Cross and Crown

Life is filled with trials, tests and crosses to bear. But, while difficult, these don’t have to be the end of us.

Trials, tests and crosses may indeed stretch us, but they don’t need to break us. In fact, the testing of our faith muscles in life can be like the testing of our physical muscles at the gym. Greater strength and endurance will be the result.

That’s why James encourages us to adopt a challenge mindset.

“Consider it pure joy,” he says, when we are tested. And how does one do that? The way to accomplish this is to look past the pain we are currently experiencing to the great end result we will be achieving through the stretching and strengthening of our faith.

No, it’s not fun now. We admit that. And we empathize with the pain you’re going through. But that end result is so beautiful.

The result in this life is that we grow up and become mature. And through our trials, our trust in God and his promises is perfected. We are made more complete people. We become more fully-developed followers of Jesus Christ.

But the best result of all? That’s the one that comes after this life is over. Once we’ve stood the test, once we’ve born the cross, we’ll receive the crown. Eternal life — that beautiful gift of Jesus — will be ours.

Endure and procure. Bear the cross with joy. And you’ll receive the crown with even greater joy.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything… Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:2-4, 12, NIV).

Lord, help me to adopt a challenge mindset toward the trials, tests and crosses in my life. I want to be able to see past the pain to the awesome results that will follow. Help me find joy in knowing that because of you, Jesus, my crosses will all one day be exchanged for a crown.

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, November 17, is Ezekiel 32:1 – 33:20, James 1:1-27 and Psalm 127:1-5.

Header image based on "Cross and Crown" by RichardBH, CC By 2.0

Rock Solid

I don’t know about you, but I wish I could stop being so shaky. I don’t always make good decisions. I sometimes choose my next steps based on fear and avoidance of pain, rather than faith and fulfillment of my life’s purpose. And when it comes to my faith, I find it far more convenient to rely on myself than depend on Jesus. It’s just easier that way. Or so my sinful mind tells me. I wish I could be rock solid. I want to feel confident in my mind, my heart and my actions. I want to be a man of faith and courage. I want to be fully dependent on my all-powerful and always-loving God for every good thing. And Jesus shows me the way to grow and mature into that man. It starts with listening to his word. Reading and meditating on my Bible. Attending church. Participating in a growth group. Subscribing to my church’s podcast. But it certainly doesn’t end there. Did you realize that there is only one difference between the wise and foolish builders in Jesus’ parable at the conclusion of his Sermon on the Mount? Both builders listened to the words of Jesus, but only the wise builder actually put Jesus’ words into practice. Maturity as a man or woman of God comes when we listen to Jesus’ words and then actually live the way he instructs us to. But to build our house on the rock, we must begin by building our house on the Rock. We will build, as Paul writes to the Corinthians, when we eat and drink from the spiritual rock that accompanies us, and that Rock is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4, NIV). When we build our faith on this Rock, we discover that there is massive good news for us. Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus has given us a new identity, a new destiny, a new purpose, a new community, and new possibilities. And therein lies the motivation to change our lives. In this good news is the “Why?” for listening to Jesus, and for putting his words into practice in our lives, so that we too become rock solid. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24, NIV). Lord Jesus, my Savior, thank you for living and dying for me to give me so many rich spiritual blessings. Help me by your Spirit’s power to become rock solid, by depending fully on you, listening to your words, and putting them into practice in my life. Our reading for Friday, January 9, is Genesis 19:1 – 20:18, Matthew 7:24 – 8:22 and Psalm 7:1-9.

Header image based on "The Rock Harbor Light House" by Ross, CC by 2.0