Updated: Nov 30, 2019
"I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." These words spoken by the Apostle Paul challenged my heart as I scan through the text in Philippians 3.
"Everything?" I paused at my questioning tone, my heart unsettled by the discomfort I felt in evaluating my own degree of abandonment to Christ.
Paul’s declaration of discipleship to Jesus is in stark contrast to that of the rich young ruler who walked away from Jesus’ invitation of eternal life, unwilling to give up his worldly gains. As much as I desire to be like Paul, immersed by the power and presence of Christ, I find myself unwillingly identifying with the discouragement of the rich young ruler.
Unlike Paul, my pursuit of surrender had not left me satisfied. My knowledge of Christ and my life with Him had become much like the up and down motion of a roller coaster. Life’s disappointments and deep hurts had fed into a disillusionment of God’s direction and desire for my good.
I quickly became aware that I had misplaced my relationship with Jesus. I had limited Him to a mere glass of water, one which I sipped from day to day, as I chased the things I prayed that He would bring into my life. This pattern of false promises and expectations gave way to a deep discontentment in my soul, which was unquenched and perpetually parched for more of what I had already been given.
My spirit, unsatisfied with surrendering everything, had minimized the magnitude of my Savior's mercy and limited the love He had for me. Author Grace Thornton writes,“the good that God has for our lives in Himself is not a consolation prize, something we comfort ourselves with when we don’t have the earthly things we want most. It’s the destination our hearts have been longing for since the day we were created... and He assures us it will be better.”
This convicted my heart, as I had slowly over the years began to view my relationship with Christ as a past prize, sitting on the shelf of my heart, as I went busily along pursuing my "next" good thing. I would revisit the memories from time to time, reminiscing on the ways His grace captured my heart and the work of His love which sustained me in seasons.
I believe this is what happens in many relationships over the years. What begins as long talks, sweet moments, powerful passion, and deep connection can quickly shift if, at any point, one’s attention begins to drift away from the constant pursuit of the other’s soul. Similarly, we can know Christ and not pursue Him; and with our lack of intentional affection, we quickly forget the width, breadth, height, and depth of His surpassing love for us.
How do we get there? To the place where nothing else in this world matters. To a resolve like Paul, who proclaimed the surpassing worth of his pursuit of gaining Christ and being found in Him.
It is clear Paul did not seek to win the glory of this world. One commentator explains that “He forgot the things which were behind, so as not to be content with past labors or present measures of grace.” Paul’s only goal was to have more of Christ and be found in Him.
Are we so in love with Jesus,
So aware of his greatness and goodness,
so enthralled with his power and presence,
so satisfied by his soul-filling sovereignty,
that our “everything” would be so easily exchanged for more of Him?
I think of the prizes I seek on this earth and wonder if I have somehow set myself up for the disappointment I frequently face. Somehow I have even without even realizing it, elevated the gifts of God in this life to be more valuable than the giver Himself.
There is no simple fix for the displacement of the heart; it takes time and intention to bring about deep-rooted affection.
I must daily seek to fall in love with Jesus, and like Paul, having not already obtained it, I must press on to make Christ my own.
What about you? Are you feeling a distance that has discouraged your deep longing for more of Jesus? Maybe you also have placed the expectations of God’s goodness on the tangible worth of this world and experienced the disappointment they are sure to bring.
Friend, you are not alone. Let's press in and study Paul’s words in Philippians 3 owe the next few weeks and learn how to let go of lesser things so that we may find our everything.