Let’s continue our look at how to face trials. In this section, James talks about how everyone benefits from their difficulties and how God rewards those who are victorious.
Jam. 1:9-12 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: (10) But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. (11) For 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. (12) Blessed 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.
James began this letter by encouraging his readers to “count it all joy.” He picks up that theme again here by encouraging “the brother of low degree” to rejoice. Who is this brother of low degree? He’s a poor Christian, in contrast to the rich believers James addressed in the next verse. What does this brother in humble circumstances have to rejoice about? He is to rejoice because, “he is exalted,” But James doesn’t explain how he is exalted.
Searching for the Greek word doesn’t offer much help. Of the six times the Greek word is used, this is the only place it is translated exalted, and the only place it refers to a person. So that leaves us to search for other Scriptures about the believer’s exaltation.
The most obvious place to start looking is in the book of James itself. Here is a passage that sheds some light on what James had in mind:
Jam. 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
God has given the poor brother the opportunity to learn how to lean hard on Him. That lowly brother has been made a child of the King, and an heir of God’s kingdom. So God has indeed exalted the poor brother:
1Sa. 2:8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he hath set the world upon them.
This is greater, more valuable than anything else in the world:
Jer. 9:23-24 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: (24) But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.
The rich brother also has reason to rejoice. He can rejoice in being “made low.” Riches are deceptive and unreliable:
1Ti 6:17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
These folks were blessed by learning first hand how fleeting prosperity can be. When you’re rich, it’s easy to trust in your riches instead of trusting in God. Wealth can make you feel immortal, and the removal of it reminds the rich of their mortality.
Measured materially, both types of believers were losers. Measures spiritually, both could be winners. Thank God that success in God’s kingdom isn’t measured by the balance of your checkbook.
Blessed is the Man
Another benefit of going through testing is the reward that God gives to those who hold up under trials. They are blessed. God gives them, “the crown of life.” This crown is not a king’s crown, but the crown of a winning athlete (Gr. stephanos).
1Co. 9:25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
2Ti. 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Rev. 2:10 Fear 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.
The Lord has promised this crown to, “them that love him.” Notice the common themes that run through the verses above: self-discipline, love, and enduring suffering. We show our love when we obey God and trust Him during the hard times.
So, if God is Who He says He is, and He is doing what He said He would do, every believer has reason to rejoice. This is true even when we’re going through hard times.
How’s it Going?
- Do you believe God is working through your circumstances to bless you?
- Are you rejoicing in your circumstances?
- Are you focused on the price or the prize?
Read James 1:13-16 and try to answer the following questions:
- Does God tempt saints?
- What is the source of temptation?
- What is the result of giving in to temptation?