When my kids were young, they used to play a game called Opposite World. The goal was to say the opposite of what they really meant. No meant yes; yes meant no. Good meant bad; bad meant good. Light meant dark; dark meant light. And so it would go. The one to last the longest in conversation without getting confused was the winner.
I quickly grew impatient with the game. It took too much mental energy to interpret what they really said. I’m certain I put an end to the game before my kids were ready.
As Christ-followers sometimes it feels like we live in Opposite World. We find ourselves surrounded by a worldview that differs from our own. It is easy to be swayed in thought and action by the culture of the day. Nevertheless, we are called to represent the Kingdom of God, which is opposite to the Kingdom of this World.
In the book of 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul reveals how we are to live in Opposite World. He offers the viewpoint that is counter culture to the prevailing thoughts of the time. By holding fast to God’s Word, we will thrive.
Opposite World says…What you see is what you get.
God’s Word says…There is more than what you see.
We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Our culture relies on natural senses and values scientific evidence. “Don’t believe it if you cannot see, feel, or prove it.” Hebrews 11:1 offers a different perspective. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
The things we see are temporary, but the unseen things are eternal. No matter what we face, no matter how terrible, it is slight and momentary in light of eternity. In the midst of struggling times, we can have the assurance that an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison is prepared for us. What is the worst thing you can imagine happening? Even if it lasted for the rest of your life, how long is that in comparison to forever and ever? Yes, life can be hard and painful at times. But what you see now is not what you get in the future.
Opposite World says…When difficult things happen, it is natural to get overwhelmed.
God’s Word says…When difficult things happen, pray and rejoice.
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
Paul did not whine and gripe when facing trouble. He evidently did not receive the answer he wanted, but he had God’s promise that His grace would be there to carry him through. Even though the “thorn” was a hindrance or difficulty for Paul, God’s unmerited favor—His grace—was greater than the thorn.
Another rendering for “My grace is all you need” is “my grace is enough, more than enough, for you.” God does not give us His grace simply that we might endure our sufferings. People that do not have a relationship with Christ can certainly exhibit great endurance. God’s grace enables us to rise above our circumstances and feelings, and causes our problems to work for us in accomplishing good.
Suffering will not be a master that controls us, but a servant that works for us. We pray, rely on the Lord, and allow His strength to take residence in us.
Opposite World says…Admitting weakness is a liability.
God’s Word says…Admitting weakness is a strength.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:7-10).
In the Old Testament, jars of clay were common clay pots used by the priests to offer certain kinds of sacrifices. These containers were regarded as immediately dispensable. God has entrusted the valuable, glorious treasure of the Gospel to ordinary containers, that is, in weak, fragile human beings.
If I had a gorgeous diamond ring in a container, what kind would show it off better? A stunning ornately carved gold box would be breath-taking, but the contrast would not be nearly as great as if it were in a plain cardboard box. Our weakness can show off the beauty and glory of God.
In the same way, our lives are not judged by our own abilities or lack of abilities, our own talents or lack of talents, our own good looks or lack of good looks, our own successes or lack of successes. Instead our lives are all about decreasing, moving out of the way, so that God can increase in us and be clearly seen.
What about self-reliance, being the best that we can be, and not depending on anybody else? But think about this…How strong would you have to be, in order to be as strong as God? How intelligent or discerning? How organized and in control? The fact is, no matter how strong or smart or gifted we are, we cannot begin to compare ourselves with our all-present, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God. We simply are not in the same league.
God’s wisdom tells us that dependence on Him is the way to walk in power. God’s power becomes perfect, or is fulfilled or made complete, in our weakness.
Living in Opposite World can be confusing. As we follow God’s Word, His truth comes into focus. We will shine in dark places.
Heavenly Father, show me some of the myths I have believed from Opposite World. Help me to live by the truth of Your Word. I invite You to take charge of my life. Be strong in my weakness. Use me to reflect Your glory in Your humility. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.