What is the purpose of trials?

“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.” James 1:12

James, the half-brother of Jesus, is writing to Jewish believers who “are scattered abroad” by persecution (1:1). He wants to encourage them to patiently endure “various trials” as a means of developing spiritual maturity (1:2-4). James informs his readers that a man is “blessed” (makarios) or fortunate when he “endures temptations.” The word “endures” (hypomenō) literally means “remaining under or bearing up under the load” of difficulties.  The word “temptation” (peirasmos) is the same word translated “trials” in verse 2. When Christians are facing trials they can also be enticed to sin (tempted) perhaps to escape the pressure or pain they feel when facing a difficulty.

Believers who successfully endure a trial without yielding to the temptation to sin out of “love” (agapaō) for the Lord, will be “approved” (dokimos) by Christ both now and at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1:12; cf. 2:12-13; 5:7-9). This word for “approved” denotes passing the necessary test and thus being approved or pleasing to the one doing the testing. All believers will stand before Christ at His Judgment Seat after the rapture of the Church to give an account of themselves before the Lord. Those who lived for Christ and endured trials and temptation to the end of their lives on earth will be approved by Jesus and “receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (1:12).

The word for “crown” (stephanos) refers to a circular garland awarded to the winner of an ancient athletic game like the Greek Olympics. Believers who faithfully endure trials out of love for the Lord will receive something much greater than a temporary reward. This “crown of life” refers to a greater capacity to enjoy life with Jesus both now and in the world to come forever.

When I ran track in high school, I trained hard because I wanted to win a medal in my race. Even though I had failed to win a medal in previous races, I still prepared for the next race thinking I could win. Keeping the thought of winning a medal in the front of my mind as I trained and eventually competed in the race, motivated me to do my very best and not give up.

The same is true in our Christian lives. To earn the crown of life from Jesus, we must faithfully endure trials and temptations for Him to the end of our Christian lives. To do this, it is important to train our minds to imagine Jesus rewarding us at the Judgment Seat of Christ, saying to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21). Like an athlete who visualizes himself winning a race, visualizing ourselves remaining faithful to Christ and receiving this reward from Him will actually create new neurologial pathways in our brain. And our brains respond the same way to mental rehearsing of a task and actually performing the task.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, by Your grace I commit to following You and focusing on the surpassing joy of being approved by You at the Judgment Seat where I can receive the crown of life which enables me to enjoy eternal life with You even more. Please help me to mentally visualize remaining faithful to You now and receiving the crown of life from You in the future. Oh how I long to hear You say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Thank You Lord Jesus for hearing my prayer. In Your name. Amen.