Journeying through James, 1:12

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 1:12 (NIV)

Usually when people think of “perseverance” (v. 12) synonyms like persistence, resolve, grit, determination help amplify the meaning. Merriam-Webster defines perseverance as: “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition,” * but I think we lose the meaning of this verse if we aren’t able understand how trials magnify the power and love of Christ.
Remember that Daniel was thrown into a lions’ den. The lions were very real, and hungry, but Daniel’s testimony to King Darius was, “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty” (Daniel 6:22, NIV).

The Greek word for “perseverance” * means something very different than the English word. It comes from a word that means ‘to remain’ or ‘abide’. Then, to this word ‘remain/abide’ is added a preposition which means ‘under’ even ‘under the control of’ in some cases. So, to use Daniel as an example of God’s grace, Daniel really wasn’t under the control of the lions. Rather, the lions were under God’s control and that was good news for Daniel and a powerful testimony to the king, Darius, and his kingdom. And if we think of Daniel getting a “crown of life” (v. 12), it’s hard to see how Daniel could take any credit for it at all.

There are times in life when you may feel like a trial has got control of you, but the Holy Spirit wants you to see that God’s control is greater. Daniel spent the whole night in the lions’ den. Imagine how he felt when the lions looked at him. Was he afraid to move? I wonder if he went to sleep at all that night. If he did, he must woke up amazed at the depth of peace God provided. God rescued him from the lions, and if that weren’t enough, God also overcame his fear. Whether he slept or whether he prayed through the night, Daniel’s faith in God was surely strengthened as a result of the trial he endured. This is really good news for you because God has no intention of dumping you in the midst of any trial and leaving you to fend for yourself. I think we need the Holy Spirit to remind us always of this. May we wait for God’s promised deliverance, and not give up, though the night be long, we will have joy in the morning.

68.17 ὑπομένω: to continue in an activity or state despite resistance and opposition—‘to continue, to remain, to endure.’ μακάριος ἀνὴρ ὃς ὑπομένει πειρασμόν ‘happy is the man who experiences temptation and still continues (to trust)’ Jas 1:12. For another interpretation of ὑπομένω in Jas 1:12, see 39.20 below.1

39.20 ὑπομένω: to resist by holding one’s ground—‘to resist, to hold one’s ground, to not be moved.’ μακάριος ἀνὴρ ὃς ὑπομένει πειρασμόν ‘happy is the man who holds his ground when he is tempted’ Jas 1:12.2

1. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 655). New York: United Bible Societies.

2. ibid. (p. 494).