The Crown Of Life

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 12 August 2012


“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1.12).

The book of James is famous from at least two fronts. First, we have James’ insistence that faith without works is dead. This appears to contradict the apostle Paul’s doctrine that we are saved by grace through faith alone. But the second thing that makes James famous is his ironic call to rejoice in suffering. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” he says (Jas 1:2).

As part of our continuing series on the promises of God, we want to consider a promise that is related to the theme of suffering. James says in 1:12—

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

This verse is quite straightforward. Temptation in this context has to do with trials or adversities, and not so much to “the stings of lusts which annoy the soul within” (Calvin).  James, as Calvin clarifies, is really commending “fortitude of mind in enduring adversities.”

James, moreover, reminds us that these trials are means by which God would prove us. That is the meaning of the word translated ‘tried.’ The word is “dokimos”, which means “tested” or “approved.”

Thus, those who endure temptations and come out stronger spiritually, are proven faithful and shown to be genuine children of God. Of course, these tests are really for our benefits rather than for God’s benefits. God, after all, knows all things including our hearts.

James tells us that those who pass the test will be given “the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” What is this crown of life? There are a number of interpretations. Most interpreters see it as akin to the “crown of righteousness” (2 Tim 4:8) which the Lord has reserved for all who love his appearing. Now, this is possible especially when it does look like James has in mind what Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:8.

However, there is one crucial difference between what Paul said and what James is saying. The difference lies in the fact that the crown of righteousness that Paul talks about will be given at the end of life on earth. On the other hand, James is suggesting that the crown of life will be given when the man is tried and proven.

Now, it may be argued that life is full of trials and a man would only be tried and proven when he has completed his entire life’s journey. But James speaks of falling into “diverse temptations”, which suggests that he is speaking about distinguishable seasons of adversity rather than an entire life of trials. It appears that he is talking about adversities resulting from illnesses, accidents, natural disasters, financial losses, quarrels and wars, separation between loved ones, schism in the church, backsliding etc.

James seems to be suggesting that when a particular trial appointed for us has served its purpose and we have come forth as gold, and proven to be faithful and truly lovers of God, then we shall receive the promised crown of life. If this is so, then we will not need to wait till we meet the Lord to receive the crown of life.

And if this is so, then the crown of life would probably be received not as something to wear but as something to adorn the heart and memory. I think it would be something in the line of assurance of God’s love, confidence in Christ and joy in the Holy Ghost. In short, it is the experience of the fullness of a life or a life that is abundant and joyous in Christ.

It is no wonder, we shall be blessed when we receive this crown of life. This crown is something we shall wear for all eternity. It affects who we are. For remember that we are creatures of time and eternity who are what we remember. God has so appointed our constitution that we shall remember every experience that we enjoy in this life, we shall remember forever. We may forget some things in this life, but when our memories are healed in that day when we shall see the Lord, we shall remember them as if they happened yesterday. We shall enter into eternity, with the crown of life upon our head. Oh what a glorious day when we shall lay down our cross, and receive the crown of righteousness and put on again the crown of life!

But now what shall we do in the light of this promise?

Well, may I suggest three inter-related applications?


1. Seek to Endure Trials Patiently & Faithfully

The Lord has promised the crown of life for everyone who endures afflictions well. Take note that it is not just anyone who endures affliction, but those who are tried and approved by patiently and faithfully persevering through affliction. That is to say, the promise is not for everyone who survives afflictions, but for those who persevere through affliction without having their faith or Christian testimony destroyed.

Job was tried and purified and he came forth as gold. He had, as it were, a crown of life bestowed upon him. What if Job had cursed God or had given up trusting the LORD? If so, Job would not have had the crown of life. Thankfully, Job endured patiently and faithfully.

Therefore, beloved brethren and children, let us encourage and help one another to endure trials. Let us understand that all trials are appointed by the Lord for our good. Let us, therefore, seek His grace to endure all trials patiently and faithfully. Let us not take our eyes away from Christ Jesus the author and finisher of our faith who likewise endured afflictions for our sakes.

But as we do so, let us not forget to pray. Let us…


2. Pray for Wisdom & Strength

When we are experiencing trials, our natural reaction is to hate it. Naturally, we will be tempted to pray that the Lord will remove it. Even Paul prayed for the removal of the thorn in his flesh. And so did our Lord. “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Mt 26:39) cried our Lord.

Therefore, it is not wrong to pray for deliverance from a particular trial. But do remember to pray, as the Lord did, by humbly submitting yourself under the mighty hand of God. But at the same time, let us learn also to pray for wisdom and help to endure the trial and to come forth stronger. James says—

5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (Jas 1:5-6).

Take note that James is not thinking about our need for wisdom in business negotiations or academic examinations. He is thinking about the need for wisdom when undergoing trials. While we may indeed ask God for wisdom to make a business deal or to pass an examination, we need even more to learn to ask God for wisdom and strength to endure afflictions.

Why do we need wisdom for trials? We need it because it is only when we can see the spiritual advantage of trials for us that we can endure it with the right attitude that will bear fruits unto the glory of God.

It is not wrong to pray for deliverance, but we must always pray submissively that God may do good to our soul through the trials He sent.

Let us remember the promise of the Lord. Blessedness and a crown of life await all who endures affliction well. Let us not miss the opportunity to win the crown. Let us seek the Lord’s help to win the crown.

And finally, let us learn to pray with thanksgiving. Let us learn to…


3. Thank God for Trials

The apostle Paul teaches us, Philippians 4:6—

Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Now, it is particularly difficult to thank God for trials. But if we if we understand that trials are the means by which God would give us the crown of life, then how should we fail to give thanks for trials?

The promise of the crown of life clearly indicates that trials are designed for our good. They are opportunities by which God would cultivate Christian virtues such as patience and hope in us. They are also means by which God proves us to ourselves. Those who are truly converted would pass the test approved, and will receive, as it were, a crown of life, which gives them confidence and assurance to enjoy eternal life so rich and free.

If this is so, then let us learn not to murmur or grumble under trials. Let us, rather, learn to thank God for the trials He sends in our way. Sometimes, the best medicine for the burdens of trials is simply a positive heart of thanksgiving unto our Great God and Saviour who has appointed all things for our good.


Conclusion

Matthew Henry remarks most beautifully:

To be approved of God is the great aim of a Christian in all his trials; and it will be his blessedness at last, when he shall receive the crown of life. The tried Christian shall be a crowned one: and the crown he shall wear will be a crown of life. It will be life and bliss to him, and will last forever. We only bear the cross for a while, but we shall wear the crown to eternity.

Beloved brethren and children, I know that you love the Lord. I trust that you will love Him through all the changing scenes of life. If this is so, then the promise is unto you.

Therefore, do not give up. Seek to endure the trial patiently and faithfully. Pray for wisdom and strength to persevere. And do all things with gratitude and thanksgiving in the heart. When you are tried and purified, you shall come forth as gold. You shall be adorned with a crown of life, even a life crowned with joy, hope and love in the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen. W