Welcome to Welling for your spiritual well-being and your ministry overflowing. I want to start today with pizza logic. You know pizza was a favorite of my grandkids and my son’s family, Italian bread, usually round, it’s sort of dough, wheat based.
And I like the toppings much better than the bread, tomatoes, cheese, other kinds of– bacon, and minced meat, and so on. They bake them at very high temperature. And you can buy a ready-made one. But pizza logic is the question about how come the pizza is round, and is packed in a square box, and eaten as a triangle?
Well, the answer is that it’s easier to make it round than any other shape. And the boxes are better, and cheaper, and easier when they’re in squares rather than circles. And the equal way to cut a circle is into triangles. That’s why we get a mismatch of all these different shapes.
Guess what? Trials kind of fit pizza logic. They come in various ways, and diverse ways. And we cannot figure them all out. I mentioned last time that we are at a time of poly crises, not only global polycrisis and national polycrisis, but personal polycrisis, various kinds, diverse kinds of trials. They don’t make logical sense in timing, in frequency, in intensity.
The word “polycrisis” is a recent word, to label a situation where the sum of the crises is greater than the sum of the problems that we face, is greater than the individual problems and crises that we face. “Poly” from Greek and “crisis” from Greek. Poly’s “many.” Crisis is “judgment.”
One writer, business consultant, says, we’re living in a succession of crises with different layers happening at the same time. The interconnectedness of the world also means the interconnectedness of crises. We live in a time of polycrisis, also true. He says that we can’t solve the world’s problems right away. And at the same time, that’s not only true about the world. It’s true about you.
I mean, daunting, isn’t it? We are at the mercy of uncontrollable environments, challenges in complexity, in opposition and volatility, in isolation and disruption. Whether you take them together or take them separately, this is a difficult world.
You probably heard that in Chinese, that the same characters represent both crisis and opportunities. It will take some time before my granddaughter, six years old, who’s learning Mandarin, could advise me, definitively, on the matter. They tell me that it’s probably not so in Chinese, but more so in Japanese.
However, opportunities do accompany crises. We face them. We encounter them unexpected and suddenly. We experience them viscerally. We endure them. We can enjoy them spiritually and intentionally.
If you remember King Jehoshaphat in 7 Chronicles 20, when the three armies are besieging the people, he prays God, we don’t know what to do. But our eyes are on you. That is somewhat going to be rehearsed in James chapter 1 in a few verses.
But I want to speak here about the logic of trials, even though trials don’t seem to make for logic. James has already said, I’m one of you. I’m a brother with you. You’re my brothers and sisters. I’m going to give you now a logic chart because in verses 3 and 4, he’s going to give us a sequence. We’ll talk about each of those words as we continue to delve deeply into this passage.
But a logic chart, basically, has five columns, input, activities, output, outcome, and vision.
And as I was looking through this unbelievable passage, I saw that there was inputs, inputs of trials, and tests of diverse kinds, external tests, and internal temptations, of generic tests and specific tests.
But the activity we are supposed to bring to these trials is to count them as joy, to joyify them, also to endure them in active endurance, not passive endurance, intentional endurance, not accidental endurance, unalloyed, unmixed joy, to joyify those trials.
But then comes a third column, which is the output. The output is where our faith, which is tested as genuine, survives. The genuineness of our faith is proven. The quality of our faith is shown. We are cleansed, and purified, and refined in our faith.
But then comes the outcome. The outcome is our character. Our character is formed. We are in progress. The vision, of course, that we have fully developed and fully matured, lacking in nothing. This is the moral logic of trials.
That’s what God does. With these diverse inputs, we are able to joyify trials with endurance, producing character. And then we lack nothing at the end of it. My father, John Richard, died 17 days short of 95. So he lived into his older age. Lots of pain and trials. He told me once, son, I tell pain to do its work. And I do my work. I thought that was a profound concept. And if I ever get to be that old, I’m going to borrow that tactic.
Endurance is not the goal, one commentator says. It’s the process to a well-rounded Christian character. You tell the pain to do its work. And you’re going to do your work in enduring it well. And guess what? The outcomes and the vision are experienced. During the earlier part of my life, I wondered if I could track a pattern, and saw that around every 17 years, God would take and crush me, totally crush me.
It happened. And I would be tenderized deeply, to be concerned about others more than myself. I also noticed that every time it occurred, I had grown. But I didn’t know I had grown until I actually went through the struggle, the tests. It also told me that I was stronger than I thought, than I was in the previous time.
There are four T words I wanted to give you– trials, external and internal; points of testing to prove the genuineness of your faith, which calls for trusting, and patient endurance, and disciplined obedience.
And there’s a Greek word at the end of it, “teleios”, purpose, perfection, completeness, wholeness of Christian character, so that we become totally complete at any given time, at that point of time, until we meet the next struggle and have to grow through it.
So we don’t create trials. We embrace them. We don’t pursue trials. We enjoy them. We don’t avoid trials. But we meet them. And we greet them. And then we use them for spiritual growth and health.
Let’s always leave room for trials, for growth, for faith, for understanding. We can joyify them. There’s no other way to grow except through trials. They’re always there. They come to us so you don’t have to go get them. But we identify them, to list them, tackle them where they are a problem, accept them where they are reality, and grow through them.
The proof of genuine faith, and as Hebrews would say later, genuine sonship.
English, crisis; Greek, poly plus crises, many in judgement. Chinese, opportunities do accompany crises. But I also want to give you a Latin term. The word “crisis” actually stands for turning point. Every crisis, every trial, every temptation, can be turned into a decision for action to joyify life.