I pray this message finds you and your family doing well in the midst of this life-changing season. I would imagine we are all currently finding our normal routine has changed dramatically from the routine we enjoyed just a few weeks ago. One can only speculate how the “world” changed for the early first-century Christians who had suddenly found themselves living among foreign nations after leaving Jerusalem. I believe the message James shared with those dispersed throughout the world is an appropriate message for the world today in light of the Coronavirus.
James is taking the reader of his letter on a journey, one that he hopes would result in his dispersed “flock” gaining the benefit of a mature/complete faith. He knows that when they persevere through the trials that were confronting them, they would reach a point where their faith in Jesus Christ would be greater than any challenge they would face.
He has also shared that God would give them the one thing they needed to help them navigate the challenges of life – wisdom. As believers, I can’t think of anything that would be a greater benefit to us than having a mature faith AND the wisdom to handle the various challenges we are facing/will face.
James now shares in verse 12 another benefit that comes from persevering: “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.”
The word “Blessed” can have to interpretations – It can refer to being “happy” as in Acts 26:2 and Romans 14:22 or it can be interpreted as being “fulfilled” as in Luke 12:37, meaning their perseverance through trials will bring personal fulfilment. That is similar to the meaning of the phrase “Blessed are….” found in the Beatitudes. It suggests fulfillment.
So, when we have persevered through our trials and navigated those seasons with wisdom, James shares that we will receive the crown of life.
There are several “crowns” referenced in scripture that will be given to the faithful: “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (1 Peter 5:4) “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8) “Be faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” (Rev. 2:10)
Crowns are given to the victor. Those reading James’ letter would have been familiar with the Olympic and Isthmian games. The victors in those arenas received crowns, but they were crowns that did not last. Each of these “crowns” will represent rewards and honor Jesus Christ will present to those who have chosen to faithfully serve Him and they will not be temporary rewards!
James then closes this verse with an important statement: “…that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
The motivation for persevering through the trials of life and reaping the rewards shouldn’t primarily be to receive a crown. The motivation for persevering through the trials of life should be generated out of our love for Jesus Christ. In our world today, it seems as though a lot of people are more concerned about how much God loves them than they are about how much THEY love God.
Think about this: The ability to persevere through the trials of life is going to be directly related to how much WE love God. The depth of our love for God will be directly related to how receptive we are to allowing our faith in Him to grow. And it will be directly related to how we navigate life’s challenges.
The Coronavirus is certainly producing an opportunity for us to demonstrate our faith in God, our willingness to persevere through the trials of life and our opportunity to demonstrate our love for God instead of expecting Him to demonstrate His love for us. He has already done that through our salvation and continues to do so each and every day!
This season is providing those of us who follow Christ to show our faith and love for Him. He will give us the wisdom to achieve those goals! All we have to do is ask for it!