By Femi Aribisala
When Jesus was born, an angel brought good tidings of great joy to all men. But soon after, something contradictory happened: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:18).
Similarly, when Jesus was going to the cross on the way back home to the Father, instead of rejoicing with Him, some people were crying: “A great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him.” (Luke 23:27).
There always seems to be dissonance between the perspectives of heaven and that of the earth. A voice in heaven highlights this. It says: “Rejoice O heavens and you who dwell in them: Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea.” (Revelation 12:12).
Thesis and antithesis
Kingdom dynamics requires that we navigate within this parallelogram of discrepancies. The believer lives in two worlds simultaneously. We live physically in the world but spiritually in the kingdom of God. This paradox is evident in Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith. He says: “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:13).
In effect, Jesus is in heaven and on earth at the same time. The Bible tells us: “As He is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17). Without, we are in the world: but within, we are in the kingdom of God, “seated together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6).
Therefore, it should come as no surprise to us if our situations and circumstances sometimes seem contradictory. Jesus alerts us about the new life that we are to live in contradictions. He says: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
This life of contradictions was first revealed in Abraham. In order for him to become a father of many nations, he had first to be childless for many years. During this period, God changed his name from Abram to Abraham, which means the father of many nations.
Just imagine the irony here. Abram changes his name, saying: “I, previously known as Abram, now wish to be known as the Father of Many Nations.” Can you imagine how much of a laughingstock he must have been? He does not even have a single child, and he claims to be fathering many nations.
When God promised him and his descendants the land of Canaan, Abraham asked God: “How shall I know that I will inherit this land?” God offered him a strange insurance policy: “You will know because I will make your descendants to be without land.” (Genesis 15:13-15).
In which case, the guarantee of the promises of God is the lack of evidence or, often, the contrary evidence.
Favour through persecution
Clearly, God was on the side of the children of Israel when they were in Egypt. Nevertheless, they were in bondage while the Egyptians were in prosperity. If secular wealth is regarded as a sign of divine approval, then the Egyptians would be mistaken as God’s favourites.
When God decided to deliver the Israelites from Egypt, He sent Moses to Pharaoh to tell him to let them go. But instead of doing so, Pharaoh increased their burdens. In effect, God’s attempt at deliverance created more problems for the Israelites.
This initially confused Moses a great deal, leading him to complain: “Lord, why have You brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me? Since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all.” (Exodus 5:22-23).
Thereby, God’s good is often regarded as evil.
When God intervened on behalf of the Israelites, Pharaoh increased the burdens, making things worse for them. Later, in taking them to a land flowing with milk and honey, God first suffered them to hunger. (Deuteronomy 8;3). But all these were sure signs of their deliverance because everything about the kingdom of God is worked out in contradictions by faith.
Hall of Faith
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). Once it is seen, it moves outside of the realms of faith. Therefore, it is paradoxically in the interest of the believer that there should be no evidence for his faith so that it might continue to be faith indeed.
Faith is only necessary and valuable when there is no evidence. God gives us faith precisely as a substitute for evidence. The evidence is counterproductive. It negates faith; it does not confirm it.
You say you are healed. Yes, indeed! But there is no sign that you are healed. You may even feel worse. Voila! That is the evidence, the lack of signs.
The Bible notes that the men and women in the Hebrews “Hall of Faith” believed without receiving:
“They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented- of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise.” (Hebrews 11:37-39).
As far as they were concerned, the promises were fulfilled by faith and not by sight. What sight does is negate faith or render it ineffectual. But these men lived in faith and died in faith without receiving the promises. And yet they did not call God a liar. They did not accuse God of unfaithfulness. Therefore, the bible says, God is not ashamed to be called their God. (Hebrews 11:16).
For worse; for better
The hostility of the wicked is sure evidence that believers are friends of God. That is why Jesus says we are blessed when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. The very fact that the righteous suffer in this world, while the wicked triumph; is one of the greatest assurances that there will be a future reversal of fortunes.
Sometimes God allows us to undergo the extreme nature of our affliction, the better to appreciate the greatness of His salvation. The Lord can allow a besetting sin to become even worse even on the very eve of the deliverance. Or the sickness can become even more severe after we have just prayed for healing. This is what happened to Jairus whose daughter died after he prayed to Jesus for healing.
What does this mean? It means nothing at all. Do not fail at the edge of a breakthrough. Do not give up at the very last minute.
“The vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end, it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:3-4).