“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.”
O, the blessedness of the man that endureth temptation! He shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised!
The blessedness of the tried!
Repeatedly the thought of trial, temptation, is set forth in this Epistle. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience…” “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.” “Be ye also patient, stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” “Behold, we count them happy which endure.”
Evidently the thought of trial and temptation must be understood in its broadest sense. The word itself a way which comes to us out of the past and projects itself and stretches out into the future, — your way and mine, as we go through this world. On that way is an enemy, a conflict, a trial, a temptation. A mighty triad of evil that always seeks to draw us from the path of duty, of faith, of endurance!
There is, first of all, the world which lieth in darkness! She offers you pleasures, wealth, and fame, if you will give heed to her. That world offers you bread if you will only join her unions. She offers you wisdom if you will attend her schools and study her philosophy. Always she seeks to entice you by an attractive display of her wares, urging you to buy at the seemingly cheap yet costly price of one of your religious principles. She makes it easy for you; only one step is necessary for you to take to receive of her hand.
There is also the devil and the host of evil spirits! Not always do they appear in their most vicious forms. Sometimes they appear as angels of light. But whether as the lamb, or the ravening wolf, they are bent on drawing you from the path of truth and righteousness.
And along with these enemies is perhaps the greatest and most troublesome of all, your and my own corrupt natures. No power could these other enemies have over us, were it not for this carnal and corrupt nature. That internal power of corruption belongs also on that way of temptation and trial through the world.
Not only does the Scripture here have in mind those trials that take on the form of persecution and trouble from without, but in the midst of the trials and testings, the evil work of temptation takes place. And God in His providence puts us on that way. No, He is not the Tempter, as James makes clear in the verses that follow our text; but it is He Who so directs our life that we have the experience. And because we are so weak in ourselves and know all the propensities to evil that are inherent in our natures, we often take upon our lips the prayer taught us by our Lord: Father in heaven, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one! In and by ourselves we know that we cannot stand, not even for a moment!
How blessed is the man that endures ! Temptation is not something to be consistently avoided, but something which must constantly be endured! As long as we are in the flesh and in the world, so long must the ever present temptation with its attending trials be endured! The crown of life which is promised to those who endure is at the end of the way. Therefore we must endure to the end to be crowned. And enduring is the power to bear up under the temptation and trial, the power to be yet standing when all the fiery darts of evil have been shot at us, and when all the smoke of the battle has dissipated.
The purpose, the divine purpose, of the temptations and trials is that we may be approved. He is not a good soldier who during the war sits behind a government desk. He may be called a good clerk or a good administrator. But a good soldier he may not be rightly called, though often such an one has the most to say about the horrors of war. But he is a good soldier who came to shreds on the barbed wire that crossed the trenches, whose daring was revealed in the hand to hand struggles with the enemy, who lay for days in the pools of mud while he was under fire of the enemy. So also is the one tried and approved who endures the temptation. And it is this objective God seeks to attain and does attain when He so governs’ our way that we not only are tried with the temptation but endure!
The motivation and possibility of that endurance James tells us is the love of God! The love of God!
Not His love to us, though this is always first, and without which there can be no love for Him. But our love for Him! Those loving Him, who have Him always before their face, who see Him at the end of their way, and who have fellowship with Him while they are on that way! That love of God is the power that moves us, that gives the ability to endure a super-human character. It is the motivating incentive and energy whereby we can endure!
God’s work of grace in us! For no one loves God of himself. By nature we love the world, and even its enticements to evil. But God Who is rich in mercy works in us by the power of His sovereign grace. He loves us! He sheds abroad in our hearts His love! And it is the very nature of that love of God to seek Him in love and to do that which is pleasing to Him. In His love to us He chose us and unites us to Himself in a living bond of love. And this living stream of love goes through us and returns back to Him as our love for Him. It is the energy of this working love that moves us to endure faithfully unto the end!
0, how blessed is the man that so endures!
Scripture speaks often of the blessed and their blessedness! “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.” Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound, they shall walk, 0 Lord, in the light of thy countenance.” “Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.” “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” “Blessed are they that mourn. ” “Blessed are the meek.””Blessed the hungry and thirsty after righteousness.” “Blessed are the pure in heart.” “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake.” Blessed! Blessed! The Scriptures never tire of pronouncing God’s people blessed!
The word “Blessed” has in it the fundamental idea of fulness and satisfaction that is brought on because one lacks nothing. Then, too, it holds in it the thought of happiness which is due to perfect satisfaction. One, therefore, is blessed who lacks nothing, he is full and completely satisfied, and therefore, very happy! You understand, of course, that this blessedness is uniquely spiritual. It does not refer to a material fulness and happiness. True happiness and blessedness never consists in the abundance of earthly things apart from God. A rich man may appear to be happy who has an abundance of earthly things, so that he seems to lack nothing. And men today are inclined even to pronounce him blessed of God. But such is not the case. Blessedness does not consist in the abundance of earthly things. Rather, blessedness consists in the fulness of the blessings of Christ, which He merited, which He showers upon His people, which are manifested in gifts of His grace. Righteousness, holiness, joy and peace, light and life, that is spiritual and eternal, — these are the graces that make up this blessedness!
James sums up this blessedness in the concept: Crown of Life!
Life, that is, spiritual, heavenly, and eternal life! Mere earthly life is not in itself a blessing. It is a blessing only when it is connected to eternal life. For an ungodly man, it were better that he had never been born. Such an one is dead while he lives. But the life of our text is other worldly! It is God’s life! It is the life of Christ which He took with Him through the grave, resurrection life, which He instills in our hearts by the Spirit of regeneration. It consists in our being able to be constantly adapted to the life and friendship of the living God. It begins here in this present world and in our real experience. He who has not this life now in the present world will not have it in the life to come. It is given to us in regeneration as a principal. The perfection of it waits for the last day.
Then it will be given to us as a crown!
Symbol of perfect victory!
Not the royal, kingly crown does James have in mind, though there can be no doubt that as kings and priests we will be crowned and rule with Christ. But the garland or wreath of victory that is placed on the head of the runner in the race, or the athlete who was victorious in the arena! That is the crown that is placed on the head of each blessed one who endures temptation. That will be his permanent possession, for the crown is life!
But this crown he does not receive until the end of the struggle. When the fight is over, and the race is run, then he shall receive the crown that fadeth not away!
This crown of life is certain!
For it is the Lord Who has promised it!
He is God! The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our Father for Jesus’ sake! The unchangeable God, Who is unchangeable in all His works and ways, and therefore with respect to His promises to His people!
The crown of life which the Lord hath promised!
Not to any particular promise does James refer, that is, there is no specific passage of God’s Word where this promise is made. But James is interpreting here the general tenor of the Scriptures which contain the promise and the promises of God. In the second chapter of his Epistle, verse 5, he again speaks of the promise, and there of the promise of the kingdom. “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” And in our text it is: the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
The promises of God, also this one, find their root and beginning in the eternal counsel of God. There the Lord ordained the crown of life for His people. There also He determined the way to the obtaining of the crown, the way of antithesis, the way of sin and grace.
The promise of the crown of life is revealed and fulfilled principally in Christ. He also went the way of temptation and trial, endured the wiles of evil even unto death. His way took Him through the grave unto the glory and crown He received at the Father’s right hand. So He prepared the way to the fulfillment of the promise for all those who later would endure!
The promise God declares in the Gospel, not so much in a particular text, as in its very heart and in all its revelation. Always that Word is good news concerning eternal life in contrast to that which is earthly and temporal; concerning everlasting glory in contrast to the shame and reproach, suffering and death which are our experience in this valley of tears. It speaks of the crown of life which God intends to give to everyone loving Him, after they for a little while endure the temptation.
And that promise of God cannot fail!
The tried shall receive the crown!
And this makes them blessed!