Paradox defined: something having contradictory properties…
In a precious little book of Puritan prayers and devotions compiled by Arthur Bennett titled The Valley of Vision, the author shares the following in the opening devotion of the same name …
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Let’s be honest … the way of Christ is paradoxical to what we have come to know, learn and embrace as the way of the world … and oftentimes that is exactly what prevents us from experiencing life IN Christ.
For example the way of the world would say don’t let those around you see your weakness … the way of Christ would say embrace and be content in your weakness. Consider what Paul wrote regarding God’s response to his prayer to remove the ‘thorn in his flesh’ …
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this (the thorn in his flesh), that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (ESV)
And Paul revisits this very same topic in his letter to the Philippians …
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)
Before breaking down these passages, let’s consider the definition of content: satisfied or showing satisfaction with things as they are.
Piece of cake … I can be completely satisfied in times of abundance and plenty … no problem. But there’s more … I’m supposed to be satisfied or content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities, hunger and need … apart from Christ that will be challenging … IN Christ still a piece of cake!
So what did Paul teach us …
- Sometimes the thorn in the flesh is a blessing not a curse
- Sometimes the thorn in the flesh is a conduit for the power of God
- For the sake of Christ, we should boast gladly in our weaknesses
- For the sake of Christ, we should be content in our weaknesses
- We should be content in ALL circumstances be there abundance or need.
- God’s grace is sufficient for us in our weakness
- God’s power is made perfect in our weakness
- The power of Christ will rest upon us in our weakness
- When we are weak, God is strong IN and THRU us
- We can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us
Oh Lord, help me to let go of the way of the world and embrace the divine paradox of the way of Christ!