“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)
As I stated previously, there are a number of ways to view and study James’ letter; one of the ways is to see the letter as a series of tests that check the genuineness of our faith in God.
As a refresher, why do we go through tests? What are their purpose? George Whitefield, the great preacher in the 1700’s, said, “All trials are for two ends, that we may be better acquainted with the Lord Jesus, and better acquainted with our own hearts.”
Chapter 1, verses 2 – 12 detail the first test – the test of perseverance (endurance) through trials / suffering.
Verse 12 is the reward for passing the first test. And what is that reward? The crown of life (eternal life) that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
James specifically calls out the permanency of the “crown of life” as compared to the passing glory of material possessions (analogous to the flowers and grass mentioned in verses 10 -11). This crown of life is available to anyone who puts their faith in God when going through trials, and has nothing to do with economic or social standing.
And what are some examples of trials / tests?
- Unexpected loss of a loved one (child, spouse, close friend)
- A change in health (cancer, chronic illness, loss of hearing, vision, mobility, mental acuity)
- A change in economic status (loss of a job, reduced hours or pay)
- A change in relationship (children rebel against the Lord, break in extended family relationships, spouse leaves)
James knows that our faith in the Lord is what takes us through these trials, these tests. Money can’t buy our way out of losing a loved one or restoring a broken relationship. James reminds us that in this respect, the poor person and the rich person are equals before God – we all come humbly acknowledging our dependence on Him.
Remember that the Bible is the greatest love story ever told, set in the fiercest battle ever fought. The enemy wants to take us out – to discourage us, to cause us to doubt God to the point of abandoning Him altogether.
So we have a choice when trials come our way – to persevere, pressing in to the Lord for our strength, or to walk away from the Lord in despair, discouragement, and bitterness.
For those who abandon their faith and walk away from God because of a test, James implies that their faith may not have been real in the first place. They may have talked the talk, said all the right words, but where was their heart? Did they truly believe what they were saying? God knows our hearts; the test reveals our innermost thoughts and beliefs to us, and to those around us. God’s goal is not condemnation, but restoration of individuals to Himself.
I can only offer my experience of going through several of these deep losses, that God holds true to His promises to never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8). As I learn to press more deeply into Him, I see I can trust Him to care for my every need, and that He loves me beyond measure. Everything else fades in comparison to my relationship to Him.
And He will do the same for you, if you give Him the opportunity.