I believe it to be true that everything I have, everything I have accomplished or will ever accomplish is loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord (Phil. 3:8-9). But have I suffered the loss of all things for the sake of Christ? And what does that really mean? Give me a chance to explain, I promise I won’t be the typical unrealistically-zealous-super-Christian-blogger that you are expecting!
Paul claims that for the sake of Christ, he has “suffered the loss of all things” and he counts them as “rubbish” (i.e. excrement, bile, feces). Why would he say this? Paul hasn’t played Playstation 3 or seen the new James Bond movie has he? Would he count those things loss?
Why has Paul lost everything? And surely he hasn’t literally lost everything has he? Paul claims that the purpose for which he has lost all things is “in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection . . .” (Phil. 3:9-10).
Paul didn’t literally lose everthing. He didn’t lose his family (though they likely disowned him when he became a Christian). He didn’t lose his friends–sure he lost many of his Pharisee friends but I don’t think those guys were very much fun to hang out with anyway! He gained tremendous friends–Timothy, Silas, Barnabas, Luke, Priscilla/Aquila, and Ephaphroditus–men who risked their lives for Paul’s welfare and for the progress of the gospel. Paul didn’t lose all his wealth–we don’t really know how wealthy Paul was but probably as a Pharisee he wasn’t hurting financially–when Paul became a Christian, he certainly took a big pay-cut, but he was always provided for. Churches contributed to his ministry, Christian brothers and sisters invited him into their homes and provided for him–Paul learned the secret of living both in plenty and in want (Phil. 4:12). He wasn’t a starving beggar.
So how exactly did Paul “suffer the loss of all things” for the sake of Christ? I think the answer is found in the previous verses of Philippians 3. In verses 4-6 Paul lists his reasons for boasting as a Pharisaic Jew. He was of a prominent tribe, his family held to strict observance of the law as demonstrated by his being circumcised on the 8th day. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews, he was of the strictest sect of Judaism–the Pharisees. His observance of the law could be described as “blameless” and his zeal for Pharisaic Judaism even drove him to persecute the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Everything Paul lists in verses 4-6, he now considers loss compared to knowing Christ. That is how Paul has literally lost everything. He has lost everything that he formerly put his hope and joy in. He lost his ground for boasting. Upon coming to know Christ, everything Paul had thought to be gain revealed its true nature as loss by comparison.
Paul’s value system was turned on its head. His life was spiritually transformed such that he could say “far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). It wasn’t that Paul lost all his possessions, money, achievements or friendships, but rather, his understanding of value and joy were completely changed such that his only true treasure was the crucified and risen Christ who had brought Paul to a saving knowledge of God!
So would Paul play Playstation 3? I think so. But he would play Playstation 3 knowing that it doesn’t even touch the joy he has in Christ. And he would probably throw it out the window if it started to distract him from his one true love (I don’t think that the zeal he had as a Pharisee ever really left him!). Its all a matter of perspective. Has the gospel become so intensely precious to you that you could honestly say you have suffered the loss of all things? You don’t have to hate Playstation 3 or Nintendo Wii or the new James Bond movie (which in all honesty I really want to see), but none of those things can match the joy I have found in being a child of God through the death and resurrecton of my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.