July 7, 2011
Crown of Life
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Today we will look at the crown of life. Yesterday, we reviewed the crown of righteousness. For those who endure persecution in this life, they will receive the crown of life in the future.
Blessing for Persevering under Trial. James wrote his epistle to people enduring all kinds of trials (James 1:2). He commanded those folks to consider it all joy when they undergo such testing of their faith, because it produces endurance, resulting in perfect and complete faith and life (James 1:3-4). Now, in James 1:12, James communicates the blessing of God upon the man who perseveres (“ὑπομένει“) under trial (“πειρασμόν“). We see in Scripture that God always tells believers to expect persecution, and to recognize that believers will be blessed as they undergo persecution. Consider Matthew 5:11-12: “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Jesus commanded believers to rejoice during persecution, knowing their reward will be great. In the same way, Jesus moved James to write about the same subject of reward for those who endure persecution on earth. James focuses upon “perseveres” (“ὑπομένει“). This word for perseveres emphasizes the present and ongoing strength from God to continue to hold up under persecution. We abide with Christ even under persecution. James also draws our attention to the trials. This same idea of “trial” or “temptation” described Jesus when “He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered . . . ” Hebrews 2:18). We see the same word used in Luke 4:13, to describe how the devil tempted Jesus in various ways, but Jesus endured the temptation without sin (Hebrews 4:15). In both of those last two passages from Hebrews, Jesus comes to the aid of the tempted and sympathizes with them. He blesses them with His power and presence while they are tempted, so that they will endure.
Approved. The trials that come into the believer’s life may show that the believer has been tried and persevered. God awards that believer the stamp of approval. This word “approved” (“δόκιμος“) means that you accept a coin or dollar bill as payment. The coin has been approved as legal tender. The seller accepts the coin as full payment. In this case, God accepts our suffering for Him and our response to persecution renders us blessed and pleasing to God.
The Crown of Life. As we have seen in our discussion of the crown of righteousness, the crown may be eternal life itself. Jesus may be talking spiritually here and only symbolically. Because Jesus wears literal diadems when He returns (Revelation 19:12), I prefer to think of this crown of life (“τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς“) literally. Again, the crown of life here refers to the “stephanos” crown, a wreath of victory. Of course, every believer will be given eternal life. Of course, eternal life will be a great reward in itself. But it seems appropriate to interpret this context as a special crown of life for those believers who have endured persecution well during their lifetime. As a special reward, they receive this crown of life described here.
Jesus Promised Those Who Love Him. Jesus made many great promises throughout the Word of God. He made different promises to different people. Today, believers who endure persecution well, and who love Jesus, have the promise of the Lord Jesus that they will receive this crown of life. Jesus gives special encouragement to everyone undergoing persecution for His Name. He wants them to endure, and know a special reward awaits them.
So we learn more about Judgments and Decrees today.
● When we suffer trials in this life, we must recall that Jesus predicted that they would come our way.
● When we endure trials well and receive the approval of Jesus, then we will receive the crown of life.
● When we endure trials with approval, we long all the more to see Jesus, knowing He will give the crown of life to us and everyone who loves Him.
Application for Today
As I live today, I long to see Jesus, to hear His voice, and be at home with Him forever. Until that day, I believe He will help me endure trials, to be approved by Him, and to await that crown of life for every believer who loves Him. Are you looking past the trials you may be experiencing today and seeing Jesus standing there with the crown of life for you?