Message by Robert J. Morgan, Senior Pastor
The Donelson Fellowship
3210 McGavock Pike
Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. -- James 1:12
If you want proof that fame and
fortune do not lead to happiness and satisfaction, all you have to do is look
at the cover of almost any magazine in
Well, today I’d like to talk about being happy in life.
There was once a great ruler in
Everyone wants to be happy; but have you ever thought about those words “happy” and “happiness”?
They come from the old Middle English word “hap” which means “luck.” We get our English word “happening” from it, and “haphazard” and “happenstance” and “mishap.” If someone is “hapless,” it means that he is unlucky. And from the world’s perspective, happiness depends on our happenings, on what happens to us, on how lucky or unlucky we are in this world.
But the Bible consistently uses a different word and a better word. The Bible writers didn’t talk very much about happiness. They used the word “blessed,” which is the English translation of a Greek word that is found exactly 50 times in the New Testament—makarios. The simplest definition of makarios or blessed is this—it is God’s kind of happiness. It is divine happiness. It is the kind of happiness that isn’t based on happenings but on something deeper, something better. It is a contented, long-lasting, deep-seated, joyful contentment in life. So when you see the phrase “blessed is…” or “blessed are…,” that is a special phrase in the Bible that describes a truly happy life, and we call those statements beatitudes.
So there are 80 beatitudes in the Bible, and I’ve included this on the list of Bible studies and subjects that I’d like to preach about one day. Now, here’s an interesting thing. In the New Testament, most of the beatitudes are found in the first and last books—the Gospel of Matthew and the book of Revelation. Revelation has seven beatitudes that I’d like to show you tonight.
In the letters of the apostle Paul, we only find a very few references to the word “blessed,” and our friend James used it only twice. Today, in our study through James, we’re coming to the beatitude found here in James 1:12: Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
Blessed Are Those Who Persevere Under Trial
The first part of the sentence
gives us the reality of the matter.
In this life we’ll have trials and testings, and we must learn
to persevere. The verse says:
Blessed are those who persevere under trial. The world says, “Happy are those
who find fame and fortune, who avoid illness and disease, and who take trips
The word persevere is another of those great New Testament words. Sometimes I’m afraid that I focus too much in my sermons on the meaning of the original Greek or Hebrew terms, or on the etymology and background of the various words used in the Bible. But every word in the Scriptures is pure and wonderful—every word is a gem or a jewel—and if we don’t really understand the words, we can’t understand the sentences or the paragraphs or the chapters. So let me take a moment to show you some of the times this word appears in the New Testament, because it will help you understand the nature of what it means.
Look at Luke 2:43: After
the feast was over, while His parents were returning home, the boy Jesus
stayed behind in
Now look at Matthew 10:22: All men will hate you because of Me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. The words “standing firm” are the same in the Greek as the word “persevere.”
Now look at Hebrews 10:32: Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. See the words “stood your ground”? This is the same Greek word.
Now look at Hebrews 12:2: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame…. What word here do you think is the same as “persevere”? It’s the word “endure.”
So the idea is to have staying power, to endure, to stand firm, to bear up, to keep at it. And that’s really one of the great secrets in life, isn’t it? In Romans 5, the apostle Paul indicates that this quality is at the very core of a person’s character. The quality of tenacity and perseverance is the foundation for the success of all our other attitudes and actions.
For example, I want to read you
something. As I researched for
this message, I came across an article in a
The power to persevere is one of the most important, and yet hardest, things to teach kids. If we teach them to persevere, then we give them their goals. If we don’t teach them how to apply themselves, then all the love and tutoring in the world will never result in their reaching their potential.
Dr. Bryant goes on to say:
Success requires ability, but ability is not enough. Many bright kids who sail through the early grades find themselves suddenly overwhelmed in fifth or sixth grade when the work requires much more effort. If a 10-year-old student has never learned to apply herself, she may struggle and even feel like a failure, because suddenly the answers don't come so easily. Often, she just needs help learning what most kids have to learn by second grade: I have to work hard and practice to learn the lesson.
Learning how to persevere is more than learning how to study, but studying does provide us with daily opportunities to develop this in our school-age kids…
Imagine two 6-year-olds with the same level of intelligence and the same fine motor skills. Both are trying to learn to tie their shoes. One fumbles with the laces for five to 10 seconds and says, "Oh forget it. It's no use." The other, goes off and spends five full minutes carefully trying to get the laces to go the right way. Even if this second child meets with failure, he has demonstrated that he is developing a life skill that will give his potential every chance to grow.
Whatever the task, building
a tower, gluing a model airplane, reading a social studies chapter or doing a
page of math problems, first let your child know that you are pleased to see
them trying, and with your presence help them to stretch themselves just a
few more minutes. (“Children
Learn When They Persevere” by Dr. Rachel Bryant, at http://www.stargazettenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080102/MOMS02/301020002/-1/ARCHIVES%20date=20070417,
Well, according to this verse in James 1, the Lord feels that way about His children, too. He wants us to keep on going, to keep trying, to keep a positive attitude, and to stick to our guns in the matter of Christian living. There isn’t much that is ever accomplished apart from perseverance.
Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “Saints are sinners who keep on going.”
William Barclay wrote in one of his books about the importance of discipline and of perseverance in our lives, and he used the British author, Samuel Coleridge, as a negative example. Barclay wrote:
Nothing was ever achieved without discipline; and many an athlete and
many a man has been ruined because he abandoned discipline and let himself
grow slack. Coleridge is the
supreme tragedy of undiscipline.
Never did so great a mind produce so little. He left
What James is saying is that life is hard, but we’ve got to trust the Lord and keep on going. We can’t give up. Temptations come, but we’ve got to keep resisting. Disappointments come, but we’ve got to keep on believing. Failures appear, but we’ve got to keep on trying. Hardships come, but we’ve got to keep on moving forward.
This is what saved the free
world during World War II. It was
I have, myself, full
confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the
best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves
once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and
to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone.
At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of
His Majesty's Government—every man of them. That is the will of
Parliament and the nation. The
It was Churchill’s message of “Never Give In” that kept the world afloat.
This is really what evangelized
the world. If you want to know
what perseverance is all about, you read the biographies of the pioneer
missionaries of the modern era—William Carey, Robert Moffat, Robert
Morrison, Adoniram Judson, James Calvert, John Paton of
I don’t know where or how I first came to understand the importance of persevering, but I suppose it was from my parents. They were hard-working. They were optimistic. They kept on going. They faced difficulties without giving up. They bore the burden of the work and the heat of the day. And I learned at an early age by watching them that we just have to keep on going, and that if we keep working in season and out of season, God will send the harvest.
So James is telling his readers here—some of whom are facing all kinds of tests and challenges—that we are blessed when we persevere under trial. And so with the authority of God’s Word, I want to say to you: If you’re facing some hardships and difficulties and trials—keep on going. Stay optimistic. Don’t collapse in defeat or self-pity. Blessed are those who persevere under trial…
They Will Receive the Crown of Life
But the verse doesn’t stop there. It goes on to say: Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life….
Commentators are divided about what this means. There are two possibilities. It’s possible that James is using the symbol of a crown here as a picture of heaven and of eternal life. He is saying, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. We have heaven ahead of us, we have eternal life, we have New Jerusalem.”
Other commentators believe that the “crown of life” is a special reward that God will give those who persevere through adversity in this life. You know, the New Testament speaks of various crowns that will be awarded in heaven. There’s the crown of life, the crown of glory, and the crown of righteousness.
There’s an old song that swept over the country 100 years ago and everyone was singing it, especially in the churches and evangelistic rallies. It’s not used much anymore, but the words are still true:
When all my labors and trials are o’er,
And I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore,
Will through the ages be glory for me.
To Those Who Love Him
But there’s one part of this verse remaining—the reason we persevere. What is the driving force behind it all? It’s our love for the Lord Jesus Christ. It isn’t just that we’re stubborn people, or that we’re superhuman, or that we’re strong-willed. It’s that we’re filled with a love for Him that bears us along, sustains our spirits, and triggers our songs.
At the beginning of the 17th
century, there was a young Englishman named Jonathan Burr who trusted Christ
as his Savior in childhood, fell in love with his Bible, and became a pastor
But shortly after arriving in the colonies, Jonathan Burr contracted smallpox, and he almost died. However, he did not die, and in the aftermath of his recovery, he wrote out a covenant with the Lord. I’d like to read it to you as we close this message:
I, Jonathan Burr, being brought in the arms of Almighty God over the vast ocean, with my family and friends, and graciously provided for in a wilderness; and being sensible of my own unworthiness and self-seeking; yet of infinite mercy, being called to the tremendous work of feeding souls; and being of late with my family, delivered out of a great affliction of the small-pox; and found the fruit of that affliction, God tempering, ordering, and mitigating of evil thereof; so that I have been graciously and speedily delivered; I do promise and vow to Him, who has done these things for me:
If we love the Lord Jesus above all else, He will give us day by day the persevering grace we need and crown of life we seek; and we can say:
O that will be glory for me, glory for me!
When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me!
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