Robert Griffith | 1 March 2024
Robert Griffith
1 March 2024


Matthew 16:25  “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it …”

There really are endless paradoxes in life. A paradox, according to the dictionary, is “an assertion seemingly self-contradictory which nevertheless may be true to fact.”  Like the above verse, there are many paradoxes in the Christian life which we do well to ponder carefully. I shall just pick a few:

Paradox one: We are weakest where we are strongest, and strongest where we are weakest.

2 Corinthians 12:10  “When I am weak, then am I strong.”

A middle-aged man was urged to drink just one ‘sociable’ glass of beer. His refusal was adamant. “My father and mother were wretched drunkards,” he said, “and they passed the craving on to me. It’s in my system; and I know it; so I’ll never take that ‘first drink’.” He had set his strongest guard at his weakest point.

Another man, brought up by godly parents, was induced in youth to swig some whisky. He became one of the most pitiable specimens who ever staggered through Skid Row. After years of misery, he found salvation in Christ, and later wrote his life-story. He had taken that first draught of whisky inwardly saying, “I’m safe; there are no drunkards in our family.” It was his strongest point, so he set no watch there. Yet to quote his own words, “Those first fateful gulps let loose a demon in my brain and stomach which made hell within me for twenty years.” He was weakest where he was strongest.

The same is true in countless other connections, especially so in the Christian life. When we are living in entire dependence on Christ, we are strongest where we are weakest, for at our weakest point – the strength of Christ has its fullest opportunity (2 Corinthians 12:9); but when we are living the self-sufficient life, we are weakest where we are strongest, for there we are most liable to a surprise attack (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Mark well this double paradox: in ourselves we are weak even where we are strong; in Christ we are strong even where we are weak.

Paradox two: We climb highest when we stoop lowest.

How high floats the balloon of pride! Yet nothing is lower. Pride is the sin by which Satan fell from heaven. On the other hand, nothing stoops so low as humility, yet nothing soars so high. Our Lord Jesus “humbled Himself . . . even to the death of the Cross,” and was lifted to the very throne of God, bearing “the Name which is above every name.”

What could be higher or lower than the pride of Lucifer: “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will be like the Most High?” What could be lowlier or loftier than the humility of Jesus when He kneeled with basin and towel to wash His disciples’ feet, or when He stooped to the depthless abasement of the Cross to redeem us?

We must all learn that the lower we are at the feet of Jesus, the higher we rise. When we stoop to apologise, to ask forgiveness of someone, or to bear cruel ill-treatment without resentment, we are rising to wonderful heights. If only we could realise it: when we ‘ride the high horse’ of unforgiving pride, we are crawling in the dust with the serpent. Humility only seems to cripple us; in reality it gives us wings! The way up is down! The way to the throne is the cross! “Whosoever shall save his life shall lose it;” and “ … he that humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 14: 11). Most of us do not scale the heights because we cannot stoop low enough.

Paradox three: That which is hardest is easiest, and that which is easiest is hardest.

How true this is in relation to prayer! Many people say they find prayer so hard. God seems unreal. Their minds wander. If they fix a time for it each day, their hearts feel disinclined when the time comes round. So, after a few days they give up. Yet the fault is in themselves, not in God. If only they had the will to persevere, instead of allowing their prayer-snatches to be at the mercy of their moods, they would find, as thousands of others have found, that after some days of patient faith and perseverance there comes a moment when with indescribable ease the mind slips into the luminous realisation that God is there, that heaven is open, that prayer is wonderful, and that communion with God is the purest luxury of the soul.

That moment always comes to those who persevere; and from then on, that which has been hardest becomes easiest. There is a holy impatience for the next prayer-encounter. The same is true in other connections. How hard it is for most of us to love those who wrong us; to ask forgiveness of those who will only gloat over it; to repay cruelty with kindness; to rejoice in the advancement of others while we ourselves are held back; to resist those tit-bits of hurtful gossip; to give up our pet grudges; to overcome temper, impatience, over-talkativeness, broodiness, selfishness, and so on!

Yet it is true that what is hardest is easiest. It all depends which level we are living on. A bridge is a huge problem to a snail: but what problem is it to an eagle? When we are “living in the flesh” (Romans 7: 18), how weary at times is the unequal struggle against these hereditary weaknesses in our nature! But when we really “live in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25); when we live for the new nature imparted to us at our conversion (Ephesians 4:24), yielding to its upward pull for fellowship with God through the Word and prayer, we are lifted to a higher level of living which Paul describes as “heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 2: 6).

The same old hereditary appetites and weaknesses may still be in our nature, but now, instead of fighting them down there on their own level, we are living above them; and what is hard down there on the lower level is easy on the higher! It is victory, not by suppression, but by submission. The power of those lower-level temptations is broken because the mind is living on a plane where they have no force.

Just as the hard becomes easy, so the easy becomes hard (strange as this may seem). How easy it was for handsome young Joseph to yield to those prolonged solicitations in Potiphar’s house! Yet what did he say? “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” That which was easy to fall into on the lower plane was hard on the higher plane where Joseph’s mind was now living! Yes, it is possible to live on a plane where evil thinking and desiring and behaving are abhorrent and hard to give way to! But we need the eagle-wings which only prayer and complete submission to Christ can give.

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