Peace Beloved in the name of Jesus Christ. He is our Lord and our Savior. To live for Christ is our great honor and joy. When we come to die, to die for Christ is likewise a gracious privilege granted to us in Christ. Like Paul, whether we live or die, we want to bring glory and honor to Jesus. (Phil.1:21, Rom.14:8-10)
It has been a few weeks since our last study in the book of James. This is our fifth study. I believe we will have about twenty studies altogether.
Please take out your Bibles. I will read James 1:1-12. Our study will examine verse 12. Hear the holy word of God. Read.
James 1:1. James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. 12 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.
Please pray with me. Let’s ask the Lord to bless our study in His word. Pray.
James is inspired to tell the Believers that James writes to that they are blessed by God. Previously we considered that many of these Believers in Jesus where scattered because they were fleeing persecution in Jerusalem for believing that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 8:1-40)
There is a common proverb that says, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Well, I would say, blessedness is also in the eyes of the beholder. God and Man have two different views on what it means to be blessed.
The world says blessed is the man and happy is the woman that does what they want to do. Unbelievers do what is right in their own eyes, regardless if it is wrong in the eyes of God. (Judges 17:6, 21:2) What God calls right, unbelievers call wrong. What God calls wrong, unbelievers call right. (Isa.5:20-21) Such is the spiritual anti-God depravity of fallen man. (Rom.3:9-18, Rom.8:7, I Cor.2:11-16, 2 Cor.2:15-16) The unbeliever thinks pleasure and wealth and the enjoyment of sin are what it means to be blessed.
And when the world looks at the Christian, they do not conclude that we are a blessed people. In fact, the unbelievers consider the Christian Believer to be fools.
1 Corinthians 4:10. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.
Beloved, what do we care what man thinks of us? We should only care what God thinks of us. God says to those who believe in Christ that we are blessed. Suffering does not negate our standing in Christ.
Remember, God’s ways are not man’s ways and God thoughts are infinitely higher than man’s thoughts. (Isa.55:8-9) What God says is cursed is cursed. What God says is blessed is blessed. God is truth personified. God cannot lie. (Num.23:19, Titus 1:2, Heb.6:18)
The blessedness of faith.
Now let’s consider what this holy blessedness means.
The word for blessed can also mean happy, happy is the man. I love that. Who does not want to be happy? True happiness is to be reconciled to God in Christ, to have God. (see Heidelberg catechism Q.1-2, Jn.17:1-17, Rom.10:1-17)
Blessed here means the recipient of divine favor or kindness of God or the graced man. God properly speaking is the only One that can and does bless us.
The blessedness in view consists of a state of the deepest happiness imaginable having union and communion with God in Christ. (Mt.5:1-12) So this blessedness flows out of having a right-relationship with God. (Dt.33:29, Ps.1:1, 2:12, 31:1) In Christ we are blessed. In Christ all the blessings of God flow to us. (2 Tim.1:9, Ps.103, Ps.138:1, Jude 1:25)
James opens in a similar way that Jesus, his half-brother and his Lord and Savior did on the Sermon on the Mount – blessed is the man. In that sermon Jesus used a series of eight such statements. (Mt.5:3-11, see also Luke 6:20-38)
Looking at some of the Beatitudes will help us grasp the idea that suffering, and temptation and trials are not at odds with being blessed by God. Listen to Christ Jesus…
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
The blessedness of tested faith.
James continues to speak of a theme he mentioned earlier and that is perseverance or endurance under trials.
James 1:2. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:12 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.
Some of your Bibles will translate this word testing in one place, and then the same word as temptation in another place. Context dictates whether it is used in a positive or a negative sense. God is testing. Satan is tempting. Think of Peter. God was testing his faith. Satan was trying to destroy his faith. (Lk.22:31)
The trials and the temptations test or try our faith in Christ. These hard things make our faith in Jesus stronger and purer. This is why tested faith is enduring faith.
God wants us to think about hardships as trials of our faith in Jesus. God wants us to think about painful things as opportunities to exercise our faith.
Think of this. When you are training to run a long-distance race, a marathon let’s say, the more you train the longer you can run. The hard training of your body enables you to endure the hardships of the race. Like that, the hard training of our faith enables us to endure the hardships of the Christian race. What is the saying? No pain. No gain.
Think of Job. (Job 1 and 2). Think of Abraham with Isaac. (Gen.22:1-2) Again, think of Peter getting sifted by Satan.
Acts 14:22. strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. (Rev.1:9, 7:14, 2 Cor.12:7-10, Jn.16:33, 2 Tim.3:12, Isa.48:10, Jn.15:18-27)
Endurance to the end is a frequent theme in the NT, a central truth in the Christian faith.
Matthew 10:22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
Matthew 24:10. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
I Peter 2:19. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. 21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,
Beloved God calls us to endure trials patiently. In Christ we can endure pain and privation without fretting and without grumbling. (Heb.12:7) We can do all things in and through Christ. (Phil.4:13) The Believer in Jesus endures hard things like a Christian. We endure hard things walking in the footsteps of our Christ. We endure hard things in obedience to the word of God.
Yes, trials and temptations are painful. Yes, they can cause us to weep. But since Christ is our true joy, temporal hardships can never make us eternally miserable. In fact, the pains drive us closer to Jesus. And here is the true source of our overcoming joy.
The approval of faith.
Now the Lord tells us after some undisclosed amount of time our testing time will be over. God says someday our faith will be “approved”.
This Greek word (dokimos) means to approve or to prove as genuine by applying some test of authenticity. (Rom.14:18, 16:10, I Cor.11:19, 2 Cor.10:18, 13:7, 2 Tim.2:15)
The idea is to be openly shown to have true saving faith. Some day we will be openly acknowledged to belong to God and to be pleasing to God.
The testing of our faith in the fire proves that our faith in Christ is genuine.
Remember faith that cannot stand up to trial and temptation is useless faith or dead faith.
Faith that is tested is stronger, purer, and provides for more assurance, and glorifies God more.
The token of approval.
Matthew Henry says, to be approved of by God is the great aim of the Christian in all his trials, and it will be his blessedness at last when he shall receive the crown of Life. (see WLC 90, WSC 38)
Christ wore a crown of thorns that we who love Him would receive a crown of life. (Mt.27:29)
The life represented in the crown of life is eternal life, perfect union and communion with God in the eternal estate. (Jn.3:16, Jn.10:10)
You see what James is teaching? Right now, in this life Believers wear crosses. But in the next Life we shall wear crowns.
Matthew 10:38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. (Mt.16:24, I Cor.1:17-18, Heb.12:2)
Also think of this, our cross bearing is temporary. Our crown wearing is eternal.
The Bible often speaks of a crown to indicate God’s blessings on His children.
The crown signifies heavenly glory. The crown itself is precious and valuable indicating that the recipients are precious in God’s sight being purchased by Christ’s blood.
Psalm 8:4. What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? 5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!
Psalm 103:4 Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion.
Psalm 16:11. You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
In the Bible two kinds of people received and wore crowns. The first class is royalty, kings and queens. Christ has saved us to make us a nation of royal children of God.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (Exod.19:5-6, Rev.1:6, 5:10, 20:6)
Luke 22:28. You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; 29 and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
The second class of people that receive and wear a crown are athletes that win an athletic contest. Crowns (or wreaths) are often given as rewards to winning athletes. The crown signifies our victory or triumph of our faith in Christ. (Prov.17:6, Mt.5:12, I Cor.9:25, Heb.2:7-90) Our faith in Christ overcomes the world. (I Jn.5:4) But unlike the earthly garland of flowers worn by the earthly athlete, our crowns will never lose their luster.
1 Corinthians 9:22. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. 24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
Revelation 2:10 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.
Elsewhere, the apostle Paul speaks of Believers, and especially Believers living in such a way as to adorn the Gospel as his joy and crown or his crown of exultation. (Phil.4:1, I Thess.2:19)
2 Timothy 4:7. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
1 Peter 5:4. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
The promise of approval.
The Bible is filled with promises that God makes to His people. This is given to us to show us the certainty of receiving the crown of life. And also, that we should live in expectation of it. The promise of God teaches us that we receive the crown by virtue of God’s grace and not our own merits. (Exod.20:6)
Now we are expressly told who the blessed are and to whom God makes this wonderful promise, to those that love the Lord God.
The Bible says that love endures. (I Cor.13:7) We love God because He first loved us. (I Jn.4:19) God has gifted us to love Him. His love for us and our love for Him enables us to love and follow Him when we are in difficult places.
Romans 8:28 . And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Rom.13:10, I Jn.2:3-4, Jn.15:10)
Beloved what an encouraging word from the Lord. Remember God makes this wonderful promise to His pilgrim people, a people that are often in trials and temptations and suffering – like our Christ. Think often of our Suffering Savior. We share in His trials. (Isa.53)
By faith in Christ, by faith in the promises of God we can say along with Habakkuk, if the fields are barren and the stalls are empty, I still have My God, I still am blessed, my life has fallen in beautiful places. (Hab.3:18)
The apostle Paul says this…
2 Corinthians 1:3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
Remember as Believers in Jesus we do not evaluate things as the unbeliever does. We are spiritual people. We evaluate things spiritually, according to the Spirit-wrought Book. (I Cor.2:15, 2 Tim.3:15-17)
Hear what God says to you…
2 Corinthians 4:16. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
- What is the rule or guide of fallen unconverted man? What does the unconverted man deem to be blessed or to be cursed? Is unconverted man a fit judge of truth or reality? (Judges 17:6, 21:2, Isa.5:20-21, Rom.3:9-18, Rom.8:7, I Cor.2:11-16, 2 Cor.2:15-16)
- What is the guide or rule for the converted person? What is the spiritual condition of the converted person? What are the spiritual capabilities of the converted person? What spiritual things can true Believers in Jesus do? Why do we have these abilities? (Ps.19:7-14, 2 Tim.3:14-17, James 1:18, Jn.17:1-17, Rom.10:1-17, Jn.3:16, Rom.5:1-10, WCF 14.1-2, WCF 20.1, Phil.1:29, Acts 13:48, Acts 11:18)
- What does it mean to be blessed by God? As a believer in Jesus Christ describe why and how you are blessed by God? (see Heidelberg catechism Q.1-2, Jn.17:1-17, Rom.10:1-17, Ps.1:1-6, Mt.5:1-12, Dt.33:29, Ps.2:12, Ps.31:1, 2 Tim.1:9, Ps.103, Ps.138:1, Jude 1:25, Phil.4:7-19, James 1:17, Num.6:24-26, Isa.41:10, 2 Cor.9:8, Eph.1:3, Mt.6:30-33, Eph.3:20)
- Why does God test our faith through trials? Why does our faith need testing? What about a trial is good for our faith? Describe some of the trials Christ endured. Describe some of the trials some OT and NT saints endured? How was their faith tested and refined and strengthened? (I Cor.4:10-13, Jas.1:2-4, Jas.1:12, Lk.22:31, Job 1:1-22, Gen.22:1-2, Acts 14:22, Rev.1:9, 7:14, 2 Cor.12:7-10, Jn.16:33, 2 Tim.3:12, Isa.48:10, Jn.15:18-27)
- Interact with this quote by John Newton. Christians without trials would be like a mill without wind or water. What place should we have for patience, meekness, readiness to forgive if we had nothing to try us?
- What is endurance or perseverance “to the end”? How should we live in light of this? (Mt.10:22, Mt.24:10-13, I Pt.2:19-21, Heb.11:1-40, Heb.12:1-3, WCF 17.1-3)
- How can we endure trials in a Christ pleasing and honoring fashion? How can we respond to trials in a Christ displeasing and dishonoring fashion? (Heb.12:7, Phil.4:13, Phil.2:14, Jn.6:43, I Cor.10:1-11, Exod.16:1-10, Ps.119:71, Heb.5:8, Mt.6:10, Lk.22:42, Job.1:20-22, Lk.23:46-49, Acts 7:59, Ps.37:7-9)
- What does it mean that by testing and persevering our faith will be “approved”? (Rom.14:18, 16:10, I Cor.11:19, 2 Cor.10:18, 13:7, 2 Tim.2:15, I Pt.1:6-7, Jas.1:2-4, Ps.66:10-12, Job 23:10, WLC 90, WSC 38)
- What is the crown of life? When will you receive it? Why will you receive it? What does it signify? How should the promise of the crown of life affect our living now? (Jas.1:12, Ps.8:4-5, Ps.103:4, Ps.16:11, I Pt.2:9, Exod.19:5-6, Rev.1:6, 5:10, 20:6, Lk.22:28-30, Prov.17:6, Mt.5:12, I Cor.9:25, Heb.2:7-9, I Jn.5:4, I Cor.9:22-27, Rev.2:10, Phil.4:1, I Thess.2:19, 2 Tim.4:7, I Pt.5:4)
- Who are those that love the Lord God? Why do you love God? How do you love God? (Jas.1:12, I Cor.13:7, I Jn.4:1-19, Rom.8:28, Rom.13:10, I Jn.2:3-4, Jn.15:10)