From The Cross to Crowns
Read James 1:12 (ESV)
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.
How does today’s verse motivate you to endure and remain faithful to Christ despite hardships?
Do you remember the hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross”? My favorite line is: “I will cling to the old rugged cross and exchange it someday for a crown.” It reminds me of today’s verse from James. Those of us who love God are promised a “crown of life” if we remain faithful to Him, even in the face of trials.
The cross is a symbol of the ultimate trial—painful, tortuous, humiliating and agonizing death. In the hymn, written in 1913 by George Bennard, he described the cross as “the emblem of suffering and shame” where Jesus “for a world of lost sinners was slain.” Jesus, even in the face of such torture, remained steadfast for lost sinners like you and me. And He did it all to “pardon and sanctify” us.
Bennard’s response to Jesus' sacrifice on the cross is to “cling'' to it. When I think about “clinging,” I think about how my kids used to hang onto me for dear life when they were scared. They held on tight and there was no way they were letting go.
In the same way, we should cling to Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross—our salvation. If we are scared because of the suffering we face, we should cling even tighter! He paid the price for our sins, He pardoned and forgave us, He redeemed us, He made us holy and sanctified us. It is His work, not ours that results in our salvation and if we truly grasp that, we will hang on to Him for dear life and we won’t let go.
In today’s verse James says that those “who remain steadfast under trial” will receive the “crown of life.” In Revelation 2:10, John said something similar: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
This crown is not like the crown of royalty, but like the wreath of leaves or garland that an athlete would have been awarded for a victory. It is a prize. A reward. But what did we do to deserve the award of eternal life? We know that we couldn’t earn our own salvation but instead we trust what Jesus did for us on the cross. As a result, we cling to Him. We love Him. Because believers have the full assurance of their salvation in Jesus Christ, they are willing to suffer trial and tribulation. True believers in Jesus Christ hang on steadfastly and with perseverance no matter what they are enduring now because they know the reward is eternal and guaranteed. They know He is worth it.
Friends, the cross is an “emblem of suffering and shame.” Those of us who place saving faith in Christ are not immune to this suffering. Just as Jesus was mocked, we may be mocked as well. Just as Jesus was unjustly tortured, so we may be as well. Just as Jesus was abandoned and denied by His closest friends, our friends may desert us too. We may even suffer until death just as Jesus suffered until death. But after the suffering? After death? We exchange the cross of suffering and shame for a crown of everlasting life.
The final verse of the Old Rugged Cross says: “To that old rugged cross I will ever be true, its shame and reproach gladly bear; then he’ll call me some day to my home far away, where his glory forever I’ll share.” From a shameful, temporary cross to a glorious, everlasting crown. That is the promise for those who love Him.
Jesus, I cling to You. You are my only hope for salvation and life. Because of what You did for me on the cross, I will hang onto You no matter what trials I have to endure because I trust You, Lord. What You promise is true. I am ready to exchange the cross for a crown. Amen.