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#5 The Crown of Life

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                           “THE CROWN OF LIFE

                     (A Series on the Book of James)

Westgate Chapel 11/8/04                                          James 1:12

Proposition:      Love for God is the only pathway through the trials of life into abundant life.

i.    introduction

-     THERE will be tests in this life! Write that down.

-     BEING a follower of Jesus Christ does not shield you from the tests.

-     IN fact, some might say that being a follower of Christ exposes you to more tests.

-     I HOPE so…because heaven, for eternity, is too important a goal ahead of us to live this life untested.

-     THE Greek word used for tests in the New Testament is translated….test, trial and temptation, depending on the context.

-     IN the verse we will be studying from the Book of James today (James 1:12), the word is translated, trial.

-     WHETHER they are tests, trials or temptations….they basically present us with the opportunity to either walk in victory or to sin.

*     Your hot water heater dies and floods your basement right after you have installed new carpet.

*     Your teenager has exceeded his/her cell phone minutes by 5 hours.

*     You get laid off of a job you love.

*     Everywhere you go looking for a new job turns you down.

*     Your doctor diagnosis you with a serious disease.

*     Your relationship with your spouse is strained to the limit.

*     Your credit card payment is passed the due date.

*     You just discovered in the last rain that the roof leaks.

*     The job you have has seemingly unsolvable problems your boss is expecting you to fix.

*     There is way more month left over than there is salary…and your pastor is telling you to step to the plate and obey the Lord with His tithe.

*     Your car just died.

*     You boss and your co-workers hate the sight of you…especially since they learned you are a Christian.

*     Of all the yards around you, your neighbor’s dog insists on relieving himself on your lawn.

-     I COULD go on and on…even have you help me add to the list from your own experiences.

-     THEY are the tests, the trials, the temptations of life.

-     THE New Testament is full of references to them.

*     In Luke 22, Peter was tested to see how much loyalty he had to Jesus…and failed.

*     In Acts 5, Annanias and Saphira were tested concerning the stewardship of their finances and their honesty…and failed.

*     In Acts 8, Simon the Sorcerer was tested concerning his motive for the baptism in the Holy Spirit…and failed.

*     In the same chapter persecution broke out against Christians in Jerusalem and many of them were scattered throughout the Roman Empire…tested to the core of their new faith.

*     Acts 20:19, says that the apostle Paul was tested by the severe and sometimes violent opposition of the Judaizers to the Gospel…and he passed the test.

*     In 2 Corinthians 2:9, the whole church was tested in how they responded to the need to discipline a sinful brother…and passed.

*     In 2 Corinthians 8:8, the church was tested to see if they would obey the Lord in their financial giving…and passed.

-     AND as a result of how we handle the test or trial, we discover….

*     the condition of our faith.

*     the strength of our character.

*     the depth of our integrity.

*     the quality of our love for God.

-     IN the words of a friend of mine, the tests are God’s way of asking, “Are you still in on this thing called the Christian life?”

-     NOW, even though James has talked to us about being ruled by joy when we go through various trials…in verse 2…in verse 12 he turns his attention to the subject again, but says some totally new things on the subject that we can’t afford to miss.

-     REMEMBER, the epistle of James is the mirror in which to gaze….to see how your reflection matches the life led by the Spirit.

-     SO, let’s pick up the mirror again today, and take a look at James 1:12…and discover three critically important things about our trials.

ii.   while the test is on

-     AND the first lesson has to do with how we behave while the test is on!

-     THERE are several ways to respond to a trial while the trial is on:

1.   You can run.

-     Run from the circumstance by changing jobs, houses, towns, spouses.

-     Run from the people in your life by isolating.

-     Run from God.

-     Run from being with other believers.

-     Run from yourself by escaping into some mind-numbing activities.

2.   You can complain.

-     Grumble.

-     Become negative, cynical.

-     Look at the negative. Talk the negative.

-     Like Israel did in the wilderness.

3.   You can blame.

-     Lash out.

-     Blame others.

-     Blame God.

4.   You can attack the nearest authority figure.

-     It is exactly what Israel did to Moses and Aaron.

-     THE sad reality is that if these are that way in which you or I react to trials, it is proof that we are not living the Spirit-led life.

-     YOU can excuse yourself by saying that God understands your weaknesses…and is tolerant of them because He “knows you are human.”

-     THE problem with that argument is that it ignores God’s dealings with Israel when He tested them during the exodus from Egypt to see what was in their hearts, and they ran, they complained, they blamed and attacked God in response to their tests in the wilderness.

-     AND God said of them…

                           “…not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated Me with contempt will ever see it.” (Numbers 14:23)

-     SO, what is the image of the Spirit-led believer responding in the trial that James gives us?

-     JAMES 1:12 says,

      “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial...”

-     WHAT is perseverance?

-     THE Greek word literally means…to “remain behind” as compared to running away in the face of the trial.

-     IT means to stand fast, firm and unmoved, patient and calm in the face of the attack.

*     The verb to persevere is in the present tense, which means you do it now…while the trial is on.

*     And it is in the active voice…which means you do it!

-     LISTEN to me this morning! The Christian life is not a 100 yd dash to the finish line. It is a marathon.

-     AND God wants to use the various trials the come our way to test our perseverance in the race.

-     PERSEVERANCE is…

                           “the characteristic of a man or woman who is not swerved from their deliberate purpose and theirloyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.”

-     THE image in the mirror of James 1:12 shows that the Spirit-led believer stands firm in the middle of the trial.

-     REMEMBER, back in verse 4 James tells us that the benefit of perseverance is...

*     That you may be perfect!

      “…brought to its end, finished. Consummate in human integrity and virtue.”

*     That you may be complete!

      “…in no part wanting or unsound; whole. Without blemish or defect.”

*     That you may lack nothing!

      There is nothing that can be said to improve the meaning of these words.

-     JAMES 1:12 says you are blessed.

      “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial…”

-     THAT puts this lesson on the level of what Jesus taught in Matthew 5…when He was teaching about the shape and contours of life in the kingdom of God (another place in Scripture that the mirror of God’s Word is held up for us to see how we compare to the standards of the kingdom of God).

-     THESE kinds of saying are called beatitudes in the Bible and a beatitude is a “reflection of a person’s right relationship to God.”

-     THE word, blessed, literally means…happy, rich, prosperous is the Christian man or woman who perseveres.

-     AND in the rest of the verse we will learn the basis of our happiness.

iii.  when the test is over

-     SO, let’s move on.

-     THE second lesson from this short verse on trials has to do with what happens when the test is over.

-     THE middle part of verse 12 says.

      “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial…because when he has stood the test...”

-     THERE is a Greek word I want you to remember that is translated “stood the test.”

-     THE word is dokimus.

-     THE word dokimus is a word used in the language of the period to describe the process by which the authenticity of a coin was tested.

-     IN fact it became a noun because it is what the person was called who authenticated coins.

-     IN those days coins were made by pouring molten silver or gold into a mold with the image of the Caesar and inscriptions indicating their worth…and when the coins came out of the mold their rough edges were filed off to render them perfect in shape and size.

-     THE problem was that unscrupulous coin manufacturers or dealers would file more off than was called for and horde the filings fpr themselves….rendering the coin less valuable.

-     THE dokimus was the most trusted person in commerce because he had a reputation for…

*     not filing too much off the coin

*     and would test the coin for authenticity

*     and could be trusted to produce a coin that had “stood the test.”

-     DOKIMUS means tested and found to be genuine, authentic, “full weight.”

-     WHEN your test is over, and you have persevered through faith in the fact that God is in control and has a higher and more perfect purpose He is working out in your life….when it is over, you are authenticated as the real deal.

-     YOU are dokimus….you have been weighed and stood the test.

-     THAT is an awesome feeling!

-     IT is in the mirror of James…the image of the Spirit-led life.

 

iv. when the test is rewarded

-     ONE last lesson from the last portion of verse 12.

      “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

-     THERE is a reward for persevering through the test and being authenticated when the test is over.

-     AND the reward James is referring to here is a crown.

-     NOW, in the Bible crowns were worn at…

*     Weddings…when the bride and groom would wear crowns made out of flowers and would be associated with JOY.

*     State functions…when a prince or princess, king or queen would wear a crown made out of gold and would be associated with AUTHORITY.

*     Olympic games…when an athlete would wear a crown made of laurel leaves and would be associated with VICTORY.

-     I BELIEVE that the context allows all three meaning associated with the wearing of a crown.

-     BUT there is something even more interesting in this verse about the structure of the Greek.

-     THE phrase “crown of life” literally means that the crown consists of life.

-     THE crown you are awarded for how you handle trials and tests IS life…and that doesn’t just mean eternal life because for the Christian there is no dichotomy between abundant life here and now and the gift of eternal life we will enter into the moment we breathe our last breath as believers.

-     JESUS said, in John 5:24,

      “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life…”

-     SO, says James, when you persevere in the middle of your trials, and your faith is authenticated at the end of the trial, you will receive a crown…which IS LIFE….

*     A life crowned in JOY.

*     A life crowned with God’s AUTHORITY.

*     A life crowned with VICTORY….now and  for eternity!

v.  conclusion

-     BUT look at this with me as we conclude this message.

-     THIS crown made up of life is promised!

-     IN other words, God stands behind it! He promises this crown.

-     BUT here is the caveat!

-     IT is promised to those who….

*     Attend church regularly!

*     Pay their tithes!

*     Worship with their hands in the air!

*     Read their Bibles!

*     Witness to their friends!

*     Persevere in their trials!

-     NO!

-     THE crown of life is promised to those who love God!

-     JAMES has come full circle to Deuteronomy 6:4-5,

      “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

-     IN the Old Testament it is known as the Shema.

-     IN the New Testament Jesus endorsed it as the fulfillment of the law.

-     EVERYTHING in the Christian life depends on it and flows out of it….love for God.

-     IF you love God, you will persevere during the trial.

-     IF you love God, you will be authenticated as a result of the trial.

-     IF you love God, you will receive the reward after the trial, the crown of life!

-     DO you love Him today, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?

 

      I LOVE YOU LORD, AND I LIFT MY VOICE…

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