Perseverance, Trials, and the Crown of Life
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." ~ James 1:12 (NIV)
As Christians, we persevere under some pretty heavy trials to our thinking. Oh, some may be easy-breezy in the grand scheme of things, such as when we endure long lines at the local Walmart, or waiting in a doctor's office for 2 hours to be seen for 5 minutes, given a shot and some prescriptions and sent on our merry way. Some aren't so easy-breezy, being up all night with a sick child, strong disagreements with friends or family, getting a diagnosis with the word "terminal" in it. Then there are the trials where loved ones are lost and we're left feeling a big gaping absence from the space they filled in our lives. There are trials more severe where we are persecuted for the sake of Christ, where our beliefs are questioned or misconstrued, where we are labeled and mocked because of our faith. There are even trials that Christians go through where they are martyred because of their faith in God. In some countries people are persecuted because they refuse to renounce the name of Christ. (That puts my trials in perspective.)
The trials mentioned in James 1:12 come from the greek word peirasmos, and are defined as:
1) an experiment, attempt, trial, proving
a) trial, proving: the trial made of you by my bodily condition, since condition served as to test the love of the Galatians toward Paul (Gal. 4:14)
b) the trial of man's fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy
1) an enticement to sin, temptation, whether arising from the desires or from the outward circumstances
2) an internal temptation to sin
a) of the temptation by which the devil sought to divert Jesus the Messiah from his divine errand
3) of the condition of things, or a mental state, by which we are enticed to sin, or to a lapse from the faith and holiness
4) adversity, affliction, trouble: sent by God and serving to test or prove one's character, faith, holiness
c) temptation (i.e. trial) of God by men
1) rebellion against God, by which his power and justice are, as it were, put to the proof and challenged to show themselves
I was captivated by this definition: adversity, affliction, trouble: sent by God and serving to test or prove one's character, faith, holiness. Does God test our faith? Does He test our character? I never thought so. I thought God didn't test anyone, that He was all about love, but when I thought about Job and what He went through, thought I might be wrong. I think I am wrong. I think He does test us, based on the definitions and verses used above.
Edit: When I originally posted this, someone pointed out that God's Word says He cannot be tempted and does not tempt. This led me to want to clarify that I do believe God's Word and I don't believe that He tempts us in a bad way - sinfully or in an evil way.
Temptation and testing are two different things, although they may feel the same at times. We need to be aware:
"When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;" ~ James 1:13 (NIV) (Emphasis, mine)
The word used here for tempted, tempting and tempt is a different greek word, peirazō, which means:
1) to try whether a thing can be done
a) to attempt, endeavour
2) to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining his quantity, or what he thinks, or how he will behave himself
a) in a good sense
b) in a bad sense, to test one maliciously, craftily to put to the proof his feelings or judgments
c) to try or test one's faith, virtue, character, by enticement to sin
1) to solicit to sin, to tempt
a) of the temptations of the devil
d) after the OT usage
1) of God: to inflict evils upon one in order to prove his character and the steadfastness of his faith
2) men are said to tempt God by exhibitions of distrust, as though they wished to try whether he is not justly distrusted
3) by impious or wicked conduct to test God's justice and patience, and to challenge him, as it were to give proof of his perfections.
We must remember that God is love and would never tempt us in a sinful way.
"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." ~ 1 John 4:16 (NIV)
Whatever trials we face in our lives, we can do so with the knowledge that God loves us.
Perseverance, or hypomenō, is defined as:
1) to remain
a) to tarry behind
2) to remain i.e. abide, not recede or flee
a) to preserve: under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one's faith in Christ
b) to endure, bear bravely and calmly: ill treatments
Who would want to remain or tarry in trials? Perhaps those who are waiting on an answer from God, no matter how long it takes. Those who are fighting illness and those who are standing strong, not willing to run when the going gets tough. Take heart, though. Our lives are lived on earth for just a very short period of time compared to the eternal life we will live in Heaven.
Perseverance during trials is definitely a faith-building time. While you are waiting on God's deliverance, your faith can grow through prayer, reading His Word, praying His Word, and perhaps fasting.
The Crown of Life
God has promised the crown of life to those who have endured trials. What is this crown of life?
The Crown of Life is specifically awarded to people who remain steadfast to the gospel of Christ, despite their persecution. Could it also refer to eternal life? I believe the promise of James 1:12 means that it could, indeed because of the tense of the verb. It's a future tense.
Whatever your trials are, I would encourage you to stand firm. Trials are unique to each of us, for we face them in different ways and on different levels. My encouragement is to endure them as calmly as you can, relying on God to rescue you, as He did Job. He will not allow you to suffer more than you can bear. He always provides a way out for deliverance.
"No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it." ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13 (MSG)
And at the end, we will be given the Crown of Life. What a precious gift to receive. And what will be done with the crowns we receive?
"Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." ~ Revelation 4:9-11 (NIV)
Father, precious are You in our sight. As we endure the trials we go through on earth, give us the strength to persevere through each one for Your glory and honor, not our own. Thank You for the promise of the reward of the Crown of Life to those who are persecuted and endure for Your Name's sake. I pray that you will receive all glory, honor and power both now and when the crowns are cast at Your feet. Amen.