June 20, 2020. Day 172: The crown of life.

James 1:12. 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. 

What are you looking forward to?

Looking to the future is how we get through the present. Keeping our eyes on the next thing. The end of quarantine. The end of this week. The end of the sickness. The end of the trial. The end of the injustice and oppression in the world. If I can just get past this (fill in the blank). If I can just make it through this season.

It was the great thinker Charlie Brown who said, “The secret of happiness is having three things to look forward to and nothing to dread.” Do you live by a similar philosophy?

James was one of the first epistles written in the New Testament. It was written by the brother of Jesus, the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, to struggling Jewish Christians in Palestine. Famine, economic loss, persecution, and internal strife plagued the church. And so it’s no wonder that the book of James begins with a much needed discussion on trials.

James 1:2. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.

“Trials of various kinds.” Can I get an AMEN? James just described our lives didn’t he? As I write this we are all experiencing a smorgasbord of trials. Pandemic. Social unrest. Church division. Persecution. Loss. And then there’s all your personal “various trials.” Kids. Spouse. Parents. Work. Ministry. Each reminding us just how weak we really are.

But James won’t leave us hopeless in our trials. And he doesn’t embrace Charlie Brown’s dictum either. We don’t need three things to look forward to. We need one. The One. The crown of life.

James is taking us on a journey. A journey through life that begins with counting trials as joy. A statement that sounds both foolish and impossible. Why on earth would we count our trials as joy? And what exactly does that mean? Turn your lemons into lemonade? Turn that frown upside down? Grin and bear it? This too shall pass?

Nope. James isn’t that shallow. He’s talking about a change of perspective. Not call a bad thing a good thing. But rather count the bad thing as an opportunity for change to occur. He’s talking about a new mindset. Not a new emotion. And not a facade, or some manufactured response to grief and hardships. Rather he’s proposing a whole new way of approaching suffering and temptation. Seeing the trials of life as a means to an end. What end? The crown of life.

The crown is the leafy wreath that athletes would receive when they won the big race. It was the glory and honor that came from their perseverance. Their success. Their victory. They did it! They won the race. And the crown of life means our reward for victory is eternal life. The life of Jesus. Life with God forever.

And here’s the amazing, grace filled promise of James 1:12 – Blessed is. Not “blessed if.” Or even “blessed will be.” All who are in Christ are winners, already blessed with the coming crown of life. Notice also this language – when he has stood the test. Not “IF he stands the test.” It’s presumed that you will pass the test. It’s presumed that all the various trials you are facing today are moving you toward the crown of life. You WILL FINISH the race, and you WILL WIN. How? Because Christ in you is the one running, hurdling the various trials, and sprinting toward the crown. In wearing the crown of death for us, he has placed on our heads his own crown of life. And now he stands waiting at the finish line for you to run into his arms.

And “to live is Christ” means that all along this trying race called life Jesus is transforming you into his very own likeness. His endurance. His perfection. His fullness. His wisdom. His character.

James 1:3-4. for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Now that’s something we can count as joy, isn’t it? That’s ONE thing we can look forward to with nothing to dread.

You

What do you look forward to in your trials?

You in Christ

How does knowing that we are becoming like Christ, and headed to the crown of his life, allow us to face trials with endurance and even joy?

Christ in you

What trial do you need to count as joy today? How can knowing you are blessed with the crown of life allow you to see your trial in a new light?

Playlist: Songs of endurance.

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