This Advent season, we thank God for becoming “God with us.” Think of Simeon, the old man to whom the Holy Spirit revealed the infant Jesus as the promised Messiah. Apparently many years earlier, the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not see death until he first saw God’s Anointed One.
What trials and temptations did Simeon endure in the meantime? All we know is that he lived at a painful time in Jewish history. But he loved God, patiently waited upon Him through life’s tribulations, and experienced God’s faithfulness. All of Simeon’s troubles seemed to fade away when God rewarded his faithful perseverance with the privilege of holding the King of Kings in his own arms.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial,” James tells us, “for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).
Like Simeon, we all face trials and temptations. Often, these hardships tempt us to demand the things of God in our own way and time. It is human nature to want things now. But if we do not trust Him, we can do and say reckless things that we will later regret.
Blessed is the person who perseveres in spite of these trials and temptations. Blessed is the person who, like Simeon, makes God’s promise the rule of his life.
To be blessed is not only to be happy, but to enjoy a taste of eternal life now, even as Simeon did. This blessed person is not an ideal person, but a person of flesh and blood. James is talking about you and me.
If we hold out for the promises of God, we shall have them. Perseverance proves that we have real faith. “Hope deferred,” we are told, “makes the heart sick; but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” “Those who wait upon the Lord will never be ashamed.”
Whatever trial or temptation we face, our chief test is to trust God through it all. To trust God permits us to become trusted by God, to possess His matchless gifts in this life and the next. When we have passed the test—we receive the “crown of life.”
What is this “crown of life”? It is eternal living, fullness and fulfillment, order and peace, plentitude and joy. It is to know something of the Garden of Eden in a fallen world of disappointment and death.
It is made possible only by the God who came to live among us and die among us that we might have life. We can love such a God as this, who saves and rewards us through His grace.
Perseverance under trial or temptation brings increased wisdom that comes only with time. It begins with our crying out to God in our distress. Perseverance begins by admitting our weakness, admitting our trials are impossible without dependence upon Him. It is a broken and contrite spirit that brings God’s work in us.
This Christmas season, millions of people know nothing of the One who persevered on their behalf, experiencing the cross and the shame, but also experiencing resurrection and victory that they might know it as well. Pray and work that they may know Him and experience His faithful presence and power even as Simeon did long ago.