The Crown of Life
It’s easy to want to graduate without taking the required classes. But without taking the classes there’s no way to be ready for the tests, and without a test there’s no graduation. As in academia, so in our faith: it would be foolish to think that we can graduate to maturity and completeness in the Christian life before taking the courses and going through the tests.
When James writes about the believer who “has stood the test,” he uses the word dokimos, which refers to someone who is tested, tried, and approved. This kind of person has the seal of God’s approval on their life, and that becomes clearer and clearer through their perseverance.
The “crown of life,” or, more accurately, the crown that consists of life, is “a picture of eternal life,” which God promises to His people. It suggests the idea of God welcoming us at the finish line and crowning us with honor, blessing, and life that is everlasting. So the duration of the test is the duration of our lives. Our test lasts until Christ returns or calls us home—and so here is a call to remain steadfast to the end.
It is this perspective and this promise that transform how we meet the most difficult times of our lives. We’re often tempted to regard individual trials as intruders rather than welcoming them “as friends” (James 1:2, Phillips). But when we understand that the whole of life is a series of tests, that can reassure us, giving us an opportunity to think seriously and realistically about what we go through. We can know with confidence that ahead of us lies the crown of eternal life with Jesus, and that our trials are opportunities to learn perseverance and grow in Christlikeness, proclaiming to the world that the one whom we are walking toward is sufficient not just for life but also for joy.
The Christian life has no simulation phase to prepare us for the real thing; it is a real-time experience all the time, every day. We’re not afforded the opportunity to find out exactly how we will parent our children, deal with the sudden loss of a loved one, or react to whatever else might come our way until these things actually come our way. These are the real-life courses we must take to graduate on to spiritual maturity. What trials are you walking through today? These are the classes, unchosen by you though they may be, which the Lord knows will enable you to persevere and will prepare you for your crown. As, by His grace, you remain steadfast in the storms today, remember that you are “blessed,” not with the false blessing of an easy life now but with the eternal blessing of the “crown of life” to come.
Testing of Your Faith
2Count it all joy, my brothers,2 when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
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