, many distinguished officials spoke and honoured the graduates for their achievements. Much was made of the accolades as those ceremonies honour people of the highest classes in their field of study. As I received my own, I wondered about the path that brought me there. I became very emotional as I looked upon my wife and daughter in the audience. I thought about my mother who could not be there – my siblings, friends and others who had inspired my journey. What weighed heaviest on me that day was not the distinction of a PhD, but the adversity that I endured and the sacrifice that others made for me during the process. It pained me that so much was made of the honour, and not so much for the journey to that honour.
In this message I try to parallel how Jesus’ path-to-honour is tethered to his sacrifice; in the same way his followers connect their victories to trials.
What makes one worthy of honour?
Let me start with John narrating a scene in heaven as Jesus is being honoured:
Revelation 5: Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll … sealed with seven seals. 2) And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3) But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4) I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5) Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
The first thing that strikes me from that excerpt, is that John is weeping. We know it takes a lot for most men to cry. They often shed tears when their intimate partners challenge their manhood, issues relating to their mother, or when they are powerless in completing a duty with which they are emotionally connected.
John in this situation seems to weep because there appears to be a stalemate in heaven (which he is powerless in solving), not in any place in heaven, but in the throne room, the presence of God, the most holy place. The problem is there seemed to be information in a vault that has seven levels of security, but no one has the authority to unlock it. You will learn, if you read chapters 6-8 of Revelation, the critical nature of what is sealed in that scroll: the future of human life on earth; judgement of the wicked at a time when it appeared that injustice was prevailing – The scroll showed the vindication of the righteous who were persecuted and killed for the sake of righteousness. All of that would have remained hidden in that scroll, presenting a hopeless scenario for humanity and John if none was found with the legitimacy to open it. That is why he wept. Not to mention, the eternal salvation of souls was hidden in that scroll – whether the sacrifice of Jesus was successful, hidden in the scroll.
Only the one with the requisite history of pain is worthy of the honour.
John’s despair did not last as an elder said to him, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
6) Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. 7) He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.
In your life, you achieve things you achieve mainly through pain, hard work and sacrifice. But some will deny your victory because they have not seen your pain. I say to you do not ever celebrate your victory without recognition of your pain. People who celebrate your achievements without acknowledging your path to success are joyriders, freeloaders, and imposters. Just like Jesus, only you have the legitimacy and credentials to claim your success, because only you endured all your trials.
No one in heaven glorifies Jesus without celebrating his death.
Two groups of beings worshiped Jesus: the four living creatures (cherubim) plus the 24 elders, and group 2, legions of angels.
8) And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp …. 9) And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God, persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
11) Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering … ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12) In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!”
Both groups glorified him for his sacrifice in death. Everyone present in that location honoured him for one reason: because he was slain. We know Jesus as the Conquering lion of Judah; king of kings; lord of lords; the Almighty; the chief corner stone; the rock. All those are great names of Jesus, but the one that made him center of attention in heaven is “Lamb that was slain.”
Like Jesus, sacrifice precedes our victories.
If you are going through something today understand that sacrifice precedes achievement.
There is no triumph without trial.
Don’t see the crown without the cross.
Don’t see the victor without his victimisation.
See your victories in the context of defeats.
In 2 Timothy 4:8 Paul states, “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the LORD, the righteous Judge, will award to me … But before making that statement, he recorded his trials: I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. (Chap 8) Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you ….
The crown you will wear is equal to the cross you bear.