#89 "Paradox and Perspective"
March 27, 2007
"...we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4: 16-18)
My dear friends, we're not going to beat around the bush today. I want to get right in to the meat of the matter because the lessons are life changing. What trouble are you in today? What mess is in your life? If you're like me, you can call that one up almost immediately. You know that address and phone number by heart. Okay, you got it? Is it in the forefront of your mind? Good.
It seems pretty darn huge, doesn't it? It kind of looks like that part in "Beetlejuice" where he turns into a snake-like creature and looms over everyone with his big ugly self. It's scary and even though you might not think about it all the time, it's there. When it comes to mind you get that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach and your mind starts to run away with itself. Are you there? Good.
Do you know that God calls that big giant problem "light and momentary"? Go ahead, look for yourself in 2 Corinthians 4, verse 17. That statement is even more amazing in light of what the apostle Paul was going through when the Holy Spirit inspired him to write those words. If we go to 2 Corinthians 6: 4-10, Paul reviews his issues with us. He had troubles, hardships and distresses. Beatings, imprisonments and riots. Sleepless nights and beatings and hunger. Dishonor, bad reports, regarded as an imposter. Dying and sorrowful. Do you call that "light and momentary?" Paul did. He turned his paradoxes into perspective.
A paradox is a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true. When our big Beetlejuice of a problem is staring us in the face, it is certainly a paradox to call it light and momentary. But Paul uses the Greek word, "elaphron" for "light". It means "light in weight, easy to bear" and for "momentary" he uses the Greek "parautika" which means "brief, for the slight moment, on the spot." Though his hardships were far beyond his ability to endure them, he said that the coming glory far outweighed them all. This eternal perspective and hope in things to come sustained Paul in the midst of temporary sufferings that marked his ministry. Notice I said, "temporary." The world and its present sufferings are passing away. Paul urged the believers to look not on what is seen but, ironically, on what cannot be seen. What the inner man "sees" surpasses what the physical eyes see. That's perspective!
Would you allow me to show you more of Paul's paradoxes? Look at the same chapter; Chapter 4, verses 8-9. Paul says, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." Allow me to show you the Message translation of these verses:
We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken.
And verses 16-18
So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without His unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today and gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever.
Look at that....small potatoes!! Paul calls that giant problem you're facing "small potatoes". Perspective, my friend, perspective!
I want to encourage you to do something this week. Look at your problem and speak to it. I don't care if it doesn't make sense. I don't care if it's paradoxical (if that's even a word). Speak these verses out of your mouth, out loud, from whatever translation you like. Be like God, "who calls things that are not as though they were." (Romans 4: 17 and Isaiah 42:9) In the words of one of my favorite preachers, "I dare you...I double dog, Dino, Scooby Doo, Sponge Bob Squarepants...Dare you!" I promise you that God's word will plant itself inside of you because it is living and active. (Hebrews 4:12) Your "Beetlejuice" will turn into "light and momentary." You will believe that you are not crushed, in despair, abandoned or destroyed. You will believe in the eternal glory that problem is achieving for you. You will start to fix your eyes on Jesus Christ and the unseen. You will stop seeing what is only temporary and get a vision of the eternal.
Somerset Maugham, the English writer, once wrote a story about a janitor at St Peter's Church in London. One day a young vicar discovered that the janitor was illiterate and fired him. Jobless, the man invested his meager savings in a tiny tobacco shop, where he prospered, bought another, expanded, and ended up with a chain of tobacco stores worth several hundred thousand dollars. One day the man's banker said, "You've done well for an illiterate, but where would you be if you could read and write?" "Well," replied the man, "I'd be janitor of St. Peter's Church in Neville Square." (Bits and Pieces, June 24, 1993, p. 23).
You just never know what God is up to in the midst of your problem...Perspective, my friend, perspective!
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