Run to Win
By Arlen L. Chitwood
When He is Approved
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
The epistle of James — as all epistles in the New Testament — centers its teaching on different facets of the salvation of the soul (1:21; 5:19, 20), which is with a view to an inheritance in Christ’s coming kingdom (2:5). This epistle opens by pointing to the fact that the various trials, testing in one’s life (the trying of one’s faith) result in “patience [patient endurance]”; and a Christian is to patiently endure under these trials and testing, allowing the Lord to progressively lead him from immaturity to maturity in the faith. He is to let “patience have her perfect work [patient endurance have her end- time work]” in order that he might be “perfect and entire, wanting nothing [‘mature and complete, lacking nothing’]” (James 1:2-4).
Christians are not brought from immaturity to maturity in the faith overnight. Maturity in the faith is a lifelong process. When God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, Abraham had numerous things to learn about how the Lord works patient endurance and
brings about maturity in one’s life. Abraham failed many times (e.g., not leaving his kindred behind in Ur, going down to Egypt for help, seeking to help God fulfill His promise concerning a son, etc. [Genesis 12:1, 10; 16:1ff]); but God continued to work in Abraham’s life until he had been brought to the place of unquestioned obedience, to the place where there was complete reliance upon the Lord.
It was not until some sixty years beyond the time Abraham had left Ur that he is seen being brought into a state where he was ready to undergo the supreme trial, the supreme test, in his life. God, at this time, instructed Abraham to offer His son “for a burnt offering,” at a particular place (Genesis 22:1ff); and Abraham simply set about to do exactly what God had told him to do. There was no remonstrance, no delay, and no questions were asked; instead, there was perfect obedience and complete reliance upon the Lord to bring matters to pass.
Abraham had been brought into this mature state in the true sense of James 1:2-4. He had learned patient endurance through his faith being tested. He had patiently endured under various trials and testing over a period of about six decades (though failure had occurred at times); and the Lord had, through this process, brought him into that mature state where he was “complete, lacking nothing.” And Christians today are to be brought into a mature state through this same process (though failure, as it did with Abraham, may occur at times). Abraham’s faith (a belief in that which God had said) was tested and a Christian’s faith (a belief in that which God has said) is to be tested.
(Note that there is an inseparable connection between a person being led from immaturity to maturity and that person receiving the Word of God into his saved human spirit. There can be no growth from immaturity to maturity apart from a reception of the Word, for faith is the key to the whole matter; and “faith comes by hearing and hearing by
the Word of God” [Romans 10:17].
In James, Christians are to “receive with meekness the engrafted [implanted] Word” [1:21]. They are to study the Word, meditate upon the Word, allow the Word to flow into their saved human spirits. The indwelling Holy Spirit then takes this Word and leads Christians “into all truth” [John 16:13-15]. It is this “implanted word” which lies at the heart of all activity surrounding the testing of one’s faith, which brings about patient
The continued reception of the Word can only be an integral part of the entire process. There can be no testing of one’s faith apart from “the implanted Word,” and there can be no patient endurance and progressive growth toward maturity in the faith apart from such testing.)
In James 1:3, the trials and testing of one’s faith bring about patient endurance. Then, in verse four, as in verse twelve, the individual is to continue to patiently endure under continued trials and testing that the Lord brings to pass in his life. A continued refining process after this fashion, progressively working maturity, is for a revealed purpose.
According to verse twelve, the man who patiently endures temptation in the manner set forth in these verses will be “blessed” of the Lord, he will be “tried [approved]” by the Lord, and he will then “receive the crown of life” from the Lord.
Thus, the entire matter is with a view to issues of the judgment seat of Christ and the Messianic Era to follow. “Approval” or “disapproval” in connection with blessings and crowns will occur at the judgment seat; and the reason for approval, blessings, and crowns will be realized in the era beyond the present, during the Messianic Era.
In this respect, the revealed purpose for the present patient endurance of Christians, leading to maturity, is in order that they might one day realize the purpose for their calling. This maturing process, for those allowing it to occur in their lives, will result one day in their being approved for positions as co-heirs with Christ in the kingdom.
(The word translated “tried” in verse twelve is from dokimos in the Greek text, meaning “approved [through testing].” This same word, with the prefix “a,” is in 1 Corinthians 9:27 [adokimos]. The letter “a” negates the word, making it mean exactly the opposite. The context of 1 Corinthians 9:27 has to do with running the present race of the faith, with a crown in view [vv. 24-26], which is the identical thought in James 1:12. Paul sought to always keep his body under subjection (in reality, a patient endurance under trials and testing), lest after instructing others concerning this very thing, he himself could be “disapproved [‘a castaway in’ the KJV (or, ‘be rejected’)].”
Dokimos in its verb form [dokimazo], with the preposition apo prefixed to the word [apodokimazo], appears in Hebrews 12:17, where Esau was rejected for inherited blessings associated with the birthright. The preposition apo means “from”; and, prefixed to dokimazo, the word, for all practical purposes, means the same as dokimos with an “a” prefixed, as in 1 Corinthians 9:27.)
In relation to the preceding, an object is in view — the birthright. Esau, although he was the firstborn, had sold his birthright; and, relative to the inheritance, he was now “rejected” (apodokimazo).
Esau was rejected immediately after his younger brother, Jacob, had received the blessing belonging to the firstborn. Prior to this time, Esau had made light of his birthright, considering it to be of little value (“Esau despised his birthright” [Genesis 25:34]. The Hebrew word translated “despised” means to hold in contempt, to make light of. The
Septuagint version of the Old Testament uses a word that means to consider of little value).
Esau did not come into a realization of the true value of the birthright until after Isaac had bestowed the blessing belonging to the firstborn upon Jacob. It was only then that Esau realized what he had forfeited and sought to retrieve the rights belonging to the firstborn.
Esau, at this time, “cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said to his father, ‘Bless me, even me also, O my father.’” But it was too late. The birthright had been forfeited, the blessing belonging to the firstborn had been bestowed upon another son, and no reversal of the forfeiture and blessing could occur. The birthright, with its attendant blessing, was now beyond Esau’s grasp forever.
Esau, after realizing that the birthright was no longer his and was beyond his grasp forever, referenced the forfeited rights of the firstborn after this manner:
Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me-me also, O my father!
(Genesis 27:38; cf. vv. 34-37)
And it is recorded that Esau then “lifted up his voice, and wept.” This is seen within another frame of reference in Matthew’s gospel where individuals are seen weeping and gnashing their teeth (Matthew 13:42; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). This is an Eastern expression showing deep grief; and the contexts of these passages clearly show that things relating to the rights of the firstborn, not eternal life, are in view.
The rejection experienced by Esau is the last of five major warnings in the book of Hebrews, and this rejection constitutes an Old Testament type of that rejection that Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians 9:27. The reference is to Christians who will have forfeited the rights of primogeniture, appearing in Christ’s presence at His judgment seat.
Many Christians are presently following the same path that Esau took (considering the birthright to be of little value), and such Christians will one day come to the end of the matter in exactly the same way as seen in Esau’s life. They, although presently in line to be blessed as the firstborn (every Christian is a firstborn child of God), will have forfeited this right; and they will be rejected for the blessing.
The rights of the firstborn must be retained or there can be no blessing belonging to the firstborn. The “spiritual blessings” associated with the heavenlies in Ephesians 1:3 cannot be appropriated by Christians who forfeit the rights of primogeniture, for these blessings are intimately connected with the inheritance belonging to the firstborn (1:10-18). These blessings are reserved for those who overcome the inhabitants of that heavenly land during the present age, who will be shown qualified to enter as sovereigns during the coming age.
Christ is presently in the process of “bringing many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10). He, through the things that He suffered, has become the “Captain [Originator, Founder]” of a salvation associated with sonship — the “so great a salvation” of Hebrews 2:3. In the passage of 1 Peter 1:9-11, suffering with respect to Christ’s sufferings is connected with both the salvation of the soul and the glory to be revealed (“sufferings of Christ” [v. 11] should literally be translated, “sufferings with respect to [or on behalf of] Christ”). The reference is not to Christ’s sufferings but to Christians entering into these sufferings.
In 1 Peter 4:12, 13, such sufferings are connected with the trials and testing in James chapter one. The trying of one’s faith (working patient endurance) and the sufferings with respect to Christ’s sufferings (suffering through trials and testing) cannot be separated one from the other. That which is in view has to do with patient endurance under trials and testing, and the end of the matter in both James and 1 Peter is the salvation of one’s soul. It is being approved (as in James 1:12) and being placed in the position of a son (as in Hebrews 2:10), realizing the rights of primogeniture during the coming age.
To exercise sovereignty during the coming age, one must possess a crown; and to possess a crown one must first be approved for the crown. Approval will occur at the judgment seat, and approval at this time will be based on works that endure the fire (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).
The “trying of one’s faith,” working patient endurance, is intimately connected with “works” in James. Comparing Genesis 22:1ff with James 2:21 (along with the text leading into the passage in James) reveals that a servant’s works emanate out of his patient endurance under trials and testing; and viewing James 2:14-26 as a whole, works are seen to emanate out of faith. It is faithfulness under trials and testing, resulting in works. Such works are those that God would have the one being tried and tested to carry out; and these are the type works that will endure the fire at the judgment seat.
The trial of “every man’s work” in fire at the judgment seat will be with a view to approval or disapproval — approval if found worthy, disapproval if not found worthy. This approval or disapproval will occur through testing, and the method of testing will be “by [in] fire”:
Each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by [in] fire; and the fire will test [test, with a view to approval] each one’s work, of what sort it is. (1 Corinthians 3:13)
Approval at the judgment seat will be for a prior revealed purpose. God’s purpose in working patient endurance in a Christian’s life through trials and testing (progressively effecting maturity) is the corresponding issuance of works in his life, the heart of that which this entire process leads into in the epistle of James. Approval follows Christians allowing the Lord to work patient endurance in their lives; and approval will, in turn, be followed by sovereignty during the coming age (Revelation 3:21).
1) To Receive a Kingdom, and to Return
During His earthly ministry, Christ delivered two companion parables to His disciples to graphically illustrate various aspects of the matter at hand — the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), and the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-27). The “man” or “nobleman” in the two parables called “his own servants,” delivered unto them “his goods,” commanded them to “occupy till I come,” and then departed “into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.”
The “man” or “nobleman” is Christ, the “servants” are Christians, “his goods” have to do with His business, and the “far country” is heaven. Christ has departed into heaven to receive a kingdom from His Father, with a view to returning for His servants (to reckon with them) following the reception of this kingdom (cf. Daniel 7:9-14; Revelation 11:15; 9:11ff).
During the time of the Lord’s absence, His servants are to “occupy” themselves with that entrusted to their care. The “ten servants” and “ten pounds” in Luke’s gospel, showing ordinal completion in both instances, reveal that all of His servants and all of His business are in view. Christ called all of His servants and left them in charge of all of His
business during the time of His absence.
While the parable of the pounds in Luke’s gospel reveals the overall scope of both the Lord’s servants and the Lord’s business (“ten servants,” “ten pounds”), the parable of the talents in Matthew’s gospel reveals the different portions of this business delivered to different servants within the overall scope of His dealings with His servants (“to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability”).
Simple teachings derived from comparing the two parables point to the fact that every servant of the Lord has been entrusted with some facet of the Lord’s business during His time of absence. No servant has been overlooked; nor has any portion of the Lord’s business been withheld from His servants.
The one thing above all else required of servants is faithfulness (1 Corinthians 4:2; cf. Luke 12:42-46). Servants of the Lord must exercise faithfulness in carrying out that portion of the Lord’s business with which they have been entrusted. “Success” is an entirely different matter. No servant has ever been called to be successful, only faithful.
Success though will always follow faithfulness, whether man so recognizes that which the Lord deems as success or not.
Placing the entire matter over into the framework of the epistles of James and 1 Peter, it seems apparent that God brings about the necessary trials and testing in a Christian’s life that will move that Christian into that area of work (that portion of the Lord’s business) that has been outlined for his life (delivered unto him by the Lord). The individual is to exercise faithfulness as he patiently endures trials and testing; and as he progressively matures in the faith after this fashion, the Lord brings about an outworking in his life of that facet of the Lord’s business entrusted to him (cf. Philippians 1:6). Thus, such works, in reality, are those done under the direction and leadership of the Lord as the Christian exercises faithfulness to his calling.
All of this occurs for a purpose. In the parable of the talents and the parable of the pounds, the day eventually came when the “man” or “nobleman” returned to reckon with His servants — pointing to the return of Christ “in the air” for His servants and the subsequent reckoning “at the judgment seat” with His servants.
The only concern at hand in this reckoning in both accounts in Matthew and Luke was that which the servants had done with the Lord’s possessions that had been entrusted to their care during the time of their Lord’s absence, and the only matter in view beyond this reckoning was that of occupying positions of sovereignty in the kingdom.
2) You Good and Faithful Servant
According to both the parable of the talents and the parable of the pounds, hearing a “Well done . . . .” from the Lord at the time He reckons with His servants will be contingent on the servants having brought forth an increase through the use of the talents and/or pounds. The increase not only had to come from within the scope of that which the Lord had left in charge of all His servants (the ten pounds) but it also had to come from within the scope of that which the Lord had entrusted individually to each servant (the various talents).
In the parable of the pounds, the servants were judged strictly on the basis of their use of the pounds during the time of the Lord’s absence. Nothing else was in view. The increase was wrought only through the use of that which the Lord had entrusted to their care: “. . . your pound has gained ten pounds”; or, “. . . your pound has gained five pounds” (Luke19:16, 18). And the revealed reward for faithfulness therein was completely commensurate with the increase: “Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, [you] have authority over ten cities”; or, “. . . likewise . . . you also [will] be over five cities” (vv. 17, 19).
In the parable of the talents, a slightly different facet of the picture is presented. Judgment in this parable is based strictly on the increase of that delivered to individual servants within the scope of their calling, and an increase of the same proportion percentage-wise (though not necessarily in quantity) brought about identical commendations and rewards:
Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them or; . . . Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them. (Matthew 25:20, 22)
The increase in each instance was one hundred percent, and the response of the Lord to both servants was identical:
Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord. (vv. 21, 23)
The thought is not necessarily how hard or how long one works, but how faithful one is in carrying out the task that the Lord has delivered into his hands during the time allotted (cf. Matthew 20:1-16). Through comparing the parable of the talents with the parable of the pounds, faithfulness among Christians to the task at hand is not always the same.
Thus, it would seem apparent that there could be increases of less than or more than one hundred percent, allowing a two-talent Christian to realize an increase above that of a five-talent Christian, or vice versa. The number of talents is not really the issue. Faithfulness to the task at hand is that which God looks upon and requires. And a person always reaps that which he sows, whether faithfulness or unfaithfulness is manifested (Galatians 6:7-9).
Blessings, rewards, and crowns are for those exercising faithfulness in the proper use of the talents/pounds entrusted to them. A commendation of “Well done . . . .” from the Lord awaits Christians exhibiting faithfulness after this fashion. But, a task “well done” is just that — one well done.
“Jesus will never say ‘Well done’ to anyone unless it has been well
— G. Campbell Morgan
3) You Wicked and Slothful Servant
In both the parable of the talents and the parable of the pounds, unfaithfulness on the part of the Lord’s servants and the end result of unfaithfulness are shown in the latter part of each parable. Such unfaithfulness resulted in rebuke and loss in each instance; and also
in each instance, the unfaithful servant was not associated in any manner whatsoever with positions of power and authority in the kingdom.
These things can be clearly seen through the Lord’s actions in both parables. That which the unfaithful servants possessed (the talents and pounds) was taken from them; and in the parable of the talents, the unfaithful servant was cast into “outer darkness.”
In the parable of the talents, one talent had been delivered to the servant who proved unfaithful. He was just as much a servant of the Lord and just as much in a position to bring forth an increase as the servants to whom five and two talents had been delivered; and, had this unfaithful servant brought forth an additional talent, which would have been an increase of one hundred percent, it is apparent that he would have received the identical commendation that the others received.
However, he hid his talent; it remained unused. He did not exercise faithfulness in that realm of service that the Lord had entrusted to him; and at the time when the Lord called all His servants before Him to ascertain how much each had gained through trading and trafficking in the Lord’s business (through each servant exercising faithfulness to that entrusted to his care), the unfaithful servant experienced rebuke and loss.
The case of the unfaithful servant in the parable of the pounds is very similar. He, as the other servants, could have received authority over one or more cities had he brought forth an increase; but he kept the pound “laid up in a napkin” (v. 20). He didn’t use the pound. He didn’t involve himself in the Lord’s business during the time of his Lord’s absence. He proved unfaithful concerning that which the Lord had left in his care, during His time of absence. And, following the Lord’s return, at the time when the Lord called His servants before Him to ascertain how much each had gained through trading and trafficking (through each servant exercising faithfulness to that entrusted to his care), the unfaithful servant — as the unfaithful servant in the parable of the talents — experienced rebuke and loss.