“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)
A trial is a difficulty that is meant to test our faith in God in order for us to grow stronger and more mature in our Christian life. This verse teaches us three things about dealing with trials.
1. CHRISTIANS ARE NOT EXEMPT FROM TRIALS.
In Ecclesiastes 8:14, the Preacher is grieved by the vanity of the righteous receiving what the unrighteous deserves and vice-versa. Paul says no trial has overtaken us that is not common to man (1 Corinthians 10:13). Do not expect the Christian life to be a bed of roses. Suffering and difficulties are the common lot of the human race, including Christians. As Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulations” (John 16:33).
2. CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED TO ENDURE.
Because we are not exempt from trials, it follows that we will have to bear them, to remain steadfast under them. However, the Bible is not teaching stoicism: “Bear it, for what else can you do?” Our trials are dispensed by our loving and all-wise Father to strengthen our faith and character. Our trials are not the product of random chance; they are a divine calling! “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Let’s not shrink away from this calling. There’s an eternal reward involved when we endure.
3. CHRISTIANS WHO ENDURE ARE BLESSED.
In John 10:10, Jesus said, “I came that they might have life – abundant life!” This might be the crown of life James is referring to. It doesn’t simply refer to duration: eternal life with God someday. But a truly rich and meaningful life which begins now, full of challenges and consolations, peace and tribulations, joy and tears, both at the same time! And through it all, a deeper intimacy with Christ, which is preparatory for a greater participation in his likeness when he returns someday. Not to mention, becoming a greater blessing to others as a result of the maturity that steadfastness under trials produces. Such a person is truly “fortunate” and is to be congratulated. Blessed!
The verse ends by telling us that God promises the crown of life to those who love him. This is the secret to enduring trials: Love for God. It’s our love for God that will keep us trusting him and bearing up under the pain of trials. Of course, this love comes from God himself: He poured it into our hearts when he gave us his Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). In fact, the Spirit produces the fruit of love in us (Galatians 5:22). But we have to work out what God works in us (Ephesians 2:12,13). And the best way to fan into flame our love for him is to remind ourselves (especially through reading the Bible) how much he loves us in Christ (Romans 5:8). “We love him because he first loves us” (1 John 4:19).