Welcome to Welling for your spiritual well-being and your ministry overflowing. Joy Counter.
When I hear the word “trials,” I primarily hear Olympic trials and track and field.
All countries are allowed to enter a maximum of three athletes into any of the track-and-field events in the Olympics, as long as those three athletes have achieved what they call a verifiable A-standard performance. But a country may enter one athlete with a B-standard. Now, these standards are published well in advance, and they have about a year, even a year and a half, in order to achieve that kind of a verifiable metric.
Now, the United States, unlike many other countries who have a selection committee, they test these athletes with the results. What do they do on the track during the trials? They call it a do or die in the prescribed event.
Now, much like athletes have to prove their prowess, our faith can be proven under trial. But our character is formed and our maturity progresses. As we look at this world, it seems to be a season of polycrisis. Yes, globally, multiple crises at every sector and every end.
There’s war. There is conflict. There’s climate challenges, famine, flood, fire, inflation forcing the world, in order to consider managing a polycrisis. The pandemic did it.
Closed manufacturing, overloaded medical facilities, and the interconnected polycrises made it even more difficult. Some assess the whole is even more dangerous than the sum of the parts. Isn’t it? There are many crises. There deep crises. They are simultaneous crises. They are connected crises.
The Cascade Institute talk about a global crisis should occur with inherent four core properties of systemic risks. One is extreme complexity. Second is high nonlinearity. It’s not easy to just track it. Three is transboundary causality. And four, deep uncertainty. And all of this by exhibiting causal synchronization among the risks.
Those are the same features of personal polycrisis. Various kinds of trials, diverse trials. We encounter them, face them, unexpected. Sudden, they hit us. We experience them viscerally. We endure them intentionally and spiritually. They, too, are many. They’re deep. They are simultaneous. They are connected.
So when James said, oh, joy, he also talks about various trials, all kinds of trials and all sorts of temptation. Now, we usually distinguish troubles as trials from the outside and temptations as trials from the inside.
And probably, James is talking about the outside trials, though a little later he’s going to talk about inside temptations. We fall into them. We face them and encounter them. Don’t go about creating them. He says whenever, not if, whenever you fall into trials, externally, there could be opposition and complication, volatility. And isolation, destruction internally.
We need victory over the external situation, even though you are lonely and discouraged and possibly wanting to give up. How can we have internal fortitude while keeping external demeanor? Well, one of the ways to consider it is that all face trials.
The question is not whether we face trials, it’s why we face trials. And when we face trials as to what we do, there are generic trials and specific trials. Custom-made, tailor-made, the God in His providence gives to us. When we encounter them– unplanned, yes. Individual, yes. Various forms, yet we have to meet them.
So if you, my friend, are stressed, and you’re struggling with providence and the goodness of God, you have the option of the appropriate reaction. First, distinguish between problem and reality. If it’s a problem, you must solve.
Take all the steps in order to be responsible for the problem and solve them. You can counteract them with joy. So you’re not only a joy counter, you’re a joy counteractor.
There are two distinct views of facing trials and sufferings. In an Eastern view, if you want to look at it in a generalized way, they pursue it for the sake of internal categorization, to be king on the inside. The opposite end of facing trials is the Western view, which wants to avoid trials at all costs.
Neither the Eastern or the Western view is right. It is a biblical view. You say yes to trials, if they are necessary. You don’t go about generating them and creating them. But what do trials generate in you and create in you? You don’t want to subscribe to a poor theology that everything that happens to you as a punishment occurs or a calamity.
You’re willing to take joy in providence. You don’t want to have a poor attitude about them. That’s all we can do. The way we react to those trials, the only thing that we have inside are orderdly control. Not anger but joy. Not poor emotion and depression, discouragement.
But look at the purpose and the possibilities. We will notice them in just a moment in our next episode, “The Logic of Trials.” God, in his providence, has really allowed a trial. We don’t deny the quality of a trial, the depth of the trial, the tears of the trial.
But there are sides of the trial that will give you hope, not only in the future and eschatologically, anticipation of joy but even now, James is concerned about now turning trials into joy to joyify life.
So being scripture, for reminder, for perspective, listen to these kinds of thoughts. Tactics for joy be in prayer. Ask for wisdom. We’ll talk about in a moment. A few weeks in verse five. Be in your activity, in your doing, taking steps for spiritual and human solutions.
In grace, you never have joy for the trial but joy in the trial. These are trials of any kind, diverse kinds of trials, because there’s no life without trials. The temporal trials, when you meet trials, whenever, not if. These are ordinary troubles that could be persecution and opposition because you’re in the faith, maybe temptation to do wrong.
But a trial is never just a trial. A trial has absolute status in reality but does not have absolute value in reality. If you treat trials as an end, it will be given absolute value.
But if you treat trials as a means to God’s ends, the trials are true, but they’re instrumental. They’re secondary. They’re real. But they’re relative in their value to you and me. So give them secondary value. Under joy, find life.