Summary: Real life is promised when we have stood firm in the trials of life.
THE CROWN OF LIFE
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
It is difficult, some might even think it impossible, to expect that Christians can be steadfast in a world thoroughly schooled in expectations of instant gratification. We Canadians know what we want, and we want it now! We communicate instantaneously with people living on the other side of the world, eat meals prepared minutes, watch cultural events as they happen, and travel at speeds that would have been unimaginable scant years ago. If the pace of modern life were not enough to lead us to expect instance gratification, you need only remember that we live in a culture in which people expect they will never experience sorrow or hardship, and a culture in which each person is schooled to expect to enjoy full satisfaction in every facet of life.
There is no personal responsibility for the happiness anticipated. Government will rescue the negligent of society; modern medicine will deliver us from our own excesses; and our spouses are responsible to make us happy. Actually, modern couples appear to change spouses more frequently than a liberal politician changes his mind. Nevertheless, despite all evidence to the contrary, our contemporaries appear to believe that they are guaranteed life, liberty and happiness.
If you are a Christian, it is certain that you will be called to withstand trials, both physical and spiritual. Trials and trouble come to every life—none are exempt. James writes his letter in great measure to teach Christians how to stand fast in the midst of trial. The Christian life is not, however, all about trouble and trial. God takes note of our testing, and He is pledged to use the adverse winds of trial for our good and for His glory. Then, when the trials are finished, God will demonstrate His pleasure with us through giving us His reward for standing fast throughout the trial. However, James informs us that there is a blessing for having stood fast now.
BLESSING NOW — “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life.” James has been writing to Christians who paid an awful price to follow Yeshua Ha’Mashiach. We have seen that these early Christians were imprisoned because of their faith; they were dispossessed of their goods, turned out of their homes, beaten and threatened, and in some cases, even killed. There is no doubt that they were discouraged, traumatised and that they lived in fear. James wrote to encourage them to stand firm.
Already, in the few short verses we have studied, James has encouraged Christians by warning them that they will be tested because of their Faith. This has never changed, though modern Christians reject the concept of suffering because of their Faith. Nevertheless, James urged those so tested because of their Faith to rejoice in the knowledge that God will not permit them to experience more testing than they can stand.
When in the midst of testing, James instructs the people of God to seek wisdom, looking forward to the work that God is performing even during the testing they are called to endure. The child of God, passing through testing, is being matured. God is revealing the perfection of His work in the life of the one experiencing trials.
What is important for us to see is that enduring testing assures blessing for the child of God. There is considerable misunderstanding concerning testing. Many people assume that Christians are some sort of glorified wimps, incapable of defending themselves from assault or injury. The assumption is that Christians will never respond to provocation. Review of the Word of God reveals quite a different perspective.
First of all, the child of God is taught to defend himself against unwarranted personal assault. When Jesus was preparing His disciples for His exodus, He taught them, “Let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” Responding to his instruction, the disciples said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” Jesus said, “It is enough” [LUKE 22:36-38].
Up to this point in their ministry, the disciples have not had to worry about any provision—the Master had provided all that they needed. Now, facing the cross, Jesus is preparing them to realise that they must assume responsibility for provisions and protection. Jesus was not telling the disciples to secure a battle sword [rhomphaía], but a smaller sword, such as men frequently carried for self-defence [máchaira]. The rules were changing, and the disciples, instead of being loved because of their association with the Master, would face hostility. Therefore, to protect themselves from assault simply because they existed, they must be prepared to defend themselves.