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Have you ever heard of an oxymoron? In our culture, the term “oxymoron” is usually used to describe an expression that appears to be self-contradicting, usually in a humorous way. (“Civil War,” “pretty ugly,” and “jumbo shrimp” come to mind.)
However, an oxymoron is actually a legitimate figure of speech, a rhetorical device that has been employed for thousands of years. Its name is derived from two Greek words, one meaning “sharp,” the other meaning “dull,” literally “sharp-dullness,” or, by extension, “wise-foolishness.” Thus, an oxymoron is a saying which first may appear foolish, but upon consideration exhibits wisdom.
See what I’m saying?
This figure of speech is used frequently in God’s Word, particularly in the New Testament. One splendid example occurs in II Corinthians 4.
II Corinthians 4:18
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Looking at things which aren’t seen? The first part of this verse raises several questions. First of all, what kind of unseen things can be looked at? The answer becomes clear when we consider the earlier context.
II Corinthians 4:14
Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.
From this verse, and from the context which continues into chapter five, we see that the “unseen things” are unseen because they are yet future. Why look to the future? How could this have any effect on the challenges of today? The following verses explain.
II Corinthians 4:15–17
For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
These verses reveal a tremendous secret, one which is of value to all Christians. Paul and others with him were enabled to do wonderful things in their time. They were enabled to live for the glory of God and the benefit of others. They were enabled to avoid fainting even under the greatest of pressure because they looked to the future that awaited them, to what God’s Word calls our Hope. And compared to the glory of that Hope, the challenges of the present seem light and transient indeed.
A question remains, however—if these things are yet future, how can one view them? The answer is both simple and magnificent: God has revealed them.
In His Word, God has told us everything we need to know about our eternal destiny and the events that surround it. He reminds me that I now have everlasting life, but also that the choices I make in this short span of earthbound time can have eternal implications.
My physical eyes may tell a different story, but I can choose to look at something which, though invisible to those eyes, is more real, more lasting, and more true than the physical circumstances surrounding me. As I make this choice, my fears release their grip, my peace is strengthened, and every aspect of life is radically affected.
Hebrews 11 makes reference to some of the great examples of believing in the Old Testament. It also shows that, consistently, these wonderful believers saw beyond the immediate situation. They had a reason to stand for God, and to continue standing, because they looked for “a better country, that is, an heavenly” (verse 16) and that subsequently they viewed themselves as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (verse 13). The entire chapter is deserving of a detailed study.
The great lesson of Hebrews 11 is really concluded in chapter 12.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
This is almost breathtaking. For in these verses we have the promise that we can continue, patiently and without fainting, if we will but do what Paul, what the saints of the Old Testament, and what our Lord himself did: look to the joy that is set before us.
I Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.
One Christian said, “I have an answer, but nobody’s asking.” Well perhaps that is because you have been living as though your hope was no different than theirs! Hope-filled Christians, on the other hand, stand out in a world that is accustomed to only misery and frustration, whining and complaining.
As we teach our minds to recognize that what God says is even more reliable than what our physical eyes see, this Hope can sustain us daily, as it has done for the great saints of all ages.
See what God is saying?