Crown of Life: For Enduring Trials
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the Epistle of James. We are going to discuss a passage of Scripture which is found in the book of James, chapter 1, verse 1:

James 1

1James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
2My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
5If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
6But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
7For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
8A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
9Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
10But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
11For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.

Notice this next verse particularly:

Let me emphasize the words of verse 12 again:

Now turn with me, please, to the book of Revelation, chapter 2, and notice verse 10:

Revelation 2

10Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Notice, please, that James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10 are talking about the same thing–the Crown of Life.

Review

We have been bringing you a series of messages on prophecy. Some weeks ago we began a series of messages on the judgments that are yet future. We mentioned one of them–the Judgment Seat of Christ, where believers will appear before the Lord to receive rewards for the deeds done in the body, according to whether they be good or bad–that is, whether they be worth something or whether they be worth nothing. We talked about those rewards–how important it is to seek them, how important it is to be sure that nobody else gets the reward that we ought to have, how important it is that we receive a full reward.

As we examined the Scriptures, we found that those rewards are presented under several figures of speech in the Scriptures, and one of them is the figure of speech of a “crown,” for the rewards which we will receive will be in the form of crowns. We wanted to examine those crowns as they are described for us in the Word of God, so we would know what kind of reward to seek, what kind of reward we might receive when we stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Now, let me remind you of something we emphasize because we do want you to keep it in mind. We are not receiving these crowns in order that we might walk around the streets of Heaven with a great tower of crowns on our heads to see how many we can get before they topple off. We are wanting these crowns for one specific purpose: We will cast them at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ, to tell Him how we appreciate everything He has done for us and how glad we are that we can give Him all the glory for whatever work we might have done.

Keep in mind another thing that is very important–the crowns about which we speak are not salvation. This is especially important to keep in mind with regard to the crown which we will now consider, for it is referred to as the “Crown of Life,” and we would not have you think for a moment that this crown represents salvation. We would not have you think for a moment that you get to Heaven because you are faithful. We would not have you think for a moment that you will get to Heaven because you are faithful unto death. We would remind you that eternal life, if you possess it, is God's free gift. You should already be giving Him the glory for it. Nothing you have done deserves it; nothing you can do will make you any more deserving of it. Eternal life is God's free gift without any strings attached.

Reason for the Crown of Life

The Crown of Life, about which we are thinking, is another of the five rewards which are represented in the Scriptures. We do not consider them in order of their importance, but rather in the order in which they are found. As we think about the Crown of Life–it is the next to the last one mentioned in the Scriptures–it is crown No. 4. In order that we may be able to understand it, I am going to suggest the reason there is a need for a crown like this, the reason why men may be able to obtain it, the result of it, and last, I want us to notice the reward itself.

Encouragement to Endure Times of Testing

As to the reason why it is made available to man, I want to speak to you in general terms. Turn, please, to the book of James and notice one particular verse that will pinpoint the need for this crown:

James 1

12Blessed is the man that endureth temptation:…..

Notice the word “temptation.” That is a broad word. Sometimes it means a solicitation to evil–that is, you are tempted to commit murder, or you are tempted to commit adultery. It is a solicitation to evil. Sometimes it is a reference to a test that God permits you to go through in order to determine the kind of metal of which you are made. The context determines which meaning applies. Sometimes the word“temptation” may include both meanings at once. If your heart is right with God and you want to do what He wants you to do, you will desire to please Him.

Also, a solicitation to evil is something that causes you a great deal of suffering. We are thinking about this word “temptation” primarily as a time of testing, regardless of what form it may take. Please turn to I Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 13:

I Corinthians 10

13There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

What I want you to primarily keep in mind is the phrase, “there hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man.” The generalization to be made is that testings will come because you are made of clay; your testings will come because you are made of dirt. I would emphasize that, because the eternal question, “Why?” is asked when tribulations and trials come into our lives. “Why did this thing happen to me?” The answer may be found in a very general way. It may be found on the surface. Testing may have happened for no other reason than that you are living. You are living in a world that is occupied and dominated by the Devil, the prince of this world. This does not suggest that it is any less a test–it can be a very real test. I would suggest it to you as one general reason for the testings that come.

Testing Because of Our Relationship to Jesus

There is another general reason why testing comes into our lives. Turn, please, to the first Epistle of Peter, chapter 4, verses 12 and 13, and recognize that we come into testing because of our relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ.

I Peter 4

12Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
13But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

Notice the emphasis that Peter puts upon the statement in this verse, “Do not think it is strange, that fiery trial which is going to try you.” May I suggest that if you have not been tried by a fiery trial, you will be before you are dead. When it comes, do not think it is a strange thing. It will come because of your relationship to Christ. You enjoy His salvation–there is no way to escape His suffering. We all would like to; that is human. We would like to escape suffering, but we will not. If we are partakers of His salvation, we will be partakers of His suffering. That is the reason He says, elsewhere, “If ye suffer with me, ye shall also reign with me.” He is not suggesting by His “if” that there is any question about it. A better translation is “Since you do suffer with Me, you will reign with Me.” (II Timothy, chapter 2, verse 12) The same thought is emphasized here when He says:

I Peter 4

13…. rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

Further, that is the same thing as the promise of the Crown of Life, for this crown is related to that day when His glory shall be revealed. I repeat that these are generalizations. They include every one of us here who knows the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour.

Special Vessels for Suffering

But we would not be doing justice to this subject, and we would not be guiding you correctly in seeking this particular crown, if we did not specialize in our comments about the reason for suffering. Even though it is true that some of our testing comes because we are human, and even though it is true that some of our testing comes because we are related to Jesus Christ, the Bible teaches that God has His chosen vessels for suffering; that is, He chooses some individuals to suffer in a way that He does not choose other individuals to suffer. He chooses some individuals for the ministry of suffering in a way in which He does not choose us all for the ministry of suffering. It is good to know that, because we are talking about the Crown of Life which is our reward for our reaction to this ministry of suffering–our reward for the reaction to the trial that comes into our lives. Certainly, if God does choose some special vessels for suffering, we need to know that.

Paul Chosen for Suffering

Turn, please, to the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 9. You will recognize the reference as being the place where the conversion of the Apostle Paul is recorded. You will remember that the Lord Jesus Christ met him on the road to Damascus and brought him face to face with his need for Himself; then He told him to go into the city of Damascus and wait there until someone would come and tell him some of the things that he needed to know. Of course, the Lord had to deal with His servants in order to make that possible. Finally, He brought a man by the name of Ananias around to the place where he would obey the Lord in carrying the message to the Apostle Paul. I would like for you to notice the paragraph that begins with verse 15:

Acts 9

15But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he [Paul] is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

Suffering of Early Christians

Most of us realize that the Apostle Paul was chosen for this purpose, but look at verse 16 also:

Acts 9

16For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.

The emphasis is placed upon the fact that the Apostle Paul, in a very special way, was a chosen vessel for suffering; it was the course that was set before him, which we talked about last week.

We will not ask you to turn back to Revelation, chapter 2, verse 10, again; the words are still fresh in your minds. I hope. There we found the Apostle John speaking to a group of people who were living in his day and he said, “You are going to be called upon to suffer. Now, do not be afraid. Do not fear. You are going to be called upon to suffer. Your sufferings will last ten days.” A careful study of the book of Revelation will reveal that he was speaking not of 24-hour days, but of the reigns of ten emperors, who would bring upon these particular Christians such suffering as perhaps no other Christians have ever suffered before, or perhaps since. Here was a special group of Christians. He said to them, “You are going to suffer and you might as well prepare yourself for it. Do not be afraid, and do not buckle under when the suffering comes. Stay faithful unto death, and I will give you a Crown of Life.” (Revelation 2:10) Now, I cannot turn to any passage of Scripture that will tell you directly that you, if you are a part of the body of Christ, will have to suffer; but I am convinced in my own mind that we are going see some trying times before the Lord comes. And if that is true, then we as Christians may expect to share in thos trying times.

There are a number of reasons for it. One reason the Apostle Peter gives is, “When we approach the end of the age, it is time for judgment to begin at the house of God” (I peter 4:17). There is another reason. Please turn to the book of Colossians, chapter 1, verse 20. It is difficult to explain this reference, and I do not profess to have a full explanation for it. The various commentaries show a variety of opinions and you will find, as well, a considerable lack of attention to this particular portion of the Word. As a rule, when you are examining commentaries and find no comment, it is apt to be because the commentators do not know what to say. Let us consider Colossians, chapter 1, beginning with verse 20:

Colossians 1

20And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
21And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
22In the body of his flesh [this is the Lord Jesus Christ] through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
23If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

Let us pause there for a moment. “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled…” What will happen if you do not continue in the faith, grounded and settled? Your answer is found in verse 22 in the phrase “unreproveable in his sight.” He will have something to criticize you for. It does not mean that you lose your salvation; it does not mean that you will go to Hell. It means simply that He will have something to criticize you for if you do not continue in the faith, gounded and settled. If you have moved away from the hope of the Gospel that you have heard, then you will be reproved at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Something Lacking In Suffering

I have another question: Why would any of us not want to continue grounded and settled? Why would any of us desire to do anything other than continue? The answer is found in the next two verses:

Colossians 1

24Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:
25Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;

Notice verse 24 particularly, for that is the portion of this Scripture that is somewhat difficult to understand. One clear statement is made: There is something lacking in the sufferings of Christ. That is astounding! Oh, this does not mean that His suffering for our eternal life is incomplete. That is a settled thing. However, Christ's suffering did not accomplish all that God intends suffering shall accomplish, for this verse declares that that which is lacking in His suffering must be made up in the Body of Christ. I do not know why. All I know is that this is what God says, and I take His word at its face value. If God's Word says that the extent of the sufferings of Christ must yet be fulfilled in the Body of Christ, then there is nothing for me to believe except that the Body of Christ is slated for suffering. I have no way of knowing whether all the suffering that was lacking has been fulfilled.

When I think about the early days of the Body of Christ in the period of time that I talked about in Revelation 2:10, I might be inclined to say, “Well, all the sufferings have been fulfilled.” But then I read of the sufferings still being endured by many individuals around the world and I say, “Have the sufferings of Christ been fulfilled?” Well, Beloved, I want to tell you that if they have not been, then we are slated for it.

Blessed for Enduring Testing

That is the reason why you might be tempted to give up; that is the reason why you might be tempted to cease to continue: that is the reason why you might say, “What is the use?” and take the easiest way out. I want to encourage you today not to take the easy way out; I want to encourage you to do what James suggested here, and so receive the Crown of Life. Please look again at James, chapter 1, verse 12:

James 1

12Blessed is the man that endureth temptation:…..

Thee word “endureth” is a translation of a Greek word which means to “abide under,” to “stay put.” That is one of the hardest things to do, especiallly where there is any kind of suffering, because we find ourselves all the time trying to get out from under it. Oh, do not misunderstand me; I have not forgotten what we read earlier in our message in I Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 13:

I Corinthians 10

13There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape,………

Providing a Way of Escape

Thank God He does make the way of escape, and when He does make the way to escape there is no harm in your taking it–if He makes the way of escape. But, believe me, Beloved, you had better not make the way of escape. That is the reason why an individual should not take his own life. No matter how trying the circumstances might be, an individual should not commit suicide. He has no right to. He should endure temptation. He should remain under it; he should stay put. That is what God says. Now, the “staying put” is not easy. Take advantage of whatever escape God provides, but do not make the way yourself.

Working of Patience

Stay put and follow the advice that is given in James, chapter 1, verse 4:

James 1

4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

What has this verse to do with tribulation? Well, look at the preceding verse:

James 1

3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

You see, the test comes in order that patience might be produced in your life. If you will let patience have its way, then you will be mature and you will want nothing. The reason why most of us are imperfect, the reason why most of us are spiritually immature, the reason why most of us lack a great many things, is that we do not stay under the temptation. We do not endure. We get out from under it just as quickly as we can.

Tried Until We Meet God's Approval

Look at James 1:12 with me again:

James 1

12Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Notice that last statement. I think it is related to the crown the Lord has promised to them that love Him. You see, endurance and love go hand in hand, and I am going to be bold to say to you that I, personally, believe you cannot endure without the love. I do not believe you can. You will notice that He says, “…to them that love Him.” The word “love” is our familiar word which speaks of divine love. It is the same love that is described in I Corinthians, chapter 13, which you will remember has one characteristic of a love that “endureth all things.” I question whether you can endure without the love. Perhaps the reason we buckle under, perhaps the reason we yield before we have been sufficiently tried, is that we do not love Him as we ought to love Him. That is what makes it possible for us to give in as easily as some of us do.

Crowns of Life

Let us look at the reward for a moment, as I remind you that the reward is the Crown of Life. I believe that according to the context, we could refer to it as the “Crowns of Life.” I believe that it is possible for the believer to receive more than one Crown of Life. I believe it is possible for the believer to receive as many Crowns of Life as the trials which he successfully endures.

You see, you do not get the Crown of Life immediately upon the conclusion of the trial. It is laid on the shelf for you, and at the Judgment Seat of Christ when everything is examined, the crown is taken off the shelf and presented to you if you have earned it–if you have not buckled under, if you have endured. That is an encouraging thing to my heart. I would not like to think that the trials through which I have gone successfully will mean nothing because I have failed to go through other trials successfully. I say it humbly–I can think of some trials in my life where I stayed put, I did not buckle under. But I can also think of other trials in my life when I did buckle under; I did not stay put. I yielded. The recording angel in Heaven had to write down, “Do not mark down any crown for him there. He muffed that one. No crown for him. He buckled under. He did not endure as he should have.” So I think there is a possibility that we will receive more than one crown for the trials.

A Martyr's Crown

Now, notice again Revelation, chapter 2, verse 10:

Revelation 2

10…….. be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Because James 1:12 is commonly associated with Revelation 2:10, some of my friends say, “The Crown of Life is a martyr's crown. The only way you can get it is to lose your life for Christ's sake.” I do not think that is true. I think you can get a crown for enduring the trials successfully and you can get another Crown of Life, characterized as the martyr's crown, if you are called upon to die for the cause of Christ. You will notice the statement did not say, “if you are faithful until death.” That would mean that if you live a Christian life from the day you are born again until the day you die, you will get a Crown of Life. It does not say that. It says, “if you are faithful unto the point of death”–if they come to you as they came to the saints described in Revelation, chapter 2, verse 10, and say, “Recant; deny your Lord or die.” Some of them denied their Lord and lived, but some of them said, “No, we will not deny Him. He is our Lord. Do with us what you will.” They were decapitated for their faith in Christ. They were thrown to the lions for their faith in Christ. they died rather than yield.

I do not know what the future holds for us. I am not a prophet of doom. I have already said I believe there is suffering slated for the Body of Christ. If things continue in the manner in which they are going, I would not be surprised if some of my generation were faced with the decision of denying their Lord or dying. If such be the case, those who refuse to deny the Lord even on penalty of death will receive not only the crown that ordinary folk might receive for enduring a trial, but also the martyr's crown, because they remained “faithful unto death.”

The Crown of Life is a crown available for you. Maybe some of you already have a few, (and I say this reverently) stacked away in Heaven awaiting the Judgment Seat of Christ. If you need a little encouragement and the trial is a little rough, do not give up. Hold on. The fires will be banked by and by. The heat will be withdrawn. The trial will end and another crown will be yours.


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