James 1:12 “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.”
Not only are those who remain faithful blessed and approved but the third reward is that they will:
- Receive the Crown of Life.
There is a great reward that awaits those who faithfully persevere through the trials of this life. James wraps up his teaching on trials with a promise that persecution doesn’t conclude with pain but rather a crown. The outcome of faithfulness that is forged in the fire of trials results in a great reward. The life that has burned brightly for God’s glory through the bitter trials of this life will not be forgotten by God in heaven. They will be rewarded with the crown of life. Revelation 2:10 also speaks to the crown of life as a reward for those who suffering for the Savior: “Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.” Life is promised to those who love the Lord. It is the enabling to take hold of life and live it as God would have you. It is the ability to enjoy God’s abundant life even in the midst of miserable circumstances. Not only is this a full and free spiritual life right here and now, but it is also a reward in the life to come. The greatest reward for those who faithfully endure is a reward that will endure, a reward that will never tarnish or fade. In the Greek world, crowns were given to those who distinguished themselves in service, or athletes who participated in the games, as 1 Corinthians 9:25 clearly states, “All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.” Today Christians want to sit in the stands and watch the race instead of run it. But Christianity is not a spectator sport we are not called to watch we are called to war. To not just show up on the field but to be faithful on the field of battle. Being faithful means to be whole-hearted, to leave it all on the field. The call to run the race, should remind us that it’s not going to be easy, that it will be hard and it will hurt. That the road we are called to run on is sometimes paved with pain and strewed with suffering. Only fans sit in the seats, but followers show up on the field. What about you are you a fair weather fan or a faithful follower? Are you sitting in the stands or serving on the field? While we may want to sit in the stands and serve as spectators that position is already taken. According to Hebrews 12:2, saints that get to watch are the witnesses, those who are no longer living in this world: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” The witnesses who get to watch are those who have faithfully finished their race and stepped off the field. Until we cross the finish we need to be faithful. The crown that the Greeks sought was seen as a prize of victory or a badge of honor. The Old Testaments speaks of the crown as a mark of royalty, Psalm 21:3: “You welcomed him back with success and prosperity. You placed a crown of finest gold on his head”. But where athletes have human competitors, the Christian’s adversaries are the demonic powers of darkness that try to drive us off course and keep us from running a righteous life. Satan wants to set up roadblocks or fill the road with so much rubble that we become discouraged and want to give up. Rubble was one of the things that caused the people in Nehemiah 4:10 to want to give up: “Then the people of Judah began to complain, “The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.” The dirt and debris caused them to become discouraged. Satan loves to try and trip us up with trash. It’s hard trying to live for Jesus and run the race while carrying all the junk. Hebrews 12:1 challenges us to get rid of it. “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race marked out for us.” The trouble with rubble is that we become fixated on the problem not the promise. The people complained about the rubble but wasn’t this same rubble there at the beginning of the building? And yet somehow they were able to build the wall to half its height when the rubble was in their road, so why is the rubble a problem now? Because before they were focused on rebuilding now they are focused on rubble, before they focused on the Father now they are focused on the frustration. Are you focusing on the junk or on Jesus? Focusing on the frustrations leads to throwing in the towel, focusing on God’s faithfulness leads to walking in the truth. The crown that is received is a gift from God showing His approval of a life tested by trial. The crown is the reward of the Christian’s effort to run despite the rubble and the roadblocks. It is a tiring race but unlike the athlete’s race this is a contest that last longer and it’s not a game. Difficulties can discourage and get you down but they don’t have to take you out. Focus on the Father and be faithful to finish. God will give you strength of character so that you will walk confidently with God prepared for whatever life has in store for you.