(I pondered this passage in my blog about 4 1/2 years ago. As I re-read what I wrote I realized i couldn’t say it much better. So this is a re-print of that post. It’s worth reading – or re-reading – if I do say so myself).
Often times when I look at a passage there are questions that immediately spring to mind. Other times I am struck by phrases that stand out. As I pondered this passage there were particular words that grabbed my attention.
“Whatever” (v.7) – in other words Paul is saying that no matter how much success he has had from the world’s perspective none of it matters a hill of beans. Christ has captured his heart and Christ is his everything. Question I ask myself: Has my heart been unequivocally captured by Christ?
“Surpassing” (v.8)– It’s almost as if Paul cannot think of a superlative that would do justice to how he feels about knowing Christ. He was not content to just say the “greatness of knowing Christ” – he had to add surpassing greatness. Question for me: Does knowing Christ mean anywhere near as much to me as it did to Paul?
“Lord” (v.8) – Paul could have stopped with”knowing Christ Jesus” and we would have gotten his point, but he went on to add “my Lord”. Why? What was he trying to communicate to his readers? In 2:11 of this book Paul declares that “Jesus Christ IS Lord”. Here, however, he declares that Jesus is “my Lord.” There is a big difference in knowing on the one hand that Jesus Christ IS Lord and on the other hand knowing Him as my Lord. For Christ to be Lord means that I have pledged allegiance to Him alone and completely surrendered everything about my life to Him – relinquishing control once and for all and allowing Him to dictate how I will live this life. Question for me: Have I done this?
“Rubbish” (v.8) – This is one of my favorite words in the Greek New Testament. It is the word “skubala”. Here it is translated rubbish. Other translations have it as dung or refuse. What the word really means is “crap”. A few things I thought about with regard to crap: 1) Nobody is saving it up – you never hear anyone say, “Hey, I’ve got a bunch of really great crap I’ve been collecting, come on over to the house and I’ll show it to you” 2) It’s not something you would ever spend money on – there is no such thing as a Crap Store and I never see coupons like “20% off all our crap” (- on second thought maybe you do.) 3) It actually started out as something good – but over time it devolved into something that is only good to flush away. 4) The best thing about crap is getting rid of it. It feels really good to get rid of all your crap. Conversely, there is this thing called impaction that is not only unhealthy but does not feel good at all – in other words, trying to hoard crap can actually be painful. 5) You never really hear people talking about their crap (unless you were in my middle school Sunday School class) – When is the last time you heard someone say. “Man I’ve gotta tell you about this great crap I had this morning.”
Now, put all this in the context of what Paul is saying in this passage. EVERYTHING to him was just a bunch of skubala compared to knowing Christ. Question for me: On a scale of 1-10, how much of a crap-lover am I? Am I willing to get rid of all my crap if it means I can know Christ better?
“Found” (v.9) – We all know the Amazing Grace verse “I once was lost but now am found…” I think for the most part we get the fact that we were completely lost. But I kind of think we equate our lostness to a game of hide and seek – where when the game is over if we still have not been found we come out of our hiding place and allow ourselves to be found. This is not the gospel AT ALL. We were so lost that even if we tried to be found we never would be. The ONLY way we were ever found is that The Shepherd of our Souls went looking for us and did not give up until He FOUND us – wandering hopelessly and helplessly and desperately in the desert of our eternal lostness. We try really hard to get found by doing all the right things, being “religious” enough, giving away enough, helping others enough. Paul is saying here that not only is all our crap worthless but so is our attempt to make ourselves holy by acting righteous. The ONLY way to be found, he says, is by…
“Faith” (v.9) – At first glance it would seem that God has made it much easier for us to be found. Quit trying to do do do (he’s already said that that is like do-do in His sight), instead just believe – have faith. Sounds easy right? It is easy… until you understand what saving faith really is. Let me try to define it as I am coming to understand it – then you tell me which is easier. Faith in Christ involves total surrender on my part. It is no longer about what I want or what I need or what I dream about. It is about Christ and what He wants. Faith says each day “I die to myself and live for Him.” Faith acknowledges that apart from Him I am nothing. Faith submits willingly and joyfully to His “whatevers” and completely discounts my whatevers. Faith acts intentionally and courageously to pursue a gospel centered, gospel saturated life. Faith boasts in the cross and the work of Christ – not in my efforts no matter how good they may be. Faith waits patiently for God’s timing instead of plowing forward with all my great ideas. Faith prays.
Just the act of writing all that out helps me recognize how puny my faith is compared to Paul. Not sure I’m really liking this passage now that I’m having to deal with and personalize it. Just a bit too convicting for me. I do however like the idea of the last word I will comment on:
“Power” (v.10) – The idea of power is intoxicating. And then I’m reminded that the kind of power Paul is talking about comes in a completely different looking package than what most of us want. Check out what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: “But (the Lord) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. See, here is where Paul and I are 2 different cats. I, myself, delight in strength, in compliments, in encouraging affirmation, in easy times, in good health, in wealth, in fun. So far to go! So much to learn!
May God fuel us with a desire to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.