“More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ…” (CSB – Read the chapter)
What are you most proud of in this life? What is your prized possession? Those may or may not be the same thing, but that doesn’t matter right now. What is it that gets you the most excited? What if you lost all of that? Is there anything that could salve the wound and make it better? Would you ever be okay again without it? Paul here gives us the assurance that you could be. In fact, if you would count yourself a follower of Jesus, you should be.
Before becoming a follower of Jesus, Paul, then Saul, had it all. He was born to the right family. He had both a religious pedigree to give him credibility among the Jews, and also a political one that gave him Roman citizenship—a rare and precious thing for Jews to have in the first century. He had studied under the best teachers. He was more dedicated to keeping the Law than anyone else. His passion for God was unquenchable. It even led him to participate actively in the persecution of the followers of the Way so that their blasphemous claims did not taint the true faith of God. There was no one smarter or harder working or more committed to the cause than he was.
Then he ran into a heavenly light on his way to Damascus and everything changed.
When Paul encountered Jesus, everything he thought and valued changed. That’s a big statement, but it is also a general one. Paul here gives us a more specific idea of what changed. What changed was his frame of reference for what was important and what wasn’t. Suddenly, the thing that mattered most to him, the thing of which he was the proudest was not any of the things on our list from just a second ago or anything else that might possibly fit into a similar category. What mattered most now was that he was in a relationship with Jesus. Everything else paled in comparison to that.
In fact, he goes even further than just that. Did you catch it? He considered all those other things to be “dung” by comparison. It wasn’t just that those things fell a bit on his priority list relative to Jesus. It’s that they didn’t even compare anymore.
So, I’ll ask again: What do you value most? If you would count yourself a follower of Jesus and you have anything that ranks any closer to Him than a big pile of…dung…you’ve got some priority straightening to do.
Now, if you would not count yourself a follower of Jesus, then, of course you don’t value Jesus like that. No one would expect you to do so. If you did, you would be His follower. But can I offer the encouragement to give this reorientation of valuation its due consideration? Let me explain why.
The things you value other than Jesus will not last. You know that when you’re most honest with yourself. You know it because you’ve seen other people die and the things they valued most were either already gone or started fading once they were. They just don’t last. Nothing we create ever does. Oh, it may outlast us, but nothing lasts forever.
He rose from the grave on the third day and is now alive forever. And the promise He extends to us is that if we will trust our lives into His hands and make Him the thing we value more than anything else, we too can last forever. And even if you were going to say a minute ago that the thing you value most is family and they’ll outlast you, what if I told you that connection could truly last forever rather than losing it when you die? In Christ it can.
The truth is that nothing matters so much as Jesus. If you’ll take my word for it, I can guarantee this: you’ll be glad you did.