Like most children their age, our oldest boys (now 13 and 11) have dabbled in a variety of competitive, with swimming and chess getting the most of their attention. One of the things I initially found a little unsettling about each of these sports is that they tend to give ribbons and trophies for athletes who finish as high as 20th place, depending on the number of competitors. I grew up playing competitive tennis, and the trophies stopped at 5th place no matter how many people were competing, so the reward culture of these sports initially didn't sit well with me. I guess you could say that I lean a little in the direction of those that are worried about the "wussification" of our society.
Over time, I began to see just how important these rewards were to my kids when it came to having to endure stiff competition. "If I can beat this guy, I'll win enough money to cover my entry fee and get a trophy!" The potential for a promised reward served as an excellent motivator for my kids to perform at a higher and higher level.
I confess that when I read a passage about the rewards of a Christian, I receive them only with great hesitation and even a little guilt. Perhaps I fear succumbing to the prosperity gospel. Maybe I want to avoid coming across as one who brings a "what's in it for me" attitude to the Christian faith. Regardless of the reasons, to approach my faith as if there are no rewards to be had for a life well lived is to live disobediently, for the Bible does teach that there is "something in it for me."
Such reward passages are usually set within the context of an exhortation to persecuted believers, and James 1:12 is no exception.
A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
What is it that I am to look to when life's circumstances threaten my faithfulness to the gospel? I am to look beyond the pains of this life to the pleasures of eternal life.
What future rewards has God promised you? Claim those in your trials, and you'll endure in such a way that reveals where your joy truly lies.