Summary: To work for the crown of life and not to build up a kingdom just on this earth
SBC Philippi 6/26/05 pm
Rev. Jeff Simms
The Crown of Life
Purpose Statement: To work for the crown of life and not to place our trust in things of this world
There are two things I think that stand out in this passage that we will look at tonight that we will go back to again and again. First, it seems that God’s definition of success is very different than the world’s. That God doesn’t use the same standards the world does. Second, that the goal of the successful person in God’s eyes isn’t on this world at all. Our goal is on a more permanent prize that won’t fade away or perish.
Remember that James is writing to those who have been scattered out of Jerusalem for their faith. These are persecuted believers from many different stations in life. Some of them were rich, but most were poor. James uses several statements of contrast to contrast the world’s view of the person from Gods. He first tells the brother of humble circumstances that he should take pride in his high position. The humble circumstances are the poor physical position he may find himself in. He is without job perhaps or without a home to live in having lost it for his faith.
James says he should take pride in his high position. You might wonder what high position is this. This is the high position of being a child of God and a heir of the kingdom. That’s something I need to keep remembering. Though this world may not acknowledge me this world is not my home. I am a child of a king and one day scripture makes it clear that I will be a heir of the kingdom. It says this over and over again in scriptures like Galatians 4:7; Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29 and 2 Timothy 4:8. Paul and Peter both got excited about the crown of righteousness that was waiting for them in heaven. We can’t even imagine what this glory and prize will be like. But, Paul exhorts us through the word to live in such a way that we might run the race with endurance and might win. (1 Cor 9:25)
Clovis Chappell told the story of the evacuation of the city of Pompei which was destroyed in AD 79 by the eruption of Mt.Vesuvius. During the excavation of the city, there was found a body embalmed by the ashes of the volcano. It was that of a woman. Her feet were turned toward the city gate, but her face was turned backward toward something that lay just beyond her outstretched hands. The prize for which those frozen fingers were reaching was a bag of pearls.
Chappell says, “though death was hard at her heels, and life was beckoning to her beyond the city gates, she could not shake off their spell. She had turned to pick them up with death as her reward.” (From a sermon by Kelly Randolph, “Rich Man, Poor Man”)
This is the sad fate of many who put their trust in riches. They don’t realize they are neglecting what is eternal for what won’t profit them for very long at all.
There was another brother who was told who is rich to take pride in his low position. It could say low because he had been brought low because his wealth had been taken away or possibly because he had been humbled through trials. In any case, James makes it clear that we are not to work for the riches that will pass away. James says in 4:14 that we are like a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (As an illustration you could use a candle and a match here to illustrate the smoke) This believer can rejoice because what his trials or her trials may be we should remember as Paul said in Romans 8:18 that the sufferings of the present aren’t worthy comparing to the glory which shall be revealed in us.
James uses another illustration to show the temporary condition of those rich on this earth. He says this person is like the flowers in the field that wither in the scorching heat. This heat he is referring to is a condition that they would all have known about in Palestine. He is talking about when it would rain and the hillsides around Palestine would bloom flowers almost overnight. Then the scorching heat called the kauson or the southeast wind, the Simoon would come and burn away the flowers to the point that you couldn’t even tell they had been there. He is trying to tell them and us not to trust in what can be destroyed in a moment. Rather we are to work for a greater prize for a greater kingdom. Matthew 6:33 tells us that when it says, “But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”