When my soul feels wandery and needy, when my heart wants Jesus and His word to come rushing in, and my Bible is on my lap but I have no idea where to turn, I open Philippians.
Philippians for me is like coming home. It knows me, my quirks, my desires, my tendencies, my sin, and it meets me head on with the love of Jesus and the solid truth about everything my heart could possibly need at the moment.
This week I turned to Philippians yet again, for probably the 817th time, who knows. And the amazing thing about it is that each time I read it, it’s like it’s new–there are new words for me, new ways it reaches in and grabs me.
I always wonder how that can be when it’s so old and just the same as last time I read it?
It’s because the Holy Spirit translates it to my heart and presses it in on the places I need it most right then and there.
Before I die the whole book will likely be underlined, but today, this is what I underlined:
“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ,” Philippians 3:8 (emphasis mine)
Before today I always thought of this passage as Paul proclaiming how quickly he’d trashed his previous things in life that he had thought were so important. I thought of it as emphasizing that throwing all of that away is so worth it because as believers our biggest gain, our only gain, is Christ.
Of course all that is true, but it struck me today that for Paul, it was a suffering kind of loss. Letting go of his previous achievements, the things he had spent his life’s work on acquiring, his hard efforts, was like a tearing away of his precious jewels, a reminder that those things don’t go easily away.
Our pride in our accomplishments, our attachments to this world, it’s a ripping away. It hurts and the pain is real. This stripping away of what we once held dear is a painful process, and honestly I can’t ever take that lightly, for myself or for others.
The treasure and person of Christ as our reward is the biggest and best thing ever, but our humanity still suffers the loss of what we held as important, primarily our own efforts. And even after salvation and through this walk and journey of faith, it’s a constant dying to self, which implies pain–it’s painful to constantly be reminded that our efforts and accomplishments bought us nothing.
Zero. Zilch. Nada.
It hurt Paul. And it hurts us.
But he pressed forward because of the treasure ahead, the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” (v14). And so must you and I, right?
It’s terribly painful to get over ourselves and our humanity, but it’s a glorious business when we do and when we see ourselves letting go of it slowly but surely, bit by bit.
Oh Philippians, will you ever give up on me? Or rather, Jesus, will you ever give up on me?