Paradoxically Speaking (cont)

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Giving and receiving

It is “more blessed to give than to receive”

The Bible is full of paradox. Jesus was a master at it. He said, “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14: 11). Similarly, “the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16; Mark 9:35) and “whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew10:39). And Paul the apostle wasn’t exempt. He wrote “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10) and, quoting Jesus said, it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

In fact, the greatest paradox of all is Jesus himself.

We celebrate his victory, but he achieved it by dying. When standing before his accusers Jesus is strong but not harsh, confident yet humble, innocent yet condemned. He wins but does so by losing. Ultimately, we acknowledge, with a level of incomprehensibility, that he is both human and God.

Wisdom often appears upside-down and backwards; contrary to common sense and sometimes even crazy. This is the paradox of wisdom.

Not surprisingly then, seeking wisdom leads us down some strange pathways. No doubt your prayers like mine are full of requests that God blesses our lives and the things we do. Strangely, however, it is not through blessing that God primarily works wisdom into our lives but the difficulties in our lives. Our trials and troubles are what God uses to convince us of our need of wisdom, and to form it within us.

It is not that God creates these difficulties, but that they are the best possible tools. We know we are gaining wisdom when we stop blaming God for our difficulties and begin to give thanks for them. “Consider it pure joy,” James writes, “whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). It may take us a while to consider it pure joy, but wisdom is evident when we thank God for the difficulties in our lives.

As you seek wisdom, may God grant you the grace to see your difficulties through the lens of wisdom and begin to consider them “pure joy.”

Stephen L Baxter

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