Posted August 29, 2016
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.
Just as Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes (“Blessed are the poor in spirit…”), so James the brother of Jesus provides us his own Beatitude in James 1:12. When you hear the word “blessed”, what do you think of? We typically associate blessing with painless existence and things going as we think they should: relationships in the right place, finances in order, jobs both fruitful and fulfilling. Blessed.
The Blessed Life
And yet here, James is writing to a people whose lives aren’t going as they had hoped. They are being persecuted and oppressed; they are experiencing not merely a trial, but in the words of James 1:2, “trials of various kinds.” Things are far from easy, they’re complicated and confusing. From the outside, we would never look at the lives of these early Christians and say they were living the “blessed life.” Interestingly, James doesn’t try to tie their blessing to the removal of trials or the extraction from their difficulty, but rather calls them to steadfastness and perseverance under the trial because he knows that God’s still at work and has promised something much greater to them. What does God promise?
The Crowned Life
To those who remain steadfast, he will award the “crown of life.” We hear crown and immediately think of kings, scepters, and thrones. James had a different crown in mind: the crown of an athlete. The ESV Study Bible explains, “Crown of life alludes not to the jewel encrusted ruler’s crown but to the laurel wreath given to winners in athletic games (1 Cor. 9:25) and victorious emperors. The reward for faithful perseverance is eternal life, with all its abundant blessings (cf. Rev. 2:10).”
When life doesn’t go your way, what’s your response? Do you throw in the towel of faith and go your own way, or do you persevere and trust in God’s wisdom as over your own? Do you have a longer view in mind, one that outlasts this world or do you think God owes you something immediately? James is trying to remind us that Biblical Christianity is marked by God’s presence in the midst of challenges and a people who continue to love to God despite their pains and problems.
Christian, do not be deceived! The blessed life is not found in a trial-less life, but rather in an often trial-filled God-saturated life where you learn to be shaped by the one you love who’s promised the crown of life to you. Persevere and don’t give up! Remain steadfast! Stand the test! God is sovereignly and lovingly at work for His glory and your good. He is faithful to complete the work He started…
Written & performed by Joe Day & Ryan Carbary.
Background vocals by Pete Wilson.
Produced & mixed by Ryan Carbary.
Artwork by Eleazar Ruiz.