Jesus’ teachings can startle you when they seem to be contradictory. How can you die to live, labor to rest, or give to receive? The paradoxes Jesus presents bring you face-to-face with the fact that you can’t know all the answers about life – but you can know the One who designed it.

 

Pondering the paradoxes can lead you to trust Jesus more, and experience the peace that only He can give. Here’s how you can learn from Jesus’ paradoxes:

 

* Laboring to rest: Hear God’s call to follow Him and accept the “yoke” of discipleship. But realize that, while discipleship demands your whole life, it also renews you. Unlike self-imposed burdens (such as laboring at a job you don’t like), serving Jesus brings you joy and fresh energy as God empowers you. Understand that if you’re willing to commit your life to Jesus, the effort will be worthwhile and lead to rest, peace, and freedom you couldn’t find otherwise. Spend time in prayer regularly, and give your worries and burdens to Jesus, trusting that He will help you rest from your weariness.

 

* Walking by faith, not by sight: Realize the difference between sight and insight. Understand that there’s much more to the world than the physical aspects you can see. Ask God to give you the faith to see the world more and more as He sees it. Rather than trusting in what you see (which is temporary), place your trust in what you don’t see (which is eternal). Commit your dreams and goals to God, remembering that He has a plan that transcends what you can see as you move through life. Choose to live not according to your own limited view, but by the limitless possibilities of God. Ask God to transform you as you do so.

 

* Giving to receive: Know that you can ultimately get much more from giving away what you have than from holding on tightly to it. Understand that God wants you to learn through giving that He matters more than anything else. Realize that happiness doesn’t come from material gain, but from becoming more like God, who gives generously. Ask God to help you break free from selfishness that ultimately robs your joy. Measure your life by who you are rather than what you own. Recognize that your worth transcends your assets; you’re pricelessly valuable to God, even when you’re financially broke. Remember that all you have is a gift that ultimately belongs to God. Decide to use those gifts well by giving to others as God leads. Trust that, in giving, you’ll receive joy from God that is worth far more than anything you could give.

 

* Being enslaved to be free: Acknowledge that everyone is a slave to something – those who aren’t connected to Jesus are slaves to sin, and those who are in a relationship with Him are slaves to Him. But being a slave to Jesus is far different from any other kind of slavery, because it’s not based on force, but on love, and it doesn’t damage you, but heals you. Out of love for Jesus – the source of love itself – you serve Him willingly and joyfully. And as you do, He gives you freedom from the sin that previously enslaved you, and the freedom to live life in new, healthier ways. Accept the free gift of salvation that Jesus offers you, but realize that He paid the ultimate cost to buy it for you, so don’t take it for granted. Remember that true freedom doesn’t come just from exercising your own will, but from following your calling and fulfilling your purpose in life as Jesus – a loving Master – leads you. Shackle yourself to Jesus to find the forgiveness, guidance, and grace you need.

 

* Finding fool’s wisdom: Realize how easy it is to search for wisdom in the wrong places in our fallen world. Know that, often, people pride themselves on their own limited intelligence, yet completely miss out on God’s unlimited wisdom because of that pride. Understand the folly of simply acquiring knowledge without seeking God’s guidance about how to apply that knowledge. Remember that God is the source of all wisdom. Be humble and constantly willing to learn. Expect to encounter wisdom in unexpected places, since God is much too big to be contained within the limits of human minds. Let go of attempts to impress God and other people with your own cleverness, and don’t be afraid to look like a fool by admitting all you don’t know. Ask God to guide you so you can find true wisdom.

 

* Yielding to conquer: Understand that heeding Jesus’ call to love and pray for your enemies is a sign of strength rather than weakness. Realize that revenge may temporarily make you feel better, but the victory will be hollow because it will come at the cost of sacrificing your integrity. Trust God to deal with people who have hurt you better than you ever could on your own. Know that God has your best interests at heart and has the power to turn even the worst situations around to accomplish good purposes. Admit your weaknesses and let them show you your need for God. Accept the strength God offers you when you place your trust in Him. Let go of your own agenda and submit to God’s plans for you so you can live victoriously. Rely on God’s power to overcome whatever obstacles you encounter.

 

* Serving to reign: Know that the way to ascend to true leadership is by descending into service. Acknowledge the futility of reaching for greatness through selfish ambition, status, wealth, fame, triumph, or personal power. Decide to follow Jesus’ own example of servant leadership by selflessly, boldly, and passionately serving others as God leads you. Acknowledge that it’s God’s power – not your own – that can make you a great person. Understand that you can’t earn God’s love and you don’t have to prove anything to other people. Ask God to give you the humility you need to take your focus off yourself and onto Him and the people with whom He wants you to share His love.

 

* Dying to live: Don’t search for significance in the wrong pursuits, such as personal achievement, wealth, fame, status, or self-improvement. Realize that the only way to truly attain significance is by sacrificing your own plans and embracing God’s plans for you. Ask God to help you want what you need. Join God where He is at work, and enjoy the adventure. Let go of relationships that hinder your intimacy with God; make sure He’s your top priority, and you’ll find all the love you need. Abandon selfishness to gain real life.


Adapted from Paradoxy: Coming to Grips with the Contradictions of Jesus, copyright 2006 by Tom Taylor.  Published by Baker Books, a division Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bakerbooks.com.     

 

Tom Taylor (Ph.D., Fuller; M.Div., Yale; J.D., University of Illinois College of Law) is a speaker and the senior pastor of Glenkirk Church in Glendora, Ca. He is also adjunct professor in the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary and author of the award-winning 7 Deadly Lawsuits. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Jan, and their two boys, Aaron and Ryan.