“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” (James 1:12 ESV).
“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10 KJV).
The Christian life is not always the tranquil experience some think that it is, and expect it to be. True believers are as subject to trouble and calamity as non-believers, in fact, because we Evangelical Christians are a minority in this world, troubles are even more likely to come. We live with pressures the world cannot possibly understand. Our physical bodies are just as susceptible to sickness or injury; our houses catch on fire, our possessions are stolen, our jobs are lost, our cars break down and get in accidents and our families are threatened, just like everyone else. Because we all live in a hostile world, we are all subjected to outward circumstances. God's gracious provision for his creation is seen in the giving of the seasons, of seedtime and harvest. It is of this providential common grace that Jesus reminds His hearers when He said, “God makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust…” (Matthew 5:45).
In this passage we find another kind of trouble, more subtle and often harder to handle, with evil thoughts, tendencies to sin, and feelings of guilt and discouragement. The previous verses deal with things that are done to us, now we are faced with things we do to ourselves. And there is no escape! Some have tried to become immune from temptations by associating only with Christians, or by withdrawing to monasteries or communes, trying to totally isolate themselves from the world. However, their thoughts go right along with them!
Now James focuses our attention on these inner trials, the trials from without are to be considered “all joy.” The inner temptations in the following verses are to be renounced and abandoned.
Verse 12a: “Blessed is the man who endures temptation…”
Only God could bring blessing out of trials? When you are in the next trial, remember that it has a blessing if we persevere. And don't try to persevere in your own strength but by leaning on Jesus and His indwelling Spirit to empower you.
“Blessed…” in Greek is makarios, meaning, “to be happy, but not in the usual sense of happiness based on positive circumstances. Makarios describes the person who is free from daily cares and worries because his every breath and circumstance is in the hands of his Maker Who gives him assurance. This word was used to describe the kind of happiness that comes from receiving divine favor. Ultimately, the supremely blessed man or woman is the one who finds their complete happiness in God.
“Makarios…means to be happy, blissful. That happiness is a divine pronouncement, the assured benefit of those who meet the conditions God requires.” –John MacArthur
The Greek word for “endures” is hupomeno, meaning “under, as in, under the rule of someone, to remain, abide, persevere.” The idea of “enduring” or “persevering” is not just to “grin and bear it” but to remain under trials in such a way that we glorify God as we learn the lessons the trials are meant to teach us, instead of seeking ways to get out from under the trials and be relieved of the pressure.
Spurgeon gives this illustration of perseverance: ‘By perseverance the snail reached the ark.’ A poor woman had a supply of coal laid at her door by a charitable neighbor. A very little girl came out with a small fire-shovel, and began to take up a shovelful at a time, and carry it to a sort of bin in the cellar. I said to the child, ‘Do you expect to get all that coal in with that little shovel?’ She was quite confused at my question, but her answer was very striking, ‘Yes, sir, if I work long enough.’ Humble worker, make up for your want of ability by abundant continuance in well-doing, and your life-work will not be trivial. The repetition of small efforts will effect more than the occasional use of great talents.”
Perseverance is also illustrated in nature for today's mighty oak is just yesterday's little nut that held its ground.
The Greek word for “Temptation” is peirasmos, “to test, to make trial of, try, to prove in either a good or bad sense.”
“An old sailor was asked for what purpose shoals and rocks were created, and the reply was, ‘That sailors may avoid them.’ A Christian philosopher, using that axiom, upon being asked for what purpose trials and temptations are sent, answered, ‘That we may overcome and use them.’ The true dignity of life is not found in escaping difficulties, but in mastering them for Christ's sake and in Christ's strength.” –Dean Stanley
Verse 12b: “…for when he has been approved…”
“Approved” in Greek is dokimos. It describes one who has stood the test, one who has been tested and is fit for service. The idea is that when you put metal through a fiery testing it comes out on the other side proven, authentic or genuine. The word conveys the idea of being tested and passing the test, so that God’s “Good (God) Housekeeping” stamp of approval is on your life.
“Dokimos (approved) refers to acceptance after careful examination, as when a jeweler carefully inspects a gem under a magnifying glass to determine its genuineness and value. When we serve Christ selflessly, we prove ourselves ‘to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world’” (Philippians 2:15) –John MacArthur
Verse 12c: “…he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
The Greek word for “crown” is stephanos. It means primarily that which surrounds, and comes from the Greek word stepho meaning to encircle.
“In the life to come he receives the crown of life. There is far more than one thought here. In the ancient world the crown, stephanos, had at least four great associations.
1. The crown of flowers was worn at times of joy, at weddings and at feasts (compare Isaiah 28:1-2; SS 3:11). The crown was the sign of festive joy.
2. The crown was the mark of royalty. It was worn by kings and by those in authority. Sometimes this was the crown of gold; sometimes it was the linen band, or fillet, worn around the brows (compare Psalms 21:3; Jeremiah 13:18).
3. The crown of laurel leaves was the victor's crown in the games, the prize which the athlete coveted above all (compare 2 Timothy 4:8).
4. The crown was the mark of honor and of dignity. The instructions of parents can bring a crown of grace to those who listen to them (Proverbs 1:9); Wisdom provides a man with a crown of glory (Proverbs 4:9); in a time of disaster and dishonor it can be said, "The crown has fallen from our head" (Lamentations 5:16).
We do not need to choose between these meanings. They are all included. The Christian has a joy that no other man can ever have. Life for him is like being forever at a feast. He has a royalty that other men have never realized for, however humble his earthly circumstances, he is the child of God. He has a victory which others cannot win, for he meets life and all its demands in the conquering power of the presence of Jesus Christ. He has a new dignity for he is ever conscious that God thought him worth the life and death of Jesus Christ.” – William Barclay (edited)
There are 5 crowns that believer’s may receive:
1. The imperishable (incorruptible, victors), crown, 1 Corinthians 9:25-27).
2. The Crown of Righteousness, for those who love His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).
3. The crown of rejoicing, the soul winners crown (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
4. The Crown of Glory (Pastor’s crown) (1 Peter 5:4).
5. The Crown of Life, (the martyrs crown) (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10).
“The crown is the emblem of spiritual success, given by the King of the universe to those who ‘keep their faith’ in the midst of suffering and temptation. Life should be taken as identifying the reward—the reward that is life.” –D.J. Moo
The stephanos was the only prize ancient Olympic athletes received so it was cherished as a great treasure. How much more should we as believers “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1), knowing that the Olympic athletes do it to “receive a perishable stephanos crown/wreath, but we an imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27).
“You might expect James to say, ‘the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who persevere,’ or ‘to those who obey,’ or ‘to those who believe in Him.’ But rather, he says, ‘to those who love Him…” Love for Christ motivates us to persevere under trials. Note that love for Christ does not exempt us from trials. Rather, it gives us the strength to persevere. Love for Christ is the inevitable result of belief in Him. If we don’t love Him, we don’t know Him (1 John 4:8). When Jesus restored Peter after his denials, He asked him three times, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ (John 21:15-17). Why? Because love for Jesus Christ is the necessary motivation to serve Him, especially when serving Him causes hardship and persecution. If you’re struggling with perseverance in trials, examine the quality of your love for Christ.” –Steven Cole
“There is a crown for me…Then will I gird up my loins and quicken my pace, since the crown is so sure to those who run with patience.” –Spurgeon
The Holy Spirit, through the pen of James uses the words, “Crown of life” which takes us to Revelation 2:10, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
The King James Version of Revelation 2:10 reads, “…be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” “Let not thy faithfulness stop short of enduring death itself.”–Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary.
It must have been sobering for the people of the persecuted Church at Smyrna to receive a personal message from Jesus requesting them to remain faithful to the point of death! Christ does not say, “to the end of your life,” but even to death itself. As an example, history records for us, Polycarp (A.D. 69-155), bishop of Smyrna, who was “faithful unto death.” He was arrested and tried on the charge of being a Christian. The governor asked him to deny Christ and promised that if he would, his life will be spared. But the faithful bishop answered, “Fourscore and six years have I served Him, and He has never done me injury; how then can I now blaspheme my King and Savior?”
Polycarp was sentenced to be burned. The fire was lit and soldiers grabbed him to nail him to a stake, but Polycarp stopped them: “Leave me as I am. For He who grants me to endure the fire will enable me also to remain on the pyre unmoved, without the security you desire from nails.”
Then he prayed: “Lord God Almighty, Father of Your blessed and beloved child Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of You, God of angels and hosts and all creation, and of the whole race of the upright who live in Your presence: I bless you that You have thought me worthy of this day and hour, to be numbered among the martyrs and share in the cup of Christ, for resurrection to eternal life, for soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. Among them may I be accepted before You today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, just as You, the Faithful and True God, have prepared and foreshown and brought about. For this reason and for all things I praise You, I bless You, I glorify You, through the eternal Heavenly High Priest Jesus Christ, Your beloved child, through Whom be glory to You, with Him and the Holy Spirit, now and for the ages to come. Amen.”
Shortly after a soldier stabbed Polycarp to death by order of the magistrate when the fire failed to touch him. Polycarp's death was remembered by everyone. One writer in recording this martyrdom said, “he is even spoken of by the heathen in every place.”
Tertullian wrote A.D. 197: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians," implying that the martyrs’ willing sacrifice of their lives leads to the conversion of others.
The truth is, persecution has never stopped the church! When persecution and even martyrdom comes on the church, it grows even stronger. Look at the early church.
The Romans tried to persecute Christianity out of existence, but the gospel spread throughout the entire Roman empire. Roman Emperor Diocletian (A.D. 244-313) decreed in A.D. 303 that all bibles would be removed from the people. After years of killing Christians and burning bible manuscripts, he erected a sign reading, “Extincto Nomene Christianorium,” “the name Christian is extinguished.” But after his death he was succeeded by Constantine the Great, who, in 312 AD declared the Roman Empire to be officially Christian. The church goes marching on!
There were ecclesiastical persecutions. More believers were put to death during “the dark ages” than at any other period of persecution including Nazism and Communism. The church goes marching on!
The Infamous atheist Voltaire (1694-1778) said, “one-hundred years from my day there will not be one Bible left on earth except one that is looked upon by the antiquarian curiosity seeker.” One-hundred years after his death his house was being used by a Bible Society for storing and distributing Bibles. The church goes marching on!
The Church in Nazi Germany was subjected to as much persecution as any other organization in Germany. Any perceived threat to Hitler’s diabolical plans could not be tolerated, and the churches of Germany potentially presented the Nazi’s with numerous threats. Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemoller was sent to a concentration camp for 7 years where he was kept in solitary confinement. Many other church members suffered the same fate. In 1936, Hitler’s Reich Church was created. This did not have the Christian cross as its symbol but the swastika. The Bible was replaced by “Mein Kampf” which was placed on the altar, with a sword laid beside it. Only invited Nazis were allowed to give sermons in a Reich Church. The church goes marching on!
Franklin Graham said recently, “The persecution of Christians is escalating worldwide. A recent survey found that in just the past year, more than 7,100 believers were killed for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In many countries, they are being systematically tortured and slaughtered by Islamic radicals bent on eradicating any vestige of Christianity. Churches are burned, looted and bulldozed. Pastors are frequently targeted and martyred.”
“In recent days and weeks, we’ve witnessed and unprecedented escalation of radical Islamic violence and persecution of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa.
In Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, and a number of other countries in the region, radical jihadists are literally slaughtering Christians. They are pillaging Christian villages and burning churches.
In Nigeria, the radical Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram continued their killing spree, massacring 30 Christians as they worshiped and burning down four churches this past weekend. Experts continue to reiterate that ‘Christians are one of the explicit targets of Boko Haram.’
In Iraq, ISIS terrorists are targeting Christians and destroying churches. There are stories of forced taxes, rape, kidnapping, murder, and other horrendous persecution of Christians by ISIS militants. It’s believed that since 2003, two-thirds of Iraq’s Christian population has fled. Some experts believe the number of Christians there could dwindle to as little as 50,000 in the next 10 years due to increasing persecution.” –Matthew Clark, 2 yrs. Ago, http://aclj.org
2 Timothy 3:1;12-14, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come… Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.”
Let’s face it brother’s and sister’s in Christ It has never been popular to stand for God’s Truth!
•For Truth's sake Martin Luther said, "Here I stand.”
•For Truth's sake Wesley was pushed from pillar to post.
•For Truth's sake, Spurgeon fell ill and died. Even his own brother had fallen prey to the "Downgrade Controversy" (Very similar to the “Church growth” movement).
•For Truth's sake Jonathon Edwards, Missionary to the Indians, died young.
•For Truth's sake, Polycarp, pastor at Smyrna died at the stake.
•For Truth's sake martyrs through the ages have suffered indescribable torment.
•For Truth's sake, New Guinea Missionary Stan Dale took over one-hundred arrows into his body.
•For Truth's sake, New Guinea missionaries, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Pete Flemming and Roger Youderian suffered death at the very hands of the ones to whom they were attempting to minister.
•For Truth's sake James, the Lord's brother was thrown from the temple and stoned, John was exiled, Peter crucified, Stephen stoned, and Paul beheaded.
Listen the words of Martin Luther, words every believer may have to say on the day when testing comes…“So long as Christ is merciful, I will not recant a single jot or tittle." He was not admitted to the assembly the next day until nightfall. He stood in the candle-lit hall. After realizing again there was no room for debate, he made this statement, "Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds and reasoning–my conscience is captive to the Word of God–that I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me, Amen.”
Many examples exist of the last words of Christian martyrs, including:
“The heavens shall sooner fall than I will deny my dear Lord;” and as another martyr said as he was dying, “Though you may pluck my heart out of my bowels, yet shall you never pluck the truth out of my heart.”
Every true believer is committed to Jesus Christ, and not only to Him, but he is committed to engage the evil forces of the world. It seems that many Christians look for the path of least resistance, and too many live in comfort zones which do not demand sacrifice or a commitment to stand up and wrestle with the powers of darkness. The fight is ours and cannot be delegated, or pushed off on others, it is ours alone! And “…when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life” (James 1:12). “…be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
The late S.M. Lockridge wrote:
“The glory of Rome is gone.
The grandeurs of Greece are no more,
The armies of Assyria have stopped marching.
The Pharaoh’s of Egypt have been dethroned
The beautiful Gardens of Babylon have faded,
Ancient philosophy has changed,
Industry has gone out on strike…
But the Church goes marching on.”
Ephesians 3:20,21: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Does that sound like the church is going to be defeated?
Matthew 16:18 NLT, “…I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” Does that sound like the church is going to be defeated?
“Am I a soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause, or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried through the skies on flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas.
Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?”
The church goes marching on!
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).