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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
Title:The Crown of Victory promised to those who Persevere under the Trials of Life.
Text:James 1:12 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faith Tested

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Read: James 1

Text: James 1: 12

Sing: Psalm 103: 1, 2
Psalm 119: 27, 29, 35/Hymn 1A
Psalm 34: 7, 8, 9
Psalm 21: 2, 3
Hymn 52: 1, 2, 3
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters,
Are we there yet? Parents with little children will have heard that question many a time during these summer holidays as they were traveling to their destination. Young children do not always enjoy the ride. They eagerly anticipate the end of the journey, and are not too enthralled with the journey itself. For they know that at the end they are going to be doing fun things: camping, going to the zoo, or going to a water park. Those things are a lot more fun than the journey itself.

And children are not prepared for any obstacles that might be on the way either. Sometimes the journey is delayed because of traffic jams due to construction or due to an accident. You can also get a flat tire or encounter other car problems. Also the weather may not be favorable for travel. All these things can delay the journey. Children are not prepared for these things. They’re not prepared to deal with them. And that is because of their immaturity. They want to reach their destination without the long journey.

When you are older and more mature, then you are not as surprised about the obstacles on the way. Then you are prepared for them, and you learn to deal with them. Nevertheless, they can be annoying and frustrating.

Life is also a journey. But, in the journey of life, there are also many trials and obstacles along the way. The journey is not always as smooth as you would like it to be. You will encounter many trials and tribulations and obstacles on the way.

That is also what the text of this morning is speaking about. It speaks about the various trials we encounter on the road of life. The text tells us how to weather the various storms, and how we must endure. If you want to have a safe and enjoyable journey, then you must know how to deal with whatever comes along. Only the mature in faith will safely arrive at the intended destination. And only the mature in faith will receive the blessings they were hoping for. And how great those blessings are. They will, as the text says, receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him. I will preach to you about:

1. The trials;
2. The blessings;
3. The crown.

1. Verse 12 is a pivotal verse in chapter 1 of James' letter. It serves as a bridge between what precedes and between what follows. For James begins this letter by speaking about trials. He says in verse 2, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds." The trials that he speaks about here are the frustrating occurrences in life, the injustices and the unexpected sufferings. In this letter James shows how that applies to the readers. James writes this letter to Jewish Christians who were abused by others. In chapter 2 he speaks about how the rich exploited them. They dragged them into court and slandered the noble name of the Lord Jesus. These people were driven from their homes and lost many of their possessions.

The early Christians had to suffer many trials because of their faith. The author of the letter to the Hebrews also writes about the persecution that the Christians suffered. In chapter 13 the author writes about those who are put in prison because of their faith, and about those who are mistreated. And in chapter 10:32 and following he speaks about how they stood their ground in the face of suffering. He says that sometimes they were publicly exposed to insult and persecution. He also writes that some of them had their property confiscated. Others were put into prison.

Thankfully you and I do not have to suffer those kinds of trials because of our faith. But, that does not mean that we do not have trials. We also live in the midst of a sinful world. If you want to be ethical to your business dealings, then sometimes you have to suffer hardship as well. You may lose customers. If you're an employee it's also hard to be part of a work force which is intent only on receiving the most benefit for themselves. The person of the world of today works only for the good of himself, and not for the good of mankind. Sometimes as Christians we are forced to belong to militant unions which promote extreme selfishness and the breakdown of the relationship between employer and employee. And the rich companies also exploit the poor in our society. Big businesses and big unions are out only to line their own pockets. That's the kind of world we live in.

We also have trials in our personal lives. Some people grow up with abuse, whether physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Such abuse can come at the hands of parents, or other persons in authority, or other relatives or friends. Such abuse can be quite traumatic. And even as adults, the victims continue to suffer because of the abuse that they had to endure as children.

Why do these things happen? Well, they happen because of the sin that has come into the world. In accordance with his old nature man is an evil creature. He is prone to abuse others, to use others for his own pleasure.

Evil things also happen in the church. We see all kinds of evidence of that throughout the Bible. Think of Joseph, for example, about how he was mistreated by his brothers. He was sold as a slave. He was declared to be dead. He ended up in a foreign country. And there he also suffered all kinds of abuse and trials. He was falsely accused of seducing another man's wife and was innocently put into prison.

Why did those things happen? Well, Joseph himself understood. He said to his brothers who were deathly afraid of him, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:19-20). Joseph knew that God had a much greater plan in mind for his life. He knew that God had a different perspective. And he trusted God.

Have you ever listened to a traffic report on the radio? No doubt you have. You trust such a report, don't you? You trust it, especially if it comes from a reporter in a helicopter. He or she has a much better perspective on things. He has a total picture. Well, that is also how it is with God. God has the total picture. And whatever happens in our lives, we may be assured that he has the best intentions for us. As Paul says in Romans eight, the Lord God will turn to our good whatever adversity he sends our way.

But in the journey of life, he time and again tests our faith. That is what he did with Joseph. And that is what he is doing also with the readers of the letter of James. All the trials and tribulations that they had to endure are a test of their faith. For when the various trials and tribulations come your way, then you can do one of two things. You can either become angry and bitter and in this way follow the ways of the devil, or you can become stronger and more resilient and in this way follow the ways of the Lord.

The Lord continually tests your faith. And as the trials and tribulations come your way, he wants you to persevere. He does not want you to throw in the towel. And the more you allow your faith to be tested, the stronger you will become. Such trials and tribulations make you mature in your faith. It helps you to stay on course as you make your way through life. For you know that you cannot make it to the end if you do not also endure the journey. And that journey had better lead you in the right direction, to the right destination.

In the verses after the text, we also read about the trials of life. But here James does not speak about the trials and tribulations that happen to you, but the ones that you make happen because of your sin. In verse 14 he speaks about one's own evil desire. He says, if you give in to your evil desire, then you commit sin. And when you continue to give in to your sin, then that sin, when it is fully grown, will kill you. It will put you to death. Here, however, James does not speak about being tested by the Lord, but about being tempted by Satan.

In the Greek language James uses a word that means both test and temptation. The Greek does not have a separate word for each concept. It uses one and the same word. James has in mind both those concepts in verse 12. And that is why verse 12 is a pivotal text in this chapter. When he speaks about having stood the test, he refers not only to the test of God, but also to the temptations that come from Satan. You must pass the test that God gives to each and every one of us. And you may not give in to temptation.

It also makes sense that in the Greek the same word that is used for test is also used for temptation. For isn't it usually the case that test and temptation go hand-in-hand? Think about Job in that regard. Satan did everything in his power to tempt Job. He took everything away from him except his life. Satan desperately wanted Job to fall. He kept testing him in every way possible. But, those trials that Job had to endure were also a testing from God. God also tests Job's faith by them. And Job stood the test. He withstood the temptation.

The readers of this letter must do the same, and so must you and I. And if you are able to do that, then God calls you blessed. We come to the second point.

2. The blessings
James calls the person blessed who perseveres under trial. He calls him/her blessed because of their maturity and wisdom. James himself, the author of this letter, had seen many bumps on the road of life. James is a half-brother of the Lord Jesus. He came to faith after the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. And he became a prominent leader in the early Christian church. He felt himself very close to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And now here he echoes the words of the Lord Jesus Christ when he spoke the Sermon on the Mount. At that time the Lord Jesus said to the people gathered around him, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:11-12).

James used similar words in the beginning of this letter and in the text. In verse two he says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds." And in this text, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial."

The Lord Jesus himself was steeped in the Old Testament. Indeed, he came in order to fulfill the Old Testament. The Old Testament was full of the promise of blessings to the faithful. For example it says in Psalm 1:1, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers." And what are those blessings? As the Psalm says further, they are the blessings of the fruit of faith. They are the blessings of peace and contentment. They are the blessings of freedom from anxiety. Psalm 32 also speaks about blessings. And there we read that those people are blessed whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

According to the Scriptures you are also blessed when God gives you children and grandchildren. You are blessed when things go well with you materially. Ultimately, to be blessed means that you have received some kind of gift from God.

You can count on it that, even in the midst of adversity, God will continue to bless you, even if it is only in the smallest of ways. Corrie Ten Boom, who wrote about her experiences in a concentration camp, tells about the time when the particular barrack she was staying in was infested with fleas. They were extremely bothersome and annoying. At first she couldn't figure out why she would have to endure that on top of everything else. Then it came to her. The Lord had sent those fleas. For because of those fleas the guards of the concentration camp would not enter the barrack. And that meant that Corrie could freely read her Bible and bring the good news to the other inmates.

Brothers and sisters, if you want to persevere on the road of life, then you can only do that if you can see the blessings that come from God. If you are not able to see them, if you see nothing but adversity and obstacles along the way, if you are bitter and angry because of the things that have happened to you and are happening to you right now, then you will not make it to your final destination.

Think of the Lord Jesus Christ. He led a life full of suffering while he was on earth. At every point he was misunderstood, misrepresented, slandered and abused. And in the end they horribly abused him, even hanging him innocently on the cross. Listen to what Peter says about the Lord Jesus, and how he conducted himself through it all. He says in 1 Peter 2:23-24, "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

The Lord Jesus endured the trials of life. Our trials and tribulations cannot even begin to be compared to the trials and tribulations of the Lord Jesus. They were so great. He bore all the sins of man. And in the end, because of our sins, his Father in heaven even forsook him. No one can endure that kind of test. Only the Lord Jesus could. And he did so for our sake.

And we never will be expected to suffer in the way that he did. However, the life of a man nevertheless is also a life of suffering. And that is what it also says in 1 Peter 2:21, "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."

Brothers and sisters, by and large life is good. We enjoy life. But there are also many trials and tribulations. You can expect it. It is part of our human existence. But, as a Christian, you will suffer in ways that others don't. And that is because this world does not want you. This world wants to be rid of you. For that reason you will have to make sacrifices. However, remember that when you do, you can rejoice in your sufferings. For that confirms that you're a child of God.

Earlier in his letter, in chapter 1:6, Peter already stated, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." Brothers and sisters, we are not looking for an earthly reward, but for a heavenly one. The Lord God makes wonderful promises to us. And that once again is shown in this text as well. He says that those who persevere under trial will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. That brings us to our third and final point.

3. The crown
What kind of crown is James speaking about here? We all know what a crown is. That is what a king wears on his throne. He wears the crown in order to show the exalted position that he has. He has the highest rank amongst all the subjects.

A crown is also given to an athlete after he wins his race. He is given a crown of victory. Such a crown shows that he is the best at what he does. He has defeated everyone else. The crown shows his accomplishments.

Well, a Christian is also given a crown at the end of his journey. But he does not receive that crown because of anything that he has accomplished. He does not receive the crown either because he is more important than anybody else. He received that crown for no other reason than that he belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ.

For you see, the Lord Jesus Christ also received a crown at the end of his race. Just before the end of his journey on earth he received a crown of thorns. That was given to him because of the claims that he made as the Son of God. The Lord Jesus belonged to the royal house of David. And so, he was of royal blood. The Romans, however, wanted nothing to do with the throne of David. And that is because, in the first place, they did not want to share any power with that royalty. But the Lord Jesus is not just of any royal house. The royal house of David represents the royal house of God. The Lord Jesus is the king of the earth because he, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, created all things. The majority of the people did not want to recognize him as such. And so they ridiculed him and gave him a crown of thorns. They rejected him especially because of that.

But, at the very end of his journey, he received from his Father in heaven the crown of glory. When he died he sat down at the right hand of God. There he is seated right now on his throne to rule as king. From there he rules over heaven and earth. And now all those who believe in him, who love his name, may now also wear a crown. For he gives that to those who faithfully run the race here on earth. It is the crown of victory. For the Lord Jesus Christ was victorious over death and Satan. And all those who belong to him are also victorious. Therefore they may wear a victor's crown.

Did you know that, brothers and sisters? You too are royalty. You too are victorious, and have received a crown from God. It is not a crown that you are just going to receive at the end of your life. No, it is a crown that you may wear now. As you go through the trials of life, you may know that through Jesus Christ you have already triumphed over evil. Whatever evil and adversity comes your way, you can hand it over to Christ. He knows what to do with it. Justice is mine, he says. Let me deal with the evil in your life. Trust Me.

This world is full of the victims. And it is true, a lot of sad things happen to many people. People have to endure many injustices. But how do you deal with them? How do you deal with the trials in your life? If you are a Christian, then you remain a victim all your life. Oh sure, you have to deal with it as best as you can. Those who are abused sometimes need to receive justice on earth already. But you will never find true justice on earth. You'll find it in God. And when you hand your injustices over to him, then you are no longer a victim of abuse. Whether it be sexual, emotional or physical. Oh sure, the memories of such abuse stay with you. But time and again you can be reminded that through the Lord Jesus Christ you are not a victim but a victor. Through him you have overcome evil. You have been given the crown of victory. For through the Lord Jesus Christ, through his strength you are able to forgive time and again and to go on with your life.

Do you know what that crown represents? That crown represents life. That crown represents eternal life. And your eternal life is not something for the future; no it has already begun. As the Lord Jesus says, when you believe, then you have eternal life. Present tense. When you put your faith and trust in him then you have a foretaste of Heaven. And then, as you make your journey through life, you can have a joyful life. For you can be sure that no matter what trials or tribulations come your way, that the Lord God will turn it to your good. For nothing, Paul says in Romans eight, can separate you from the love of God.

Are we there yet? Well, we are still on our journey. Nevertheless, if you believe and love the Lord Jesus, if you are mature in your faith, then you actually have already arrived. For you already have overcome all the obstacles that line the way. With the Lord Jesus at your side you will have a safe journey and a certain arrival at your intended destination. Amen

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2007, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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