James 1:12-15 “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” NLT
The passage above starts with another of God’s promises for us. We are told in Scripture that trials and temptations will come. However, any Google search or glance at the topical index of your Bible will show you the countless times God promises to see us through. When my husband and I were adopting our two youngest children, there were days I did not think I could handle another whirl in the emotional hurricane it had become. There were entire weeks that all I could muster was to hold on for the ride and trust that God would bring us safely out of the storm. He did. Every time. God is who He says He is. He keeps His promises.
It is easy to focus on the first part of this text. It is comforting to think of God’s promise to us through the struggles of life and that we are heirs to the King. It’s that later part of the scripture that is hard to digest. My desires? My sin? My temptation? Who wants to talk about that? Give birth to death? Really, James? I don’t want to think of the consequences of my sin. I don’t want to take responsibility for my sin being that what separates me from God. It’s easy to look past the points of scripture that tweak our hearts, convict us and hold us accountable.
It’s not fun to think of our own sin but that is where the work is done. That is when lives are changed. Thankfully our sin is in the context of His grace and we hold the power of His Holy Spirit to transform our lives. Maybe God allows the brokenness of this world to touch us so we have the opportunity to hold on to Him; Him alone. The moments when your life seems to be filled with struggle after struggle are the moments God is calling to you the loudest. 2Corinthians 12:9-10 says, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, I am strong.”
While this world is hard, we hold onto hope that we will receive the blessing of the crown of life. At times, I have to remind myself that not all will be healed or complete in this world. Many times throughout the BIble, scripture illustrates that regardless of how strong our faith is, there will still be trials we have to endure. You can do everything ‘right’ and trials will still come. That is not God’s doing – I love that this passage points that out for us. The trials and temptations do not come from God. We can thank the broken world and our own sinful hearts for that.
So if trials are going to come, does that mean we have to wait for death for all of these blessings? While eternity with Jesus will be more than we can imagine, I believe the crown of life more importantly comes whenever we are connected to Christ…when we do not allow our circumstances or sin to keep us from Him…in the here and now. I think the death James speaks of is both physical and spiritual. James, the author of this book, claims he is a slave to Christ.
Too many of us are slaves to our sin or our circumstance. Imagine how lives would change if we would embrace the transforming power of His Grace in our lives and claim His victory over our sufferings and sin. I know for me, whether it is the struggles that come in adoption, parenting, marriage or finances, it is helpful for me to focus on two things. First, the struggle, the brokenness of the world, comes from Satan. It helps me to keep my frustrations geared toward him if I name him as the source. Secondly, only God will get me through the trial. I must submit my heart completely to him and surrender myself to his will. I think the crown of life comes when we stay connected to Him through the storm. Our crown is the peace we feel in the midst of chaos. Our crown is the joy we gain, in the midst of oppression. Our crown is the the love we are able to share even when we are worn down. And oh, we will certainly wear the crown when we meet Our Heavenly Father face to face. The Crown of Life indeed.
If you are being tested right now, change your frame of reference. That attack is not from God but of this tattered world. How could things change for you if you took this approach and clung to God’s promises?
What sin or suffering are you a slave to? Claim Jesus as the owner of your life and allow His spirit to fight for you.