The chaos of daily distractions always presents us with a chance to re-examine what we’re about. Are we busy with the “right” things? Is our attention pulled in too many different directions? (Usually the case for me.) Are we aware of our priorities, and are we living in light of them? Big questions like these are easy to ignore because we know the answers are disconcerting and require a lot of spiritual heavy lifting. Little questions get our attention most of the time because they have easily applied answers. But if our big questions go unanswered, hovering in the background like a fog, our lives go unweighted. We start to drift.
I was reminded of this when I heard a sermon on Phillipians 3:10 a few weeks ago. In this passage, Paul is looking back on his life as if it were a long and twisting road, wracked with the rubble of suffering and the debris of worldly pleasures. He considers everything in his life to be “loss” except for one thing: gaining a person, gaining Christ (Phil. 3:7-8). In verse 8, he tells us what he means by “gaining.” He means knowing. Look at his words in verses 8-11.
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 9 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— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Why did Paul suffer loss? To gain Christ, to know Christ. What was the most worthwhile thing in his experience? Knowing Jesus Christ (v. 8). And how did he want to know Christ? By sharing in his sufferings and becoming like Christ in his death, so that he could know Christ in his victory, in his resurrection. All of life was, for Paul, about knowing a person, knowing Christ.
Is that what you want? Is it what I want? Imagine someone asking you point-blank, “What’s your reason for living?” Would your answer really be the same as Paul’s? Would it be, “My purpose for living is to know the person of Christ better and better each day, until I die”?
I’m writing this on the morning of January 1st, 2019. My prayer for myself and for you is this: that you would wake up each morning this year and ask a very simple question: how can I know Christ better today? You may need to get creative with your answers, relying on the Spirit’s guidance, of course. And I’ll pass along what answers God brings to me as the year progresses. But even when we don’t know what the answer is when we wake, we need to ask it. Because someday, sooner than we imagine, we’ll be at the end of life, looking back on our own rubble-ridden road, just as Paul did. Our hearts will be heavy if we can’t say that we lived to know a person, that we lived to know Christ.