Daily Devotion - Thursday, February 18, 2016
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ - Philippians 3:7-8
Years ago, I preached a sermon on the these verses from the lectionary passage for today. In the verses preceding these, the Apostle Paul addresses some people in the church to which he's writing the letter. Apparently, these people were seeking to discredit him because he was teaching non-Jews that they could be Christians without having to convert to Judaism. So Paul goes off--listing all of his "Jewish" credentials.
He tells them he was born into the best Jewish family group, well-educated and endowed with every pedigree that you could possibly want to be considered the best of the best when it comes to Jewishness. Paul had, in fact, studied under one of the greatest rabbis in Jewish history: Gamaliel. He had been a rising star in the Jewish religious world before Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and turned it all upside down.
Which is why in verse 7 of this passage he pivots and says, "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ..." Then in verse 8 he says, "I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ."
Here's something fascinating, though. The word "garbage" in the New International Version of the Bible is a complete and utter mistranslation. The Greek word is skubalon, which actually means dung or excrement. Only it's the kind of word that you would use for poop that isn't a nice word, if you know what I mean.
On the night I preached the sermon on this passage of Scripture, I brought every diploma I had ever earned, every trophy, certificate, medal--anything I could find. I scrounged every corner of my office, my house, even my mom's keepsakes to find as many accolades as I could find. I stacked them all over the stage. It looked impressive, to be sure.
It was hard to admit to my congregation that all of those awards and accolades were basically poop when held up to the worth of knowing and following Jesus. I had spent so much time accumulating them, being proud of them, using them to my advantage on resumes and the like.
But when I thought about the dramatic ways that my life had been transformed because of following Jesus, what once looked like an impressive stack of superlatives paled in comparison. When I decided to finally surrender my life, and began stumbling after Jesus the best I could, everything changed for me. All of the really good things in my life, the things that matter, the things that last, all can be traced back to that moment.
What I've discovered over the years is that there is nothing dishonorable about acquiring knowledge, working hard to succeed, always seeking to do my best. When things start to break down is when I start to put too much credence in my own abilities, and start "believing my own press." Nothing I have been able to accomplish on my own comes even close to the incredible life I have because of Jesus.
May you stumble after Jesus today, fixing your spiritual gaze firmly on Him. May you find joy in your work and accomplishments, doing them for the glory of God. May you find even more joy and fulfillment in knowing that a life lived in Jesus' example, for the sake of others and the world is the highest accolade you could ever receive. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always.