• Steve Bostrom

James 1:12 - What's In A Name?

Regardless of our given names, one who follows Christ is called Christian: little Christ. It is a marker of his love for us.

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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

At a local chainsaw shop in Montana, I met a retired general in his eighties. He’d come to get his trusty Stihl repaired.



On his small mountainside spread, he runs a herd of twenty to thirty cattle. Fifteen years ago, born late in the wilds, one young cow was too small when the time came to sell her. The buyer used a cattle prod to divert her from the herd. Her owner named her “Wild Calf.” “That shock was too much. It’s taken Wild Calf fifteen years to be approachable,” he said. I smiled: “Maybe she’s been living up to her name!”


According to behindthename.com, “Stephen” achieved its height of popularity the year I was born in 1951. It comes from the Greek word, “stephanos,” or “twined garland,” the prize of athletes who won the Olympics of old. More formally, “stephanos” indicated “a badge of royalty and honor.”


What a shock discovering Matthew (27:29), Mark (15:17), and John (19:2,5) use “stephanos” to describe soldiers twisting thorns into a “crown” and “putting” it upon Jesus’ head. What kind of “putting” was that? Matthew and John use the word Luke uses in Acts 16:23 when the magistrate ordered many blows be “laid” upon Paul and Silas.


Head wounds bleed. Jesus’ bashed in bloody “stephanos” is the prelude to the horror of the cross. King Jesus, why choose a crown of thorns?


Beyond this excruciating crowning of physical brutality, the Lamb of God on the cross spiritually exchanged places with us. Like “Wild Calf,” we are born wild, outside the Garden, and prone to conflict with God and others. Still, Jesus heroically grasped the white-hot cattle prod of death we deserved and, in exchange, gave forgiveness and righteousness to all who follow him. We are “Wild Calf” no more.


The name of the battered, dying, sin-bearing, holy God upon the cross is “Jesus,” or “Yahweh Saves.”


Before Jesus’ birth, an angel told Joseph: “Call his name ‘Jesus’ for, indeed, he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). When we call him Savior, we call him by his name.


The New Testament warns about some “crowns.” Others may seize ours (Revelation 3:11). We may run the race of life doggedly only to find we have been competing for a “perishable ‘stephanos’” (1 Corinthians 9:24,25).


God prompts us to get in the hunt for an “imperishable ‘stephanos’” (1 Corinthians 9:25). The Spirit calls us to compete for treasured prizes: crowns of life (James 1:12), crowns of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8), and crowns of glory (1 Peter 5:4).


Christian, you are awarded these sought-after crowns, but only temporarily. In heaven, John saw twenty-four elders fall down before Jesus, casting their crowns before him declaring: “You are worthy, our Lord and God…” (Revelation 4:10,11). Yielding our honors to the Source of honor, the One who made us worthy, is our deepest honor!


Friend, see what connections “stephanos” gives!


Regardless of our given names, one who follows Christ is called Christian: little Christ. It is a marker of his love for us.


And we love him. By his Spirit, we ask our prayers in his name, seeking to remain true to his name. Someday, Christian, in a moment of crowning intimacy, God will bestow upon you your new name known only to you (Revelation 2:17).


Friend, pray for enduring-steadfast-faithfulness. Expect hard trials. But, with Jesus’ power, we endure. His true grit in love leads to God’s promised crown.




Rev. Steve Bostrom is the State Capital Minister in Helena, Montana.