Our Christian Paradox

Paradox. Something that seems contradictory but includes a latent truth.

“I can resist anything but temptation!” said Oscar Wilde. A literary paradox.

“Start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and then end with something so complex that no one will believe it.”  A philosophical paradox. 

“They must go to war to make peace.”  A historical paradox.

But surely the greatest of all paradoxes is the Cross!  The clearest picture of hate is also the greatest picture of love.  

Death for Life.  HIS death for MY life.        

Amazing love, how can it be … that YOU, my King, would die for me?      

Born and raised a Hindu Brahmin, the idea of incarnation did not particularly captivate me.  The Hindu deity Krishna is said to be an incarnation.  God becoming human to vanquish evil? Again, Hindu mythology is replete with story after story of the godhead – as man – triumphing over the enemy.  But God – THE One True God – incarnating as Man just so He could become the enemy?  2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that Jesus who knew no sin became sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him!

A God who willingly and obediently and humbly sacrificed Himself in the most horrific and gruesome way possible – all on my behalf.  MY behalf? Why? Because the enemy that had to be conquered was sin – mine and yours!  He could have effortlessly destroyed the enemy – He is God, after all.  But the enemy was me.  And so instead of destroying me, He delivered me.  He took my place – and yours.  His death for our lives. It doesn’t make sense!  But wait, there’s more.

It's Sunday.  Resurrection Sunday. The Day that Death Died – Hallelujah! For unlike all the other incarnations I knew growing up, this is not only a God who died for us, but this is also the only God who has defeated death! His death for my life.  But now His Life … for my death.  My death to self.  His Resurrection gives me – and you - new life so we too can declare with Paul (Galatians 2:20): “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”   Wait, what? How can it be? A spiritual paradox.  It doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? But that doesn’t make it any less true. 

The King who was a servant. 

The Cross which satisfied the Wrath of God and the Love of God.

The death that brought life to us, and now our death for His life through us.

The surrender so we can live victorious.

Our Christian paradox.

Glorious Suffering

Are you suffering? Is it causing you to doubt the love and faithfulness of God? Do you feel that your suffering is punishment for your guilt, and you’ve got to somehow make it right so you can escape? Don’t give in to that thinking (unless of course you’re paying the consequences of poor choices)!

I have heard it preached and proclaimed that those who are in the perfect will of God are immune from suffering, and the material blessing on their lives is proof of God’s favor. On the flip side, if someone is going through trials and hardships, they must not be living in the will of God, and need to repent and get right before they can again experience the favor of God! This message doesn’t align with what I see in Scripture.

For a great example of this, we can look at something Jesus prayed shortly before He was betrayed:

“’Abba, Father,’ he cried out, ‘everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine’” (Mark 14:36 NLT).

Jesus knew He would soon have to endure horrible suffering, and He was not exactly thrilled about it! Although He prayed to be released from the trials to come, He was submitted to his Father’s will. That evening Jesus was betrayed by a friend, falsely accused, slapped and punched. The next day He was flogged, mocked, and nailed to the cross. He carried the sin of the world, and felt abandoned by his Father. Then, He died.

Are we willing to suffer in the will of God? Those of us who call ourselves Christians, or Christ followers, should not be so quick to try to wriggle our way out of suffering. Jesus said, “A slave is not greater than the master” (John 15:20 NLT). We cannot expect an easier road than our Master had to walk. There are times when living in the will of God is not a field of daisies and tulips! Living submitted to God brings times of sorrow and heartache. But in the midst of the hardship, we know that “joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NLT). We know that there is a joy set before us to help us endure the suffering.

“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1b-2 NLT).

Not only is there joy ahead of us on the other side of our heartache and pain, but suffering itself is actually advantageous! No, I’m not encouraging you to start beating yourself or to go seeking out trials and tribulations. Don’t worry, if you’re not in a rough season right now, your time will come! But when it does, I want you to have the right mindset.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (Romans 5:3-4 NLT).

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT)!

Don’t shortchange yourself and miss out on the benefits to come! Endure suffering as Christ did, and reap the rewards of endurance, strong character, confident hope, and eternal glory. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and run your race well!