God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
God does not promise the Christian an easy life. On the contrary, Jesus tells us in John 16:33 that here on earth we will have many trials and sorrows. And James 1:3 assures us troubles will come.
But, in the midst of our trials, we can have peace in Jesus. He tells us to take heart not because this world will be all we had hoped it would be or that our lives will necessarily be comfortable and easy and, generally, all we imagined, but to take heart that He has overcome this world.
All the brokenness, sin, suffering, and sorrow that come to us in the forms of troubles and trials have ultimately been defeated in Christ.
Our peace is not in this world or of this world; our peace is in Christ Jesus, and therefore it is a peace that exceeds our understanding and confounds the world (Philippians 4:6-7). It’s a miraculous peace.
How is it possible Christians can consider troubles an opportunity for great joy? How is it possible Christians can have peace in the middle of hard trials? How is it possible Christians can take heart when life falls apart?
It is possible because our hope is not anchored in the circumstances of this life, but in the person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Until He fails, our hope cannot.
Although troubles will come, we aren’t to worry. This is so hard. There is much to worry about. Living in this world isn’t easy. God recognizes that and isn’t asking us to pretend our struggles, pain, and fears aren’t real.
Instead, He tells to make our requests known to Him, to pour out our fears and disappointments and anguish before Him, and His peace will guard our hearts and minds as we live in Christ Jesus.
Friends, troubles will touch the lives of Christians, but they cannot have us. Like water sitting on the feathers of a duck, our troubles sit on the days of our lives, but one day we shall emerge from the pond of this world and shake all our troubles and sorrows away.
We can endure our troubles today if we set our hearts on a day to come…a day when every tear will be wiped from our eyes, and death, sorrow, crying, and pain will be gone forever (Revelation 21:4).
And more than that, we will be blessed for our patient endurance.
We do not rejoice in our troubles for their sake whether they are minor inconveniences and difficulties or great sorrows, struggles, and griefs. We are to hate all that is wrong with this world (Romans 12:9).
We rejoice that God’s promises are true and that our Heavenly Father can bring good from situations that seem hopelessly bad.
In Matthew 24:1-13, Jesus teaches the same truth James is speaking of. His disciples were questioning him about the signs to watch for signaling His return, and Jesus begins to list the troubles that will mark the years following His ascension and prior to His return.
He speaks of false messiahs and false teachers, of wars and rumors of wars, of natural disasters, and the worldwide persecution of His followers. He says sin will be rampant and love will grow cold.
Then, Jesus says that the troubles of this life will cause some who claim to be Christians to turn away, but those who endure to the end will be saved.
He is not saying that a person’s endurance of faith earns his salvation, but that a person’s salvation, sealed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which empowers the believer’s life, will enable endurance (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
And those who endure are blessed by God and will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.
You see, only those who love God will endure, so only those who love God are promised the crown of life. There are many who claim to love God, but by their lives they prove otherwise. They do not endure.
Even now we see this playing out in our world. When sin becomes fashionable, when faithfulness to God’s Word brings persecution, many begin to turn away. They follow after the world and the world’s way.
The troubles of life prove their divided loyalty. They are marked by instability and appear tossed about by every wave (James 1:6-8). It’s not that troubles cause their divided loyalty; it’s that troubles reveal it. Difficulties are often the means through which God separates the wheat from the chaff (Psalm 1:1-6; Matthew 3:12).
But those who endure, those Christians who remain faithful to the end, will be blessed in their faithfulness and will receive the crown of life.
Our troubles, trials, and sorrows are temporary. They cannot follow us beyond this life. In God’s presence, they are gone forever. But, God’s blessings are eternal. The crown of life is ours for all eternity.
Pray for God’s help to endure the troubles of life faithfully, and do not think this endurance rests solely on you.
God has promised He will complete the good work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).
He has promised that He will cause all things to work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
He has promised that nothing can separate us from His love…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither fears nor worries, not even the powers of hell (Romans 8:38-39).
We do not endure by the will of our flesh but by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us (Philippians 2:13; Titus 3:5). We participate with God in the work He is doing by being in His Word, by praying in the Spirit, by surrounding ourselves with a community of faithful Christians. In these ways, we ready the soil of our hearts, but it is God alone who can work His good will in us and through us.
We endure because Jesus endured. It is finished. The war is won. Our troubles and trials in this life are real and heavy and hard, but they are not forever. Only God’s blessings are forever. His promises carry us today and lead us into eternity where the crown of life awaits us.
We live in a broken, fallen world, and troubles will touch us, but our lives are encased in Christ’s victory.
This is how we patiently endure…by setting our sights on the realities of heaven (Colossians 3:1-2). Jesus lives, and He is seated at the right hand of God and reigns over all the world (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).
Christians facing persecution and martyrdom in the Middle East were referred to as people of the cross. It wasn’t meant as a compliment.
Of course, to be so closely associated with the cross and the sufferings of Jesus is an honor for all who follow Him (1 Peter 4:13), but I think a more accurate title for God’s people would be people of the empty tomb.
These Christians were willing to die for Christ, with His name on their lips, as opposed to deny Him. When heavy trouble came to them, they endured, and their endurance was empowered by the realities of heaven. Our Savior isn’t hanging on a cross. He isn’t buried in a grave. He is risen. It is from that victory that we endure.
We are people of the cross, yes, but we are also people of the empty tomb. May God help us live today in the realities of heaven that we may endure.
(The next post on James will cover James 1:13-18, and the following week I will be looking at James 16-17. My family and I will be traveling the next two Thursdays and I will not be posting during that time. My next post should be up by Thursday, June 20th.)