By Campus Missionary Mary Rowley –
Based on Philippians 3:4b-14
Paul had every right to hold himself high in the eyes of God. After all, he was a perfect Jew: circumcised according to custom, from the tribe of Benjamin, a law-abiding Pharisee, a persecutor of the enemies of the Jewish faith. Why would God frown upon him? He had done everything required of him and more.
We think that way too, sometimes. I know I put myself on a pedestal and say, “Look at me, God! Today I spent time in prayer, I studied your Word, I shared the Gospel, I followed all the Commandments – I’m the perfect Christian! Praise me!” (I don’t say it in quite those words, but you get the idea.) We unconsciously rate ourselves above others, wondering why God would bother with those inferior people when he has us.
After Paul described his accomplishments, he said, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Wait, what? “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” That throws us for a loop. Paul, perfect Paul, denounced his accomplishments because Jesus was more important? But look at everything he’d done!
Paul knew, and shared with us, that accomplishments are meaningless. We are meaningless. Only Jesus has meaning, and with him in our hearts, our lives can have meaning, too. Paul had his whole life ahead of him. Who knows what he might have become? Chief priest, perhaps? But he put all that aside and followed Jesus, doubtless making his life much harder, because Jesus helped him realize what was truly important. Paul is very careful to point out that this has nothing to do with him; it all came from Jesus.
We know that Paul is right; our accomplishments are nothing compared to the love Christ gives us. It’s a good thing it’s not up to us, or we would unconsciously condemn ourselves by focusing on us and not on God. Thanks be to God, who gives us saving faith! Because of him, we will receive the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.