At the end of James 1:12 there is an encouraging statement. After acknowledging that trials will come and there is blessing in persevering through them, James also reminds us that those who faithfully endure for Christ’s sake will “will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” Therefore, if we are going to successfully navigate the difficulties that are to come, we need to anticipate perseverance’s future rewards.
Now for some this might sound like a weird thing to say. After all – many of us thought growing up that we were supposed to do the right thing simply because it was the right thing and not because of any promise something in return. While I do believe that as Christians we should seek to honor God with our lives because we love Him and we want to do what He has asked of us, one of the things that I love about Scripture is that throughout it, God acknowledges that He has rewards prepared for His children that live according to His ways. As we see in I Corinthians 9:24-27 when Paul writes:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Just like the athletes we recently watched in the Summer Olympics, Paul’s audience would have been familiar with Olympic athletes. They may have looked a lot differently, and the sports may have changed, but the Corinth church knew what it was like to train and prepare for an athletic contest where the “best of the best” would be crowned. Paul tells them in essence – “You see those individuals who push themselves – who practice just so that they can get a wreath around their heads? You should be noted just as much for your perseverance – because the prize that you run for isn’t temporal glory, but an eternal reward and the glory of our gracious God and King.”
We need to realize that in persevering through trials there is something greater at stake than simply our own security. God wants the lives of His children to count for something more than simply “getting by.” As we remain steadfast – as we pursue Him regardless of what our journey holds – He has promised ahead of time that it will be worth it.
We may not reap the rewards on this Earth – although sometimes He graciously allows us to do so. But we will in Heaven. As we bring Him glory – as our lives give Him honor and praise – we can trust that the trials we go through will not be wasted. They will be used for eternal significance.
In conclusion, Colossians 3:23-24 offers us an important reminder about our motivation for enduring through trials and persevering towards the end. It states:
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
As we run the race that is set before us, acknowledging that trials will come, appreciating the blessings of remaining steadfast, and anticipating the future rewards of endurance, we would do well to recognize that our motivation for doing so must be Christ. It is tempting to let a thousand other things be our motivation – our parents, our future expectations, our peers, or a myriad of others, but we need to make sure that we are living for no one else save Christ.
We don’t run the race well so that we can accumulate accolades from individuals – we run it to hear “Well done my good and faithful servant” from the One who sacrificed the glories of Heaven and His very life so that we may have eternal life. As such, regardless of what the future holds, may we commit to remaining steadfast – – not for simply the pride of doing so – but for the sake of Christ – that His glory and renown may be evident in our lives.