When “what we know” really matters

imageOne of my favorite authors of Christian fiction is Francine Rivers. In Leota’s Garden (1999, Tyndale House Publishers), she tells the story of a rainbow lory (parrot) that experienced a no good, very bad day. The story of Barnaby, the rainbow lory, is summarized by one of the characters in the story. He stated: “Imagine being sucked into a tornado only to land in a flood and then be dried in a desert whirlwind.”

As I remember it, the long-and-the-short of it is as follows:

Barnaby’s owner left him in the care of friends. In order to clean up an unsightly mess under Barnaby’s cage, the “bird-sitter” decides to use a neighbor’s shop-vac. While the clean-up is underway, the phone rings. When the bird-sitter turns to answer the phone, the business end of the shop-vac bangs into the bird cage knocking the door open and before you know it, Barnaby is sucked down the hose into the tunnel of doom which leads inexorably to what must surely be the cyclone of death.

In a panic the bird-sitter shuts down the monster machine and retrieves Barnaby, issuing a huge sigh of relief that, while the bird seems to be stunned, it is still alive. But Barnaby is covered with fine dust and other debris in the canister. Any good bird-sitter knows that a parrot covered in dust needs a good scrubbing.

To the kitchen sink she goes. Barnaby experiences a shower under the bird-world equivalent to Niagara Falls. And, of course, Barnaby’s feathers cannot be left to air dry. He might catch bird-pneumonia, bird-flu or something of the sort.

Barnaby’s next stop is the bathroom, where 1500 watts of blow-dryer-furry awaits!

Little wonder, then, that the bird, which was once the epitome of caged energy, thereafter sat like a statue on his perch never to chirp, chatter or sing again. His song, quite literally, was sucked right out of him.

Have you ever felt like Barnaby? Have you ever felt like you’ve had your song sucked right out of you?

Of course, we can all answer this question in the affirmative. The question is not “if” we will feel this way; it is “when” and “how often?” James, the Lord’s brother, didn’t say that we should consider it all joy “if” we experience trials. He said, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (See: James 1:2).

There are some important things we need to keep in mind…

– Knowing that trials are inevitable, doesn’t mean we should go looking for them. Some people seem to have experienced a pavlovian-like conditioning which compels them to seek out suffering and pain. There are numerous biblical reasons for Christians to do otherwise. Chief amongst them is Jesus’ imperative to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first in our lives (Matthew 6:33). The self-destructive practice of seeking out occasions for suffering would certainly be precluded here.

– Knowing that trials will come our way doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take precautions against being thrust into song-sucking situations. Philippians 4:8 seems to hit this nail right on the head. Here the Apostle Paul writes:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

– Knowing that all people confront song-sucking situations and people, every one of us should do everything with in our power to make sure that we don’t rain on anybody’s parade. Romans 14:19 states, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

Since we know that trials are inevitable, the issue that remains open, therefore, is how we will respond to such incidents. This is when “what we know” really matters. This idea is drawn directly from the inspired words of James 1:2-5,Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

We will especially two ideas found in the third and fourth verses. Here we are told that we can know that:

(1) The testing of our faith develops perseverance.

– The Greek root word for testing is δοκίμιον, which refers more to “approval” than to “proving.” This is seen in 1 Peter 1:6b-7, “…though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

– John Walvoord says the following about the word perseverance in verse three: “Everyone has experienced both the pain of problems and the ensuing profit of persistence. There is no gain in endurance without some investment in trials.”[1]

– The original language bears this out. Perseverance derives from ὑπομονή, the characteristic of a believer who is not swerved from deliberate purpose and loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings; a patient, enduring, sustaining, perseverance.[2]

(2) Perseverance must finish its work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

– Oftentimes, we misunderstand trials, thinking they diminish the quality of our lives or indicate something is wrong in our lives. The reality is they do not take something away from us. Instead, the testing of our faith develops one of the most important qualities of all—perseverance. This is the ability to stand up under the load!

– Beyond providing us with a firm spiritual foundation, perseverance, according to Romans 5:4-5, produces character, which yields hope, which does not disappoint!

– Perseverance, then, is the seedbed for hope, which rests upon the bedrock of proven faith.

It all comes around to this:  “What we know” really matters when we know why we experience trials. If we think of the times when life sucks us into the tunnel of doom, spins us around in a cyclone of debris and runs us through the ringer only from a human point-of-view, we might feel robbed of joy.

However, when we view the experiences of life against the backdrop of eternity, we realize that the finished work of perseverance is our spiritual maturity and completion. This is when “what we know” really matters. It is this knowledge that allows us to “consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds.” We are not rejoicing for our trials, but in and through them! We can still sing our songs, because “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all,” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

© Bill Williams, a sojourner

May 6, 2015

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[1]Walvoord, J. F., R. B. Zuck, & Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985.

[2]Strong, J. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurence of Each Word in Regular Order. electronic ed. Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996. G5281.