“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.” James 1:12
Near the end of the film Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella (portrayed by Kevin Costner) yields to a moment of frustration. After mowing down his corn, enduring ridicule from his neighbors and almost losing his farm in order to build a field he did not understand, Ray exclaimed, “What’s in it for me?!” Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the baseball players of the past who came to play on Ray’s field, responded, “Is that why you did this? For you?”
Ray’s frustration is one that Christians may experience as they endure the trials of this life. We believe the Bible when it says, “The testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:3). We know that God is growing us through trials and proving our faith. But, after enduring many trials in service for the Lord, it is all too easy for us to fall into a selfish mindset that thinks, “What’s in it for me?” Like Ray Kinsella, we don’t understand when we see no immediate return for our work; we feel we deserve some favor for our steadfastness.
Is that why we do this? Do we persevere in trials for ourselves? Or do we do it out of love for God, in Whom we have placed our faith and hope?
God promises something to those who remain steadfast in trials out of love for Him. James tells us that when we have passed the test we will receive the crown of life. The “crown” speaks of a reward. The reward itself is “life.” We will receive the crown which is life. In other words, it is not an actual crown that we will receive; rather, it is life itself that we will receive as our crown and reward. This “life” is eternal life – the life of joy and glory with Christ forever and ever.
When Ray protested, “What’s in it for me?”, he was looking for an immediate payoff by going with the players as they disappeared into the outfield corn. But he had no idea that a far better reward awaited him. Shoeless Joe said, “I think you should stay, Ray.” Unbeknownst to Ray, he was about to have a catch with his long-departed dad on the field he had built.
There is something in it for us when we endure trials with perseverance. But let us not protest when there is no immediate payoff. God has a future blessing for us that is far better than anything now. Let us patiently endure and stand firm in testing, for, unlike Ray, we do know what awaits us: One day Jesus will crown us with glorious, eternal life.