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Posts Tagged ‘James 1:12’

 

My nephew is training for an Iron Man competition taking place in April.

Every day Preston follows a carefully prescribed regimen of exercise, riding his bike, running, and/or swimming. He eats a specified diet, and strives for proper rest. Recently he purchased a new bike based on current research for achieving top speed.

Much of this is according to his trainer’s recommendations, from his acquired knowledge and experience as a competitor. The trainer knows what it takes to finish the race.

Over the last forty-plus years of Iron Man Triathlons, participants have learned strategies for success. For example, they use their arms almost exclusively for the swim portion, saving leg strength for the bike ride and run.

 

 

Months ago Preston had to choose: should he embark on this test of endurance or opt for an easier goal? And if he did tackle an Iron Man race, would he seek guidance or train on his own? You already know his choices.

Now Preston is within weeks of the race. He’s in the best shape of his life and pushing his body to accomplish far more than ever before. But any current contentment will be multiplied many times over when he crosses that finish line and celebrates the completion of this extreme challenge.

What Preston is experiencing in the physical realm, God would have us understand in a spiritual sense, as laid out in Jeremiah 6:16:

 

 

Like Preston, we face a choice, but of much greater consequence than a competition.  Will we follow the ancient paths of God’s good ways or not? And like Preston, we can experience contentment now—not just when the race is complete. God offers us peaceful rest within our spirits (Philippians 4:6-7).

Meanwhile, many around us suffer from discontent and restlessness–the result of sin and following one’s own path. Jeremiah proposes a better plan: follow the good ways of God and contentment of soul will result.

But there’s a broader meaning to this verse. Jeremiah was addressing the entire nation of Judah. As he spoke the words quoted above, a national calamity loomed. Within a few years the people of Judah would be taken captive to Babylon, because the people had not listened to God’s words and they rejected God’s law (Jeremiah 6:19).

 

 

Our nation also stands at a crossroads, but few Americans seem to be looking to God for how to proceed. Instead they’re engrossed in self-interests. They don’t ask for the ancient paths that led us to security, prosperity, and blessing in the past.[1] They reject biblical values as out-of-date and stifling.

As a result, many Americans experience dissatisfaction in life, relying on drugs or alcohol to numb the emptiness and soul-strife.[2]

And what of us who believe in Christ and do seek the ancient paths? We stand at the crossroads of these choices:

 

 

  • Will we defend our faith even though ridiculed?
  • Will we remain on the ancient path of righteousness, or bend to blend in?
  • Will we stand for absolute truth or succumb to the relative truth of the culture that says it all depends on perspective?

 

Uncomfortable repercussions may result when we stand for our faith and absolute truth. But our souls will rest in the peace and contentment of a clear conscience.

When Preston finishes his race, family and friends will be ready to congratulate him.

 

 

When we finish our life race, God will be ready to congratulate us with, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

IF we remain steadfast.

 

“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.”

James 1:12 (ESV)

 

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Help us all, O God, to be on guard against the lies of the enemy, to stand firm in our faith, to remain courageous and strong in all circumstances. Our heart’s desire above all is to honor you—by finishing strong. 

(1 Corinthians 16:13)

 

 

Notes

[1] The security of settled minds (Psalm 112:7-8), the prosperity as God’s people (Jeremiah 29:11), and the blessing of his provision (2 Corinthians 9:8).

[2]   a. In 2017, 12.7% of Americans were taking antidepressants, up 64% since 2014 (https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/11/numbers).

b. About 38% of adults in 2017 battled an illicit drug use disorder (https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/addiction-statistics ).

c. 14.5 million people, or 5.3% of the population had AUD, alcohol use disorder, in 2019 (https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics).

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Can you remember back to your childhood Sunday School days?  Did you ever make crowns of yellow construction paper, symbolizing the crowns we’d someday wear in heaven?

In my class, we were encouraged to add colorful cut-out jewels, to represent all the good deeds we would do for Jesus.  The idea was he would reward us for our obedience.  And didn’t we all want beautiful, sparkling crowns to wear when we got to heaven?

My teachers may be commended for encouraging us to make wise choices.  But I’m not sure where the scripture supports jewel awards for righteous behavior. Was it inferred from Isaiah 61:10b?  “As a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

You probably remember:  the bridegroom is an image used several times in scripture to represent Jesus (Matthew 9:15), and the bride represents God’s people (Revelation 19:6-8).  But that still doesn’t explain decisively what the jewels are.

On the other hand, there are passages that mention crowns.  Crowns that…

English: The Imperial Crown of India

…will last forever, won by running the race of the Christian life with perseverance (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

…represent those believers who are in heaven as the result of our efforts.  They will be our crown—our glory and joy (1 Thessalonians 2:19).

…God has promised—a crown of life to those who love him (James 1:12).  Revelation 2:10 also speaks of this crown.

…we’ll receive when Jesus appears—crowns of glory (1 Peter 5:4)!

But nothing about jewels in those passages.  And to be honest, the crown references are more than likely imagery and metaphors—not actual crowns.

As I’ve gotten older, even the teaching that “crowns await us in heaven” has bothered me.  Striving for obedience and bringing others toward commitment to Jesus for crowns seems so selfishly motivated, so mercenary.  Jesus has already given me eternal life, his loving care, his Word, and countless other blessings.

How dare I say, “Oh, and one more thing.  Please honor me for my good deeds with some lovely gold crowns, alright?”

I don’t want to be like the child who sits under the Christmas tree, surrounded by mountains of crumpled gift wrap and new toys, who says, “Is that all?”

Then I came across Revelation 4:9-11 and discovered…

IF we receive crowns, we won’t be wearing them.

And we won’t be needing lovely showcases in which to display our crowns either.

Instead, perhaps we will be privileged to follow the example of the twenty-four elders:

“Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him…and worship him…They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

This totally changes my motivation for earning crowns.  They aren’t trophies at all.  They may become objects of praise, with which to honor our Savior!

That moment will be the epitome of worship–total immersion in the awesome presence of holy God.  Our hearts will be bursting with ecstatic joy, way beyond any former worship experience, as we reverence Jesus supremely.

And cast down our golden crowns for his glory.

Can you picture it?

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(photo credits: http://www.collaborationenglish.com ; http://www.flickr.com ; http://www.baby.marry.vn )

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