We were deeply saddened to learn of Warren Wiersbe’s passing last week. His wisdom and faithfulness fed the souls of many. In honor of his many contributions to Christianity, here is an excerpt from Truth on Its Head: Unusual Wisdom in the Paradoxes of the Bible by Warren Wiersbe (Lexham Press, 2016).
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… as unknown, and yet well known. (2 Cor 6:9)
As I meditated on this paradox—“as unknown, and yet well-known”—I found myself asking three questions.
Do We Really Know Other People?
Occasionally Paul was not identified accurately. Even Christ’s apostles did not recognize Paul as one of their number and were afraid of him, but Barnabas defended him and they changed their minds (Acts 9:26–30). The Greek scholars in Athens thought he was a confused visiting philosopher (Acts 17:18–20), and the Roman soldiers thought he was an escaped Egyptian criminal (Acts 21:37–39). The Roman governor Festus knew next to nothing about him and admitted it (Acts 25:13–27). But the demons recognized Paul (Acts 19:11–15)! And yet, in all his ministry, Paul had never used deception but had always been honest and without guile in his ministry (2 Cor. 6:1–10).
The older I have grown in the things of the Lord, the more understanding and forgiving I have become regarding those who have attacked me or differed from me. I do not think I am compromising, but I do believe that the Lord is enabling me to practice that love which “is not provoked” but “bears all things” (1 Cor. 13:5, 7). Today I find it far easier to call others “Christians” who are not in my so-called camp, and I hope they feel the same way about me.
Do We Really Know Ourselves?
Many people are ignorant of their own potential, what the Lord can make out of them and accomplish through them. Moses argued with the Lord that he was not qualified to lead Israel (Exod. 3–4), yet see what he accomplished by saying yes to God. Gideon was sure that he and his family were losers, but God transformed him into a courageous general (Judg. 6–7). The young prophet Jeremiah felt unprepared for his ministry, but what a servant he turned out to be (Jer. 1)!
As brothers and sisters in God’s family, we can help one another discover our strengths and overcome our weaknesses. I thank God for family, friends, and co-laborers who have helped me better understand myself and my work. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov. 27:6). We must look at ourselves in the mirror of God’s word (James 1:21–27) and ask God to deal with our weaknesses and protect our strengths. We must confess our sins to the Lord (1 John 1:9) and “wash” in the water of the word (Eph. 5:26). Experiencing God’s forgiveness is a humbling experience that reassures us that we belong to Him and that He loves us.
Do We Really Know the Lord?
The twelve apostles had the privilege of living with Jesus, hearing His words, and seeing His works, and yet many times they did not really know Him. They scolded a man who was casting out demons in the name of Jesus (Mark 9:38–41). They tried to prevent parents from bringing their children to Jesus (Mark 10:13–16). James and John wanted to call fire down from heaven to destroy an unfriendly Samaritan village (Luke 9:51–56). They told Jesus to dismiss a hungry crowd so the people could find food (Matt. 14:15), and they also wanted Him to get rid of a burdened Gentile woman who was pestering them (Matt. 15:22–28). Jesus told His disciples He would be crucified in Jerusalem and Peter took Him aside and reprimanded Him (Matt. 16:21–23). No wonder Jesus cried out one day, “How long should I bear with you?” (Matt. 17:17)!
Jesus came to reveal the Father to us. “If you had known Me,” He told the disciples, “you would have known My Father” (John 14:7). The unconverted people we witness to point only to the Old Testament and argue that our God is a bully who destroys cities and kills innocent people. If these unbelievers could understand theology, I would answer their worn-out arguments, but instead, I simply point them to Jesus. See Him! God carrying a baby in His arms! God touching and healing a leper! God giving sight to a blind man! God feeding thousands of hungry people! God dying on a cross for the sins of the world! Does that look like a hard-hearted bully?
Like Jesus and Paul, every faithful Christian will be “as unknown, and yet well-known.”
They will encounter envious criticism and unfair accusations, but like Jesus and Paul they will go on with life and ministry and seek only to serve the Lord and glorify Him. The only words we should strive to hear are, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matt. 25:21).
This paragraph from a sermon by the gifted Scottish preacher George H. Morrison has encouraged me:
If, then, you are truly following Christ, never be anxious to explain yourself; do not be eager to be understood, and never grow feverish to be understood. Take up thy cross; study to be quiet; redeem the time; follow the gleam bravely. Remember that with all the saints you are to walk heavenward as one unknown.