Apprehended By Christ
I press on, if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus.
No master has so many servants as our Master; and for each he has a suitable employment. Even the little maid was at hand to testify to Naaman in his need. Many of us murmur against the position God has given us. We want to do this, but God puts us to that. We have an ambition to serve him here, but his plan for us lies elsewhere. When faced by such apparent reverses, it is well to remember that God’s purpose for us goes back before our conversion, for his foreknowledge has determined our circumstances even before we were born. God never does a thing suddenly; he has always prepared long, long before. So there is nothing to murmur about, nothing to be proud of in the calling of God. There is also no one of whom to be jealous, for other people’s advantages have nothing to do with us. When we look back over life, we bow and acknowledge that all was prepared by God. So there is no need to fear we have missed something. To have this assurance is true rest.
The apostle Paul understood very well how that the plans God has for us are often very different than what we might plan. In his letter to the Philippians he tells us something about his former life before his encounter with Jesus. To the Corinthians, he shares his history that give us insight to what he had planned for his life:
“To my shame, I must say, we have been too weak [in comparison to those pseudo-apostles who take advantage of you].But in whatever anyone else dares to boast—I am speaking foolishly—I also dare to boast. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.”
2 Corinthians 2:10-11
We first meet Paul at the stoning of Stephen holding the cloaks and giving assent that executing this blasphemer was the right thing to do. From there we find him taking up the cause to eradicate this new sect that appeared to threaten Judaism. In his mind he was serving the cause of God by keeping the faith pure. His goal and plan was to make sure that the Jewish faith remained undefiled by any person. Scholars seem to think that Paul was in training to perhaps become the next high priest. Whatever those plans were they encountered a radical transformation and Paul’s purposed changed from that of persecuting the Christians to becoming a proclaimer of the gospel of Christ and one that instead of shutting down the movement to expanding it even to the Gentiles- the ends of the earth.
From someone who resisted Christ, Paul was selected by the Lord as His missionary and scribe who contributed two thirds of the New Testament. What a different plan this was in comparison to Paul’s personal plans. Multiple stories, both ancient and modern tell how God changed the direction and plans of humans to bring about His sovereign plans. And those who experience such change of plans, though they may resist at first, find themselves more fulfilled than they might had they pursued their own plans. Paul, in the letter to the Philippians expresses the change in his heart toward God’s plans versus his old plans:
“Look out for the dogs [the Judaizers, the legalists], look out for the troublemakers, look out for the false circumcision [those who claim circumcision is necessary for salvation]; for we [who are born-again have been reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, set apart for His purpose and] are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory and take pride and exult in Christ Jesus and place no confidence [in what we have or who we are] in the flesh— though I myself might have [some grounds for] confidence in the flesh [if I were pursuing salvation by works]. If anyone else thinks that he has reason to be confident in the flesh [that is, in his own efforts to achieve salvation], I have far more: circumcised when I was eight days old, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews [an exemplary Hebrew]; as to the [observance of the] Law, a Pharisee; as to my zeal [for Jewish tradition], a persecutor of the church; and as to righteousness [supposed right living] which [my fellow Jews believe] is in the Law, I proved myself blameless. 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, and may be found in Him [believing and relying on Him], not having any righteousness of my own derived from [my obedience to] the Law and its rituals, but [possessing] that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; so that I may attain to the resurrection [that will raise me] from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature [pursuing spiritual perfection] should have this attitude. And if in any respect you have a different attitude, that too God will make clear to you.”
Philippians 3: 2-15
When we come to understand that God’s plans for our lives are so much better than we could imagine and we experience the rewarding satisfaction that what we are doing is pleasing to Christ, even the hardships we suffer become treasures. If we choose to focus on “what we have given or given up” we will find room to murmur. But if we consider that serving Christ in any way and any where are indeed the highest privilege any human can have bestowed upon them, our work and service becomes an exceeding joy. That’s what Paul discovered. No wonder he says that the privilege of serving Christ is so great that all his previous accomplishments were as rubbish in comparison.
Only when we come to view our relationship with Christ as more important than anything else- career, lifestyle, social or economic standing, being famous or influential- can we fully find completeness and fulfillment in life. Only when we come to Christ and say, “Lord, here’s my life, spend it as You will,” will we find true joy and contentment. In that state of being, no longer are we slaves to this world and all of its pressures. No longer will we be subject to pressure to “fit in,” be “successful,” or reach the “top.”
May you and I come to the place where, like Paul, we recognize that we have been “apprehended” for something greater than we could ever have planned on our own. We have to go beyond mere intellectual assent that God’s ways are better than our ways. We have to begin to live that way and when we do we will finds ourselves “contented in whatever state we find ourselves in.”
“Not that I speak from [any personal] need, for I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances. I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need.”
The secret of contentment and rest is learning to walk in God’s plans for our lives. Stop resisting, stop running for resisting and running produce turmoil. Surrendered obedience yields peace and joy.
Dr. John Thompson