Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
James seems to bind together the various things that he has been talking about in this sentence. The need for faith to be tested and proven; seen in the true light of godly perspective. These James has covered in his previous verses. After all these things, James says, one is then approved through the giving of the crown of life.
As I look back through my own life, I have no doubt that there have been trials and tests of faith. Yet, a question that has always been in my mind is whether I am truly worthy of the crown of life James talks about. For all the “good” and “success” that my life has reaped, it has also produced much rubbish that simply negates and even at times overwhelms any sense of goodness that I have achieved. All the same, the promise of God is, to those who seek after Him and love Him, one of grace and mercy. Even James’ words have in mind God’s grace and mercy which gives perseverance in trial and strength to stand in testing times.
What is the crown of life? It is no less than the gift of eternal life. The promise of spending the days of life in the presence of our Holy God and Father. The idea of spending eternity with God can seem somewhat dull without a full understanding and perspective of God. Further, as James mentions, it has no appeal to those who have no love for God. When there is an understanding, a knowledge, a relationship with the Almighty God, nothing less that spending time in His presence could satisfy the believer.
I find it sad that, the truth is, many of us, myself included, find it difficult and straining at times to be satisfied with spending time with our Heavenly Father. To wake up in the morning and our first desire is to spend time in relationship with Him; to desire to open His Word – the Bible – and hear His voice; to fall to our knees and open in communication with Him; to simply bask in His presence. On the human level is completely illogical; people in a loving, deep relationship simply desire to spend time with one another. People spend time with that which they treasure most. As a reflection, the question should be asked whether, truly, God is our treasure?
Yet, in all this, God still approves of us. Out of His grace and mercy, out of the depth of His love, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for the opportunity to be in relationship with us. To remove us of the stain which hindered that relationship – that is, sin. It blows my mind, it does every time I think about it that our God loves us so much and would desire to reach out to us in the most unimaginable way – through the death of His only Son. To me, it says that God doesn’t approve us because we love Him or that we’ve proved ourselves, rather, it says that God approves us because He first loved us.
Amazing, isn’t it? For all that we do and all that we are, it is all because of Him. In the gospel of John, Jesus paints this picture of what life is like in comparison to a grape vine. We are branches and Jesus Himself is the vine. Unless the branches are connected to that vine, they are dead. In the end, it’s all about Him.