Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Crown of Life

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
And let endurance have its perfect result,
so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4

James says to consider it all joy when we encounter trials knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance, and when we let endurance come to completion we will not be lacking in anything. No lack! What does that mean--no lack? What will we be lacking if we do not endure through a trial? He tells us when we persevere under trial, and are approved, we will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 

"Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial;
for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life
which the Lord has promised to those who love Him."
James 1:12

So you could say, if we do not endure during difficult times we will end up lacking the crown of life. What is the crown of life? We know that it has been promised for those who love the Lord, but what else do we know about it? Revelation 2:10 says:

"Do not fear what you are about to suffer
Behold the devil is about to cast some of you into prison,
so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days.
Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."

He goes on to say that he who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death. So the crown of life is the very salvation of those who love the Lord and are faithful to Him, whether under trouble, persecution or even death. Wow.

With that in mind, let's look again at the trials and testing James talks about. If you're persecuted and take a stand for the Lord until death, that is an obvious way to be faithful, but what about the everyday "normal" life of a Christian? What does endurance look like then? Let's say you encounter a situation which challenges your love and faith for the Lord--your commitment to Him. Are you going to stay true to Him and His ways or are you going to compromise in some way? This is a situation that requires you to make a choice that may be difficult. It's not easy, but this is why James says the testing of our faith produces endurance. It takes resistance to build endurance. it will take some effort--some perseverance--to come through this challenge and stay true to the Lord, but that's what makes your faith so valuable--it's been tried by fire and is more precious than gold, as it brings praise, glory and honor to the Lord. (1 Peter 1:7-9).

There may be some challenges to your faith in which the decision you are to make isn't obvious right away. You need the wisdom of God to show you what to do. James says if you lack wisdom to ask God and He will give it generously. This makes sense because you are on the path to receive the crown of life which He has promised to those who love Him, so this is your time to seek Him and reaffirm your love for Him and willingness to do His will. Instead of doing what you think is right, or what you feel like doing, you submit to the Lord's wisdom. Now here is an important key--James says to ask God for wisdom, but ask in faith. If you have doubt then you are like someone tossed back and forth on the sea, double minded and unstable in every way. Why is that? 

There is a difference between lacking wisdom and lacking faith. When you lack wisdom then you are determined to continue on the path, but you need the Lord to show you how to overcome the trial. When you lack faith, you begin to question whether you want to continue on this path. You may question or doubt God. You may decide the price to pay is too much. The good thing is, this trial will reveal your heart if you allow it. It will show your level of faithfulness to the Lord. If there is anything between you and the Lord, it will come to light. That's why we can count it all joy when we encounter these trials, because we are being perfected and approved so that we may receive the crown of life! This is your opportunity to affirm your love and faithfulness to Lord--above all else!

Having said that, there may be times that you aren't being unfaithful to the Lord, but you doubt whether or not the path you are on is His will for you. In those cases, you do the same thing--ask God for wisdom. If the wall you hit gets you to doubt whether you were on the right path and you turn around and go back, then you could end up going back and forth, stopping each time you hit the same wall. Now you're standing there wondering, doubting, if this is God's will or not. What do you do? Ask God for wisdom, in faith, without doubting. Don't give up, don't turn around and go back, (unless the Lord says to), don't let the obstacle overcome you, just ask the Lord what to do. 

Whatever the trial--and there are a variety of them--remember that they are opportunities for you to affirm your love and commitment to the Lord and His ways. We might say that Jesus Christ is our Lord, but trials are an opportunity for us to prove He really is. Don't get discouraged by challenging circumstances. Rejoice, because the crown of life is waiting for you as you come through these things victoriously!

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