14th November 2023
'Sarah J. Hauser' says
Blessed Are the Steadfast
This post will look at James 1:12, a transitional verse that closes out the previous section in James' letter and leads into a new section.
"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."
"Blessed." It's a word our culture has overused and misunderstood.
"'Blessedness' has to do with well-being in life that flows from the favourable position in which one is rightly related to God"
We've gotten part of our understanding correct.
We receive good gifts and recognise that we have some well-being in life.
But what we often miss is that those gifts aren't necessarily because of our right relationship with God.
That's why the psalmists and the prophets over and over again lament that the wicked prosper (see Psalm 73).
Often it looks to human eyes like the wicked are ones who are blessed.
"Being right before God gives us peace in this life, even in trials, because we know our reward is coming."
Yet they are not in right relationship with God.
We can't always understand why the wicked seem to prosper, so like the psalmists we have to come before God as we wrestle with that reality.
(We also need to check ourselves and consider if we're not the righteous blessed but actually the prospering wicked. The Pharisees got it wrong; let's take that as a warning.)
So what does James really mean when he uses the word "blessed"?
Throughout the book of James, we can hear echoes of Jesus' ministry.
Think back to the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus said crazy things like, "Blessed are those who mourn," and, "Blessed are those who are persecuted").
Being blessed doesn't necessarily mean material possessions in this life
(although it can-see Job 42:12).
But it always means right standing before God, and being right before God gives us peace in this life, even in trial, because we know our reward is coming.
James then tells us that the person who is blessed is one who remains steadfast in trial, for they will receive the "crown of life."
I wonder if we'd be more motivated to endure if James instead dangled the blessed reward of a new car or a big house-or even a few good nights of sleep and a kid-free vacation.
Honestly, those things sound pretty enticing to me.
But the crown of life? Not so much.
Do we brush that prize off, believing the crown of life isn't all that exciting?
I do sometimes.
The "crown of life" sounds esoteric and intangible.
If we could have something we can wrap our fingers and our minds around, well then we'd maybe be more compelled to faithfully endure.
But James seemed to believe that the Jewish Christians who received his letter would be spurred on by the crown of life as their reward.
Throughout the whole letter, he talks about being steadfast in trial and doing the work of living out their faith.
And all for what? A gaudy tiara? Not quite.
James isn't talking about a jewelled crown for royalty.
The metaphor here is more like the laurel wreath an athlete received after winning a race.
It's a picture of finishing-and finishing victoriously.
It's the ultimate picture of God saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
The crown of life is God himself giving us not a shiny piece of jewellery, but eternal life itself - with all the glories and benefits that come along with it.
This is an edited version. The full article and Bible references are avaiable on request
Maybe that reward still feels out of reach.
Maybe it seems less appealing than money or security or health right now.
But the prophets, disciples, and countless others throughout history have gone to their deaths, believing that the upside-down kingdom life Jesus calls us to now would someday be worth all the hardship.
Jesus himself endured the cross "for the joy set before him".
We're running a race, the writer of Hebrews says, and we're running for a prize that will not disappoint.
There must be something to this crown of life.
It must be worthwhile to remain steadfast, to not grow weary in doing good, to lift our drooping hands, to abound in the work of the Lord, to not lose heart, to remember the weight of the glory to come
We can't remain steadfast without hope.
But when we cling to hope, when we believe that our reward to come will be absolutely and completely worth it, we can endure whatever trials and tests come on this side of eternity.
Our finite minds can't fully comprehend all God will one day do - but that's where trust comes in.
Do we actually believe that the crown of life will be worth it?
Will we live our lives in right standing before God, knowing that being "blessed" may not result in a reward right now?
"When we have hope, believing our reward to come will be worth it, we can endure whatever trials and tests come on this side of eternity."
Steadfastness requires that we give up the need for instant gratification and replace it with faithfulness and endurance as we live our Christian lives.
This is not easy. It takes work. It takes humility.
It takes a willingness to be uncomfortable, to mourn with others, to fight for justice, to get our heads out of the sand and be willing to live a life that's not just about our own ease and happiness.
I'm not good at this.
I like doing something and immediately reaping the reward.
I don't want to wait, and I don't want to have to keep enduring.
But as we saw in the last section of James, it will be worth it.
Remaining steadfast requires that we put our faith into action as we cling to the promises of God, come what may - because doing so and being right with God will yield a reward we cannot even fathom.
Thanks be to God.
I used to blog primarily about food, sharing and photographing recipes as a side hobby while working in the nonprofit world for a hunger relief organization.
It didn't take long for me to feel the dissonance between those two roles.
At my husband's encouragement, I dove into what Scripture says about food, beauty, art, and enjoyment.
Sure enough, the Bible had more than a few things to say, and studying those subjects reignited in me a love for God's Word.
That study eventually led to me writing about a host of other topics like mental health, motherhood, grief, and creativity, expanding my work to share not only food to nourish the body, but biblical truth to nourish the soul.