When “What We Know” Really Matters

One 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’ve gotta 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 and people. 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, “2 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

June 29, 2006

________________________


[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.

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
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6 Responses to When “What We Know” Really Matters

  1. Jennifer says:

    Hi Bill. Francine Rivers is one of my favorite Christian authors, perhaps even my favorite, and I thoroughly enjoyed Leota’s Garden. I can remember vividly the passage you quoted from the novel because I remember thinking that I sort of felt like my song had been sucked out of me.

    You are right about “what we really know” being important when it comes to facing trials. I know this from first hand experience. I can remember one morning very soon after my husband left. I teach at a Christian school and that year I was teaching second grade. In September of the year, my father died suddenly. And then in February my husband left. It was quite a year, but I can remember making the decision to stay strong for my students. I had been teaching them about God’s faithfulness all year long, and I remember thinking that if I can’t show them His faithfulness when tough times come then all I have taught them will be moot. It wasn’t easy to do, but with God’s help I did it.

    A few days after my husband left, my principal stopped me outside my classroom and asked me how in the world I was able to keep going. I pondered her question and then answered, “I guess all those years of Bible teaching and reading are really paying off right now.” In the years before I would need it, God instilled in me a deep love for His Word and for His face, and so when the STORM came….I KNEW He was good. I knew He had a plan. I was hurting. I was devastated. And sometimes I had to take my days minute by minute. But, I KNEW Him….and that made all the difference.

    I once heard it said that you find out who you really are and what you really believe when things get tough. I think that is true. It has been true in my life. And, if the pain I have endured will help just ONE person get through theirs with a greater knowledge of Him then I will have given my adversary, Satan, a big black eye. And my Lord the glory He deserves. And that’s what this life is really all about when you boil it down.

    His,
    Jennifer

  2. Thanks, Jennifer for sharing your thoughts and your life experiences here. It is a blessing for many for you to candidly share how God’s has walked with you and seen you through these difficult times.

    Your comments made me think of this song:

    KNOWING YOU
    by Graham Kendrick

    All I once held dear, built my life upon
    All this world reveres, and wars to own
    All I once thought gain I have counted loss
    Spent and worthless now, compared to this

    Knowing you, Jesus
    Knowing you, there is no greater thing
    You’re my all, you’re the best
    You’re my joy, my righteousness
    And I love you, Lord

    Now my heart’s desire is to know you more
    To be found in you and known as yours
    To possess by faith what I could not earn
    All-surpassing gift of righteousness

    Oh, to know the power of your risen life
    And to know You in Your sufferings
    To become like you in your death, my Lord
    So with you to live and never die

    Copyright © 1993 Make Way Music

  3. Greg England says:

    Good reminder! I just find myself thinking there should be another way to develp that perseverance, maturity and completeness! But there isn’t. Nor is it an optional course in life. It’s required for graduation!

    Kushner helped me years ago to learn to ask, “Now that this is happening (or has happened), how am I going to respond?” I don’t always respond in a way that honors the Lord, but I try to back up enough to re-group and call upon the knowledge and promises and perspective of Christ. Makes a HUGE difference.

    Again I, too, appreciate Jennifer’s comments.

  4. Mike Ratliff says:

    Bill, this is very good and yes I’ve had days like that. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragment. Trials come to us through the hands of God. When we persevere by His grace we also grow in grace as He builds our faith. I think it is impossible to mature in Christ without trials.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  5. Dee Andrews says:

    Yes! Absolutely. I agree.

    Two observations in comment:

    (1) I love Barnaby’s story. I’m going to send Patrick Mead over here to read this post because he keeps sick and injured (physically, psychologically and otherwise) parrots in his home all the time and rehabilitates them. He will enjoy your Barnaby story very much.

    (And on that same topic, I’m currently re-reading a wonderful, hilarious book titled “The Parrot’s Lament” by Eugene Linden – and sent Patrick one – which you can find really cheap, as in with mine, $1.29 through Amazon – that contains “true tales of animal intrigue, intelligence, and ingenuity” as related by zookeepers and other animal lovers. I highly recommend it, as it tells true stories, some along the line of Barnaby’s, for any of you animal lovers out there.)

    (2) I agree with you 100% because I have been the recepient of God’s graces and tender mercies my entire life, many times over, through trials and troubles, some lasting for many, many years.

    The past 3 or 4 haven’t been too easy, either, with lots of physical complications and disabilities prevailing, not to mention the worst national disaster ever to occur in our land. But over all and through all – indeed, because OF all those things, as you say – I have learned to be more compassionate and understanding and empathetic to others.

    I wholeheartedly agree, as well, that “what we know” about these things from God’s perspective really does vitally matter. I wrote a post about all of this, myself, last year based on my own experiences and then posted it again a few months later because of the desperate needs I still saw in so many people around me at Tammany Oaks, long time friends and in the blogging community. And that was BEFORE Katrina hit and turned all of our lives totally upside down here. (If any of you want to read my further observations about these things, my post is here – “What Is Our Share, Anyway?”.)

    Thanks, Bill. For reminding me today, when yet even more new obstacles have arisen to block my way, what I need to be focusing on to get around them, or through them, or however I’m going to proceed. I don’t know yet, but my Father does, so I know that all WILL BE well.

  6. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Dee. Your authenticity is…well…so authentic and so refreshing. God has worked and will continue to work in your life, of this I am sure, because your faith is so deep, so strong.

    Thanks, also, for the link to your post. It is thought provoking and challenging…in a good way.

    Grace to you and yours,
    -bill

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