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James 1:12 - Crown of Life

James 1:12 - 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 presents his closing statement for verses 1 –11 in verse 12. In this verse, James returns to the theme with which he opened this passage in verses 2-4, both referring to “trials,” “testing,” and “perseverance.”


“Blessed,” James says, “is the one who perseveres under trial.” Let’s pause and just consider for a moment what it means to be blessed. Being blessed doesn’t necessarily mean material possessions in this life, although it can, and we can see that in Job 42:12-17. Job was blessed tremendously with material wealth, even more in the latter part of his life than in the beginning. However, in verses 9-11, James cautions us that we should not consider earthly wealth above the spiritual blessings awaiting us in eternity.


Scripture abounds with examples of spiritual blessings we encounter here and now and those we will inherit in heaven. Simply perusing Ephesians, beginning in verse 1, we see many of these spiritual blessings exemplified. I will leave it to you to visit this passage, but I highly encourage you to take the time to see what being a child of God offers to us in the way of spiritual blessings.


Continuing in verse 12 of James, we see we are blessed when we persevere under trials, and Hebrews 12:1-3 gives us an idea of what this means. Generally speaking, it means refusing to run away from the challenges. It means not running away from, but running on; running “with perseverance,” as the writer of the letter to the Hebrews  states, “the race” that is “marked out for us.”  It means holding on no matter how hard it might be.


You’ll notice that James goes on to say, “because when he has “stood the test…” The Greek word we see for this (stood the test) is dokimos. This is the same word we see in 2 Timothy 2:15, which says, “Study to show yourself approved unto God.” The word “approved" here is dokimos. It is the same word we also see in 1 Corinthians 11:19 – “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.”  It means the “one who is of tried faith and integrity.” It means “approved after testing.” And that is the word that James uses here in this verse, “when he has stood the test.”


So, in the context of this opening passage of James’s letter, we can surmise that to get this seal of approval ... we have to be tested … and we have to stand the test. But without the trials, there’s no test, and without the test, there’s no approval. We don’t get the seal of approval without going through the test. So, it would be unsuitable to think that maturity and completeness in the Christian life would be conferred upon us without taking the tests. James, I believe, is reiterating to us how God is always in authority and that He always has a purpose for all that He does in the lives of His children. We can put our hope and trust in knowing that.


James tells us further that “having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life ….”


While crowns appear in the Bible as symbols of several things, the notion conveyed here in this phrase and by the grammar is a crown that “consists of life.” It’s a picture of the “eternal life” that awaits us. It’s a picture of finishing—and finishing victoriously. It’s the ultimate picture of God saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servant." Additionally, 1 Corinthians 9:25 reminds us that this crown will “last forever.”


1 Corinthians 9:24-27  Do you not know that in a race, all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.


When, then, will it be shown that one has, indeed, stood the test?


Revelation 2:10 - Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

1 Peter 5:4 - And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

When do you receive the crown of life? In eternity.


How long is this testing going to last? The whole of life.


Who is going to receive the Crown of Life? “Those who love God.”


Who are those who love God?


I must note immediately that we mustn’t be tempted to think that, somehow, our love can either win or earn this crown of life; that would be entirely wrong. We must know that neither our faith nor our love can win or earn anything of its own accord; it is only because of God’s grace and goodness.

So, the question is, again, who are those who love God?

1 John 4:19 - We love because He first loved us.

1 John 4:19 tells us that those who love are those who have responded to God’s love towards them ... through the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Additionally, 1 John 5:3 reminds us that those who love God "keep His commands.” 

This causes each of us to ask ourselves, “Do I love God?”  In fact, Jesus asked the same of Peter. Three times, Jesus asks, “Peter, do you love me?” After Peter confirmed his love three times, Jesus commanded him to “feed my sheep.”

Do you love God? That is the question.

Loving God is more than an intellectual notion of the existence of a higher being. It’s more than a concept of doing your best to please God. It’s more than simply showing up for a Sunday morning service.

To quote one of my favorite pastors, A. Begg, loving God means, “coming to an awareness of the fact that God has gone to the extent of the gift of His only Son as an expression of His redeeming love so as to take me in my unloveliness and make me lovely on account of Jesus.”

“It’s to stand before God the Father, who looks down upon his Son Jesus, and upon the sinner who stands with Jesus. And the Father asks Jesus, “Do you take this sinner?” And Jesus says, “I do.” And then He says to the sinner, “And do you take this Savior?”

What is your response to that question? Does your life exemplify that response? Have you surrendered your will to Jesus Christ? It’s a yes or a no; it's a love or a hate. And just like He did Peter, God already knows your heart. There is nothing you can hide from Him.

The Good News is God loves us and meets us right where we are. He is ready and waiting to help us love Him. All we need to do is ask, accept, and truly believe!


Do you love God? Does this question bless you or rebuke you?

Do you actually believe that the crown of life will be worth it?

Will you live your life in right standing before God, knowing that being “blessed” may not result in a reward right now? 

What does it look like this week for you to remain steadfast?

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