Summary: The Jews consecrated their first-fruits to God as His in a special sense. All Christians are meant to be the first-fruits, the promise and earnest of better work (Romans 8:23). What are the fruits being manifested from your lives?
Opening illustration: In the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Kerri Strug faced the trial of her life. She had injured her ankle on the vault and was in great pain as she approached her final attempt to determine whether the U.S. gymnastics team would win the gold medal. She moved the crowd with an incredible performance in spite of the pain she was enduring, and the United States won gold. When asked how she did it, she said she focused on her coach, who kept telling her she could do it and who reminded her of what was at stake. When we are hurting during a trial, we need to put our focus on the right place. The payoff for being a faithful clutch player is found in James 1:12: "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." It takes a lot of pain and frustration to become a great clutch player. Yet over time your perseverance will bring great victory, a crown of life as a reward you can enjoy today and for eternity. (Tony Evans)
Introduction: When we encounter various trials and temptations, not only do we need to have the right perspective on the trials themselves, but also on God and ourselves. God is not a tempter who desires us to fail, but a fatherly tester that desires the best for us. The sources of failure in temptation is not God, Satan, or anyone else, but nursing the desire which leads to sin and death. Therefore we need to flee temptation.
The fruit we produce is the direct result of on what/who our focus is on …
What kind of fruit is produced in our lives?
1. Fruit for Enduring Temptation (v. 12)
This is given in the form of a Beatitude. Do you remember the Beatitudes? They were given by Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Greek used makarios (blessed) to refer to their gods and thus "the blessed ones" were the gods. They were "blessed" because they had achieved a state of happiness and contentment in life that was beyond all cares, labors, and even death. The blessed ones were beings who lived in some other world away from the cares and problems and worries of ordinary people. To be blessed, you had to be a god. Homer used makarios to describe a state unaffected by the world of men, who were subject to poverty, weakness, and death.
Here is still another Beatitude. It begins with a blessing: Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial. Like the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, the verb (“is”) is not expressed in the Greek text. This is not a wish. It is not a hopeful benediction. It is not a command. It is a simple statement of fact. The man who endures under trial is blessed -- literally, he is “happy.”
Why? Because there is a reward at the end of the struggle. Because once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life. This brings us to a question. What is it that obtains for you the crown of life? Perseverance? Good hard work? No. It is true that you do not get it apart from perseverance. But the next clause of the verse tells you the source of this crown and it isn’t based in how good you are or in what you are able to earn or deserve.
In order to develop this life, the affections must be set upon the promised crown and blessings. When we have the life of Christ, we need to be exercised in order that the heart may detach itself from things around, which constantly invite the attention of the flesh, and that the will may not yield. Resisting the allurements of vanity, the heart should habitually keep itself by grace in the way of holiness, and in the enjoyment of heavenly things in communion with God. Now trials borne with patience help greatly to this result. A heart weaned from vanity is an immense gain to the soul. If the world is dry and arid for the heart, it more readily turns to the fountain of living waters.
It is a crown that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. It is a gift. It is given to those who trust in the Lord and who love Him. God is the source of that gift. God has allowed the trials through which that gift came to you. But God is not the source of temptations.