Over the years, I’ve saved a few things with the idea that I was going to use them in some way. I kept an old table leg, envisioning it as a large, freestanding candle holder. I’ve kept a box full of upholstery samples, envisioning them as tote bags to be used as gifts. I’ve kept a stack of Bible studies that I used in various classes with various ages, without a plan but hating to throw them away.
People my age are down-sizing. Some are doing it because they are moving to a smaller place or a seniors’ residence where they will not have space to keep their ‘collections’ — hoarded or sentimental. We moved six years ago and deleted loads of stuff, but now it is time to do it again. My stuff is distracting me from my focus.
The problem is deciding my focus and then sticking to it. Whether I have adult ADD or some other ‘excuse’ this interest in everything has a strong, negative side. It distracts me from any ‘main’ thing.
Paul had a similar decision to make regarding what was the most important thing in his life. After making a list of whatever could give him ‘reason for confidence’ in himself, he decided to dump it all and press on with one focus:
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, 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, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8–11)
(Note: In this and other NT passages concerning ‘hope’ the word is not a “I hope so” uncertainty, but a sure thing. “Heaven is my hope” means I’m looking towards eternity as a certain destination. Here, Paul is not unsure about being raised from the dead. Another way to say part of this passage is: “All I want is to know Christ, namely to experience the power of his resurrection and share in his sufferings. I want to know Christ by becoming like him in death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life.” Or verse 11 could be a complete sentence which could begin “In this way I can hope,” or “In view of this, I hope.” From Loh and Nida’s, “Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.”)
His focus was knowing Jesus Christ, particularly regarding his standing with God. His salvation was not about his heritage or anything else, only Christ. He gladly dumped everything that he might have counted on to make him important in anyone’s eyes, including his own.
In our culture, people value lots of things — nice home, new car, achievements, popularity, etc. As I read these verses, I need discernment. What would I write as “the loss of all things” and what would I say is my biggest gain? Paul’s list was not a list of sins, but of prestige or things that answer the question: What have you that gives you confidence in yourself? Appearance? Intelligence? Skills? An abundant life?
Paul considered everything on his list was garbage compared to gaining gain that which he valued the most of all, Jesus Christ and confidence in Him. In this time and place, what is God asking of me? What is the most valued thing, the thing which should be my focus?
Jesus, this are unexpected thoughts. I’m not certain where they will take me, but am okay with being stripped of anything that keeps You from being glorified in my life. Show me what to say YES to, and what needs to go in that give-away box.