Count It All Joy: Support for Suffering Saints part 6


Hebrews 10:32-34 gives the remarkable account of a group of Christians embracing trials with joy.

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. (Hebrews 10:32-34)

These Christians faced a dilemma. Some of their brethren had been imprisoned and were in desperate need of food and encouragement. But to publicly align oneself with convicted Christians in such a hostile environment was dangerous. What would they do? They acted in love and went to the aid of the prisoners. This resulted in trial; their property was plundered. But look how they responded. They joyfully accepted the plundering of their property. In the words of James, they counted it all joy. How did they manage to do such a thing? They knew that they themselves had a better possession and an abiding one. In other words, their future hope for a surpassingly superior possession, enabled their present risk-taking love and joy in suffering.

James rounds off his teaching on trials with the same point. His aim is to help us view our trials from an eternal perspective. The underlying assumption is that unless we are heavenly minded, we will be of no earthly good. Consider James’ words.

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

The crown of life is the promised prize. In the Greco-Roman world, the crown in view is probably that of ‘the laurel wreath given to the victors in athletic contests.’[1] It signifies the promised reward of eternal life given to those who remain steadfast under trial.

This verse highlights the preciousness of steadfast faith. The person who holds steadfastly to the Lord in faith to the end is the one who will receive the crown of life. Nobody will receive the crown of life without steadfast faith. Oh the preciousness of steadfast faith! And how do we get it? The faith-purifying furnace of trials.

This verse also brings together the themes of steadfast faith and whole-hearted devotion to God. James describes the one who will receive the crown of life in two different ways.

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.

There is one person in view here. The one who remains steadfast under trial is the one who loves God. The root of steadfast faith is whole-hearted devotion to God. Double-mindedness is therefore the root that must be dug out.

Finally, as we have already mentioned, this verse helps us get perspective in our trials. This life isn’t all there is. In fact this life is not even life in its ultimate sense. The crown of life is still to come. When we receive that crown, then we will really have life.

Trials can strip you bare; but the loss is temporary, and it doesn't even begin to compare to the gain of life eternal.[2] Trials don’t have to be a threat to life. James would have us view them as a racetrack leading to life. The track is indeed hard, filled with much grief and pain. But with James’ help, we can run with joy in the midst of the sorrow. He reminds us that all tracks have an end, and the end of this track is life. Fix your eyes on the crown. When you have stood the test, you will receive the crown of life.[3]

[1] Moo, D. J. The letter of James, 70

[2] Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

[3] Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Support for Suffering Saints
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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