The book of James has numerous instructions about practical, daily living as a servant of the Lord. James set forth the reality that God’s children will face challenges in life, including having to deal with outward trials as well as inward temptations.
In the midst of such challenges, God’s people can feel overwhelmed or become discouraged. One statement in this epistle that grabs our attention and gives us a strong exhortation to stay committed to our Lord is James 1:12. There it is written, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).
So, something called “the crown of life” will be received by some people. What is that all about, and who will receive it? To the church in Smyrna, Jesus mentioned that crown as a reward for those who remain faithful to Him, though they might face severe persecution, even death (Revelation 2:10). Paul reminded the saints in Corinth that while the ancient Greeks competed in races to win a perishable crown, Christians “run” their race in order to receive an “imperishable crown” (1 Corinthians 9:24,25). As Paul later sensed that the close of his earthly life was near, he looked forward to being given what he called “the crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:8). All of these promises point to the same crown (not three) – the imperishable crown of righteousness/life.
Who promised such a wonderful-sounding crown? The Lord did (James 1:12). Since “God is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:9) and “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), we know that He will “make good” on His promise.
Who will give the crown, and when will the giving occur? In view of the truth that Paul had fought the good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith, he declared, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). The giver of the much-longed-for crown will be none other than the Lord Himself. He promised the crown, He set forth the stipulations for receiving the crown, and He will be the crown-giver. When will that giving/reception occur? On that day when He appears to judge all people – the day of His final coming, which will be “the last day” (John 6:39,40).
What does this incomparable crown symbolize? We have seen that it will be received after we leave this world. The living hope that each faithful child of God has is to receive “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1 Peter 1:3,4). Since our hope is to be in heaven, then the crown of life symbolizes the eternal life which we will enjoy there. The “crown” aspect points to victory and its reward. Jesus promised that overcomers will be able to eat of the tree of life in the paradise of God (Revelation 2:7). This, too, represents eternal life in heaven.
How does James 1:12 describe the kind of person who will receive this crown? It is a person who (1) has been tried and approved, (2) has endured temptation, and (3) loves the Lord. Every disciple of Jesus faces trials and temptations. The question is, how will we respond to these? The proper response is endurance, perseverance, sticking with our commitment to our Savior, not wavering in our love for Him! Our Lord does not want us to “bail” on Him at the first sight of troubles or something unpleasant in life. It is not enough to think about God, pray to God, or worship God. No, the promised crown is for those who love Him. He does not want us to be someone who did love Him, but one who continues to adore Him and His will with all of our being. In simple language, the Master said this about loving Him: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).
If the world is eaten up with immorality, if we personally feel smacked in the face by health or financial problems, or if the congregation is struggling, do we need to hang in there, remain steadfast, and endure all that life throws our way? We do, indeed. It will be worth it! The crown of life awaits, my friend, and when the righteous Judge shall give it, no one will be able to take it away.
Let us make living for the Lord our top priority. No one who receives the crown of life will have any regrets for having endured to the end for His sake.
— Roger D. Campbell