On Second Thought
But whatever former things were gains to me [as I thought then], these things [once regarded as advancements in merit] I have come to consider as loss [absolutely worthless] for the sake of Christ [and the purpose which He has given my life]. But more than that, I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled]. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ,
In this letter, Paul had just recounted his impressive resume(Philippians 3:4-6). By birth, status, and accomplishments, he was at the top of the heap. When his name was mentioned in the region, everybody knew who he was. But then something happened: Paul met Jesus. Suddenly, Paul’s world was turned upside down. Things that seemed so important before were now meaningless, and things that had seemed like annoyances became his priorities. Even more, the One who had been his enemy now was his friend and Savior. Meeting Jesus forced Paul to have second thoughts about everything in his life.
Our resumes, too, have elements of status, accomplishments, and other credits. We use them to gain acceptance, to earn respect, ant to wield power. But Christ’s claim on our lives changes everything. Those things may have been the most important truths about us in the past, and they may have shaped our goals and relationships, but now, they’re “rubbish”- unimportant, secondary, forgettable.
Paul’s explanation of the change in his perception tells us that his core identity had radically altered. Why? Because knowing Christ and being known by Him zoomed to the top of Paul’s Top Ten list of the most important facts about his life.
Jesus asked, “What does a man profit if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?”(Matthew 16:26). The answer is, of course, nothing. All the wealth, prestige, awards, and pleasures of this life can’t compare to the daily experience of God’s amazing grace. There’s no comparison.
God has a way of turning what you formerly treasured into trash, and what you once trashed becomes your most precious treasure.
What makes things valuable? Sometimes it’s because there’s so little of them available such as gold or silver or fine stones. Sometimes it’s because they are masterpieces created on a limited scale such as paintings or sculpture. Sometimes the value is more sentimental than actual. Usually value is assigned by the purchaser or the possessor rather than the general public.
In his former life, Paul valued his heritage as a Pharisee, his status in the Sanhedrin, and his education and his accomplishments which were many. We first meet him holding the cloaks of those stoning Stephen. From there he begins to try to eradicate the new sect of those called Christian. I’m sure he was proud of his work of defending and preserving the faith. Then he met Jesus and everything in his life flipped. From being one trying to shut down Christianity, he became one of its strongest promoters and God used him mightily to expand its borders. One might say his priorities changed a hundred and eighty degrees.
There are many Christians who think that they can be followers of Christ and still keep their old priorities. Prayer and reading the Bible happens if they can manage to find time for them, otherwise their day is filled with other things. Fellowshipping with other believers occurs unless there are other things on their schedule. I think that if all their other relationships operated this way most of them would cease to exist. I don’t know of any wife or husband that would accept a relationship of convenience without commitment. Few I think would be willing to accept leftovers. One of the phrases in marriage vows goes something like this: “ forsaking all others, I will keep myself only unto her(him) till death do us part.” Couples in marriage vows pledge that their spouse will have their first, best, and loyal love, attention, and service. As Paul pursued knowing Christ, he realized that everything one can gain in this world is at best temporary. Everything that this world can supply has a limited amount of time and benefit. Wealth can vanish, strength and beauty will fade, age will rob us of our youthful vitality, and things wear out, rust out and quit working. Many have made their priority their work only to discover at retirement their life has little or no meaning. Some have made positions their priority only to see others occupying the position they have been forced to vacate.
What Christ taught and what Paul emphasizes is that the greatest wealth and the most important position is for those who have received Christ as Savior and know that they have been adopted into the family of God. As Paul compared his life in Christ with his old life, he came to the conclusion that what God offers makes everything the world has look like garbage. What a contrast! Paul is literally saying that if we were to take the best the world can provide and compare it to the richness of being a child of God, that best would be something that has lost its value and is put out in the trash.
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.”
I’m convinced that once someone has a genuine experience with Christ such as Paul did, their love for Him will direct their priorities. The more one comes to know Christ, the greater is their love for Him and therefore His mission and work becomes the most valuable prize they have.
Perhaps if you are finding that the things of God keep winding up at the bottom of your list, you might want to have a meeting with Christ. After the crucifixion of Christ, Peter reversed his priorities. He abandoned his work for Christ and went back to making his fishing business his priority. But then he had an encounter with Christ on the shore. What Christ asked him, He also asks us. “Do you love me more than these?” It’s not that Christ wants us to give up everything. In reality, He’s asking us to sort and align our priorities with the kingdom of God directing our order.
Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added unto you.”
If you choose to make God your priority, you just might discover what Paul discovered, that indeed the things of God are so valuable that they make everything else seem cheap.