For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things . . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Philippians 3:8b, 10 (ESV)
The apostle Paul had an agenda for his life. His agenda was to know Christ, to know the power of Christ’s resurrection, to share in Christ’s suffering, and to become like Christ in Christ’s death. To fulfill his agenda Paul counted as loss everything he had gained and considered it rubbish. He wanted to know Christ exceedingly more than he wanted fame or fortune.
What did Paul count as loss? In his own words, If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:4-6 ESV) Paul exceeded his status in Judaism beyond his contemporaries and was extremely zealous for the traditions of the fathers (Galatians 1:14). Gamaliel, a highly regarded Jewish teacher educated him. Being very zealous for God, Paul became a highly regarded religious leader himself and was trusted with squelching the rise of the new religion called “The Way” (Acts 22:3; 26:9-11).
Paul suffered the loss of power, position, popularity, and possessions in his mission to know Christ. Instead he embraced far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27 ESV)
In the church today there are many who teach that when you believe in Christ he will ensure that you will always be healthy, wealthy and safe. They preach that all you need is faith and that Christ will do these things for you. Their gospel is a gospel of gain. It is a gospel that in fact suggests that the scriptures are not truthful. The scriptures tell us that in this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33). It is through many tribulations that we enter the kingdom (Acts 14:22). We must lose our lives to gain them (Luke 9:24, 17:33).
Before sailing from Crete Paul made a plea to the centurion not to leave port. He believed there would be loss of life and boat if they sailed. Although there was no loss of life, before the journey was over the ship’s crew had thrown the ship’s cargo and tackle overboard in an effort to save their lives. Nothing was too valuable to be tossed in the sea in an effort to secure their salvation (Acts 27:9-19).
In our venture to have an interest in Christ, to know him and be his disciples, we must be willing to not only suffer the loss (throw overboard) of our possessions but also that which we might gain. Nothing is too valuable to retain that would keep us from gaining Christ.
Are you prepared to suffer loss for the sake of Christ?
Scriptures for meditation:
2 Thessalonians 1:5
2 Timothy 2:8-9