The Crown of Life

Keep your eye on the prize. I’m guessing if you’ve been in Christian circles for any length of time you’ve heard something like that before . . . maybe so often that it’s lost its punch. One of those “pat answers” that causes some people to roll their eyes. One of those encouragements that is sometimes met with, “Get real . . . it’s not that easy!” But, as I’m hovering over something I’ve read in James, the problem with that little exhortation isn’t with the exhortation . . . frankly, its with us . . . and how “sophisticated” we think we might be . . . or how different we think our trial might be. But that doesn’t deter no-nonsense James. Keep your eye on the prize, he says . . . don’t lose sight of the crown of life.

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)

In verse twelve James returns to a theme he introduced in verse two. There he says to the brothers (and me thinks to the sisters, as well) to count it all joy when they meet different kinds of trials. That joy being based on knowing that the testing of their faith has the potential to produce steadfastness. And that steadfastness advances the work of Christ in us . . . perfecting and completing us. And so, blessed is the man (and me thinks the woman) who remains steadfast under trial.

But let’s be honest . . . most of us can only handle so much perfecting and completing. At some point the testing has to give way to arriving. Exactly! That’s the promise. That’s the crown of life that awaits those who love Him

It all comes down to the promise . . . and our trust in the Promise-Giver.

The promise is that, in Christ, we have been given eternal life . . . abundant life . . . life to the full . . . life beyond any living we’ve done or can imagine. The problem, in a sense, is that some of that eternal life — a really, really tiny slice of eternal life in comparison to the whole — is being lived in this world marred by sin and death. That some of this abundant life is being lived with a battle waging inside us between the old nature of our birth and the Holy Spirit of our rebirth. The result? Trials . . . testings . . . frustration . . . depression . . . failure . . . temptations to give in and give up and go with “plan B.”

But keep your eye on the prize. There awaits the crown of life for those who love Him.

And that love is manifest in trusting Him. Trusting that, although our worlds seem out of control or enveloped in darkness, He is “the Father of Lights with Whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). And so, if He promises the crown of life, it’s coming. If He’s promised that He will never leave us or forsake us, He won’t. If he’s promised that His grace is sufficient, it will be. Ours is to believe Him. Ours is to love Him.

To love Him more than the escape we seek from our testing. To love Him more than the outcome we desire from our trial. To be content with Him and Him alone. For in Him is life. And through Him, soon and very soon, we will receive the crown of life. So keep your eye on the prize weary saint. It’s gonna be worth it all.

Sound like a pat answer? Maybe. Is it the word of God? I’m thnkin’! Is it worth keepin’ on keepin’ on? Absolutely!

All by His all-sufficient grace . . . All for His all-deserving glory!

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