James 1:12 – 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.
Despite all the “rah-rah” positive thinking, “The Secret” type of metaphysical nonsense, that is so popular today (even in church, sadly), the truth is: Life is hard and you will face many trials. Difficulties and suffering of various degrees come to all of us on a routine basis, even if we want to pretend through “positive thinking” it doesn’t. The Bible is very clear on this issue, despite the fact that we have entire flavors of Christianity teaching this is not true. Yes, hallelujah, there will come a day when the physical curse will disappear as completely and eternally as the spiritual curse has disappeared for those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. But for now, suffering and trials are a fact. Sometimes life stinks.
Part of the basic Christian life is knowing how God would have us respond and behave when trials come our way. James, in his very practical manner, comes to the rescue and tells us plainly:
James 1:12-18 – 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. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures. (NKJV)
First of all, in verse 12, in stark contrast to what many teach today, the Bible says that BLESSED is the one who endures temptation. Most translations today use the word “temptation” in this verse; the most accurate translation of the original Greek word is “suffering” or “trial”. Blessed is the one who endures suffering. Blessed is the one who endures trials. That is quite the opposite of the worldview which expresses “any suffering is unnecessary”. It is also in direct contrast with much of what we hear in many churches. These churches teach that suffering and hardship come from a lack of faith, and the Christian who exercises proper faith has been freed from anything negative in this life. Perhaps James didn’t get the memo.
So how are we blessed when we endure suffering and trials? The simple answer is this: When we see suffering as God sees it, and we respond to suffering in the way God would have us respond, we are blessed because we know that we are in God’s will and God will reward us for our faithfulness
We are blessed when we endure suffering because of the joy that comes of knowing that we did not waver in our faith despite hardship. We are blessed when we endure trials because we look back and are able to see that God never left our side and cared for us every step of the way (even though this is sometimes impossible to see in the midst of the trial). We are blessed when life stinks because it shines the light on God’s goodness and his providential care. We are blessed when we endure tough times because it reminds us that this life is temporary, and our eternal reward is just around the corner.
So, you see, there is great blessing in suffering. I’ll never fill stadiums with ecstatic fans based on that message, but nonetheless, it is a priceless truth of the basic Christian life.
We learn to love God when we endure suffering, not only because of these blessings, but because, as we will see in a moment, God is not the source of our suffering. James teaches us that God does not cause suffering, and the source of our suffering is sin. All trials and suffering are harvested from the seed of this sin curse. Each hardship can be traced back to this curse. Of course it all began with Adam’s first sin.
Sin begins as a desire of the flesh. If pursued, that desire is birth into a real sin in our life. That sin grows and brings forth death and suffering. God is never the source of temptation or sin. When we suffer, it is important for us to understand that God is not the source of that suffering; he is our rescue from it. A basic principle of Christian life is that we are never to blame God for any hardship which befalls us.
So building on what we’ve learned, we find: suffering is a blessing because it reminds us that all bad things are temporary and originate in sin–which will be eternally removed at a later date. Suffering is also a blessing because it illuminates the fact that all good things come from God. When we endure the hardship and come through victorious, we realize that every good and perfect gift comes from God. That never varies or changes, and it is never overshadowed by the troubles of this life. God created us to have a relationship with Him and the unimaginably blessed for all eternity. Suffering reminds us of this fact.
One of the basic principles of living the Christian life is knowing how to respond to the suffering and how to endure it. Through that response and endurance, we are blessed. We are reminded of the heavenly life to come, and God is glorified because we are the living testimony that God is never the source of evil, only the answer to it.