“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, AV)
In 1973, I entered the United States Army Ranger School in Fort Benning Georgia. In the previous three years, officer candidates from our school went to Benning to take the course. Of the six that went, none graduated the course and had the privilege of wearing the Ranger Tab on their uniform. Thus, I went with a bit of fear and trepidation. Oh, how I wanted to graduate the course and return to school wearing the tab. When I got to Benning, I discovered why the former ones did not graduate. Nearly half of those who reported for the course did not graduate. The course was the most difficult thing I had ever done. Well, by God’s grace, I endured the trial and completed the course successfully.
I remember the graduation ceremony. I stood there with a sigh of relief and pride with the other graduates as one-by-one the training officers pinned the ranger tabs on the graduates left shoulder. Then we had one last run around the parade field to complete the ceremony. It was a glorious day that I still remember vividly. As great as that day was, there is a greater day awaiting every believer in Jesus Christ. It is a day of great reward.
James has been writing in regards to trials. He mentioned God’s purpose in permitting trials (v2-4). He wrote of how to pray for wisdom in the midst of trials (v5-8). He told us how to respond to struggles and abundant blessings (v9-11). Now, continuing the thought, he tells us that there is great reward for those who persevere under trials (v12). While the trials that may come our way are many, in the context of the next three verses, James seems to be speaking particularly of the trials that bring about temptations (v13-15). (Well, more on this in the next devotional.)
Here, James tells us that there is a reward for those who remain steadfast in the trial. It is the crown of life. There are two words translated as crown in the Greek text. One is the word diadema, which refers to the crown of a king. Here, the word used is the Greek, stephanos. It is a mark of exalted rank. It was a wreath given to the victors in public athletic events. It is the crown that will be awarded to all who believe, all who have overcome the trials and temptations of this life by faith.
The amazing thing to me is that it is Christ and His provision of grace alone that enables us to overcome in the midst of trials. We could never do it apart from Him and His grace working in us. Jesus stated it to His disciples, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5, AV). Paul reinforced this thought
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, AV)
We who believe are the victors and we will receive this crown of life. The amazing part of this is that it is all because of God’s grace given us in Christ. We do not deserve it and we do not earn it. Yet, we will experience this great reward. I cannot even imagine what it will be like on that day when we receive this greatest of all honors. Yet, the Scriptures tell us that it is coming. What a glorious day that will be.