By definition, a paradox is “a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality, expresses a possible truth.”
Jesus often spoke truths that contained a paradox. Here are three examples.
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt 10:38).
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matt 20:26)
This week we’re introducing our preaching and writing theme for the year–“Let’s renew in ‘22.”
Some of us feel we’re too old to be renewed. Or, we may wonder… “How can we find renewal, when there’s so much decay all around us?” Or, “How can I be renewed while battling this physical ailment, or suffering this personal setback?”
That’s the spiritual paradox Paul proclaimed in 2 Corinthians 4:16. “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”
That the outward man is perishing is a fact we must accept. Sickness, pain, suffering and physical ailments can be discouraging. They can “take the wind out our sails.” The reality staring us back in the mirror reminds us that we’re all getting older.
All of the health foods, vitamins, and exercise in the world, will not keep the outward man from perishing. It may prolong it a bit longer, but will not stop it.
However, at the same time it’s possible to renew the inner man every day. While we can’t control aging, we can continue growing. Spiritually. Outwardly we may be decreasing in strength, agility, and stamina, but inwardly we can be increasing in spiritual knowledge, wisdom, and strength. We are able to add Christian virtues, grow in grace and knowledge and produce the fruit of the spirit.
Take time every day for Bible reading, prayer, and meditation. Think about God. Reflect on your life. Work at getting better. Daily renewal helps us not “lose heart.”
Furthermore, there’s the paradox of the afflictions we suffer. Amazingly Paul called his afflictions “light.” Yet, we read about him being beaten, imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked and suffering not only physically, but mentally and emotionally (2 Cor. 4:8-10; 6:4-6; 11:23-28). How could he look at his pain in this way?
The answer is found in his spiritual perspective as enunciated in Romans 8:18. “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Compared to eternity suffering is short; compared to the reward of Glory the burden is light.
What’s hard and heavy is the burden of sin that brings guilt, shame, and remorse. The consequences of sin long outlive its pleasure. But the rewards of righteousness eternally eclipse whatever obstacles we endure.
To experience renewal we must learn not to focus on what we see, but to see what is unseen (2 Cor 4:18). What we see is material. Physical. Temporal. And transitory. Our physical bodies. Our homes. Cars. Clothes. And personal treasures. Even the beauty of nature. All of this will pass away.
We will die and leave it all behind, never to be seen again. And when Christ returns the world and everything in it will be destroyed. Wordsworth was right, “the world is too much with us…getting and spending we waste our powers.”
Through the eye of faith, we see our Creator, our Savior, and the eternal spirit. We can envision the resurrection of the saints. And through Scripture, we get a glimpse into our heavenly home. A place of eternal bliss, beauty, and blessed association with the redeemed of the ages.
American psychologist Carl Rogers once wrote, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” Renewal requires change. And it is a choice. You can’t control life’s adversities, but you can control your attitude toward them.
Let’s Renew in ‘22.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
2 responses to “The Paradox of Renewal”
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Over decades, I, a believer in Christ’s miracles, have found that too many ‘Christians’ have unwittingly created the nature of God in their own characteristically fallible and angry, vengeful image. Often being the most vocal and covered by mainstream news-media, they make very bad examples of Christ’s fundamental message, especially to the young and impressionable.
Perhaps Jesus was viciously killed because he did not in the least behave in accordance to corrupted human conduct and expectation — and in particular because he was nowhere near to being the vengeful, wrathful behemoth so many people seemingly wanted or needed their saviour to be and therefore believed he’d have to be.
Also, I wonder whether the general need by humans (including me) for retributive justice is intrinsically linked to the same terribly flawed aspect of humankind that enables the most horrible acts of violent cruelty to readily occur on this planet, perhaps not all of which we learn about.