“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” – James 1:12 (NIV)
When we are undergoing a trial or test, the last thing we want to hear is that there is some sort of benefit to it. We would prefer to be miserable and let everyone know we are! We also invite others into our misery. James tells us we are blessed if we are going through trials! This is of course on the heels of him telling us to consider trials a joy! The word blessed means to be highly favored. This is not always our attitude during tests, is it?
When I become a college professor, I found myself on the other side of tests! It was one of the most interesting changes when going from student to professor. You could watch (sometimes with amusement) as students took their seat for the examination and started sweating. They had prepared for the test, some more than others. In this passage, James is encouraging Christians to persevere, to take the test well, to face and withstand with courage, because there is a reward at the end of the test.
The crown of life that James references is not salvation, because salvation is a free-gift, we don’t have to do anything other than believe to receive salvation. This crown of life is heavenly rewards, where the Bible clearly teaches we can gain or lose heavenly rewards based on our thoughts, actions, and emotions. I must admit, I don’t completely understand this part of God’s kingdom, but I accept it because the Bible teaches it. We are to run the race, fight the good fight, and finish well. Jesus says in Revelation 22:12, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”
So, what are we to do? James 1:12 ends with “those who love him.” All of the 60 or so commands in James are driven by love. This shouldn’t surprise us. James was the half-brother of Jesus who summed up the entire Old Testament in the command to love. Jesus said in Matthew 22: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (vv. 37, 39).
This idea of love has been corrupted by those who push tolerance and acceptance. Yes, we are commanded to love, but that does not mean that we have to agree with, tolerate, or accept anything that disagrees with God’s design or will. Love is to be tempered with truth and delivered with grace.
What about you?
Does testing drive you towards God or away from God?
Do you struggle to love God during tests and trials?
What rewards in heaven are you looking forward to?
What does it mean to love God with all your heart? All your soul? All your mind?
What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself?
What is one thing this week you can do to tangibly demonstrate your love towards God?
What is one thing this week you can do to tangibly demonstrate your love for your neighbor?