” But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” Philippians 3:7-8 (NIV)
I had a humorous and rather humiliating moment of clarity about a decade ago during a pick-up basketball game. Our team was getting absolutely demolished. The team we were playing seem to score at will and I had enough. I made up in mind that the next time on defense, I was going to steal the ball and drive down the court for a lay-up. It took very little time for my opportunity to come. I sized up the person I was defending, timed his dribble, deflected the ball and took off to the other end. There was only one small problem. I seemed to be running in place. My legs were extremely heavy with fatigue. I felt like I was suddenly on a treadmill. I was going nowhere in a hurry. I just wasn’t that young player I used to be. I grieved over the fact that time had caught to me and taken from me something extremely precious to me. Time had robbed me of my youth.
Before his spiritual conversion and life with Christ, Paul was a man on the move. He knew where he wanted to go and there was nothing preventing him from getting there. I wonder if Paul ever had occasion to look back at his life as an unbeliever and grieve over the achievements and potential successes he left behind.
The book of Philippians along with other epistles he authored strongly suggest otherwise. Consider the list of things Paul took great pleasure and pride—things that we all are naturally inclined to value highly about ourselves.
- His ethnic and national identity (3:5)
- His religious zeal and “blameless” morality (3:6)
- His public and professional success (Gal. 1:14)
Certainly these were things of immense importance to Paul, as they would be to anyone. Yet, there a came a time when those realities began to lose there value and importance. And it happened upon the moment of his life-changing encounter with the risen Jesus Christ (Acts 9). Paul had become so overtaken with wonder in the Person of Jesus Christ and in the joy of his spiritual salvation, that the very things that were at one time of immense value to him, he now considered utterly worthless (3:8).
A SCHEME AS OLD AS THE GARDEN OF EDEN
In the garden of Eden, Satan devised a plan to convince Adam and Eve that God was holding back something from them that they had a right to (Genesis 3:1). God had given the first couple access and freedom to enjoy the food from every tree in the garden…but one. Satan made the restriction of that one tree the focus of their concern and it led to their downfall. I believe he uses the same tactics with believers today. There is so much available to partake of and enjoy for the believer. The joy of knowing we have been chosen and justified (Romans 8:30). The unfathomable privilege of being indwelt by God’s Spirit (Romans 8:9). The promise of a glorious eternity (Romans 8:18), just to name a few. It’s not that the more earthly concerns are not important. They do however matter very little in light of the believer’s spiritual and eternal benefits. Nevertheless, Satan would have us preoccupied and consumed with what has been lost or what is being threatened. Many believers find themselves stumbling in pursuit of the pleasures of this world. Or they find themselves spending their days fighting a bitter battle for their personal rights and comforts. The idea of relinquishing something of tremendous value for the benefit of a more intimate fellowship with Christ and the believer’s future reward seems foreign and unreasonable.
The apostle Paul had found that pearl of immense value (Matthew 13:45-46). And therefore, there was nothing left in this life that held him bound—nothing he could not readily give up. NOTHING. That is true freedom.
As for those guys who made me look real old? Let’s just say I wouldn’t seeing them again and settling the score.