Inventory Time (Philippians 3:4-8)
Most of us pause at some time to take stock of what really matters in life. In lesser ways we do it all along. At life's dramatic intersections we do it in great depth. Most people in prison take stock. When Paul was in prison for Christ he had much time to assess his circumstances. Paul made an enormous trade-off to serve Christ. He turned his back on family heritage, a comfortable place in the religious establishment, and certain personal security. It landed him in jail while waiting for a verdict on his life. Paul concluded that the trade-off was worth it all.
We should all take this ultimate inventory. The personal knowledge of Jesus Christ diminishes all other personal assets.
Most of Us Have Some Real Personal Assets
We have some assets that we inherit. By God's grace most of us inherit some good things in life. Our background, family, associates, and surroundings are often good gifts to us. We may have an excellent heritage. Paul did. He was "circumcised on the eighth day." That is, he was born in the strictest conformity with the highest norms of his race.
We may have a proud parenthood. Paul was "of the people of Israel." He was not a proselyte or convert, but of direct Israeliteish descent, a Jew with unmixed blood. We would say that Paul was a "blue blood," a person with exalted family heritage.
We may have an excellent brotherhood. Paul was "of the tribe of Benjamin." Benjamin was considered the elite tribe of Israel. Paul came from an exemplary family rooted in the favorite region of his Jewish people. The people and the places of Paul's life were all the very best.
We may live in the right neighborhood. Paul was a "Hebrew of the Hebrews." Although he lived in a Greek city, Tarsus, Paul's family were strict Jews. They lived a kosher life. They retained the Hebrew language in spite of inconvenience and oddity. All of these were very real assets in Paul's life.
For many of us our family, friends, region, schooling, and surroundings are very real assets. That is good. Yet compared to knowing Christ, they diminish.
We have some assets we achieve. Paul had improved what life had given him. By his own discipline he achieved rare status in the Jewish world.
We may achieve elitism. Paul was "in regard to the law, a Pharisee" (v. 5). By his own rigorous discipline he belonged to the elite religious achievers of his time. We may achieve a level of enthusiasm that marks our lives as particularly vital. As for Paul's zeal, he was "persecuting the church." Paul lived with a burning vitality that belonged to his own intensity. That is indeed an asset. We may live with a rigorism, "as for legalistic righteousness, faultless" (v. 6). No one could find a flaw in Paul's outward observance of God's requirements.
For some of us personal achievement and rigorous discipline are a way of life. That is good. Yet compared to knowing Christ, that too diminishes.
In Comparison to Christ, All Other Assets Diminish
Life's assets of inheritance and achievement are real. Yet we must compare those assets with something of greater reality and value—the knowledge of the Son of God.
We must make a reevaluation of life's assets. "Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ" (v. 7). There is a rationality in this reevaluation. This was no instant replay. Paul deliberately, carefully came to this conclusion. The finest and best things in his life were like losses compared to knowing Jesus Christ. When the sun rises, all other stars disappear. When a great man enters the room, lesser men fade. When Christ comes into life, assets can look like liabilities.
The cause of the reevaluation is "the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." The words refers to the personal, daily knowledge of the risen Christ. No credential, pedigree, achievement, or promotion can stand in the same place with simply knowing Jesus Christ.
The cost of this evaluation may be enormous: "For whose sake I have lost all things" (v. 8). Legally, familially, educationally, religiously, economically, and in every way Paul had lost everything most would live for. Yet he had come to count these things as rubbish compared to Christ.
When you take inventory, what value do you put on the knowledge of Christ? When a ship is about to sink, the passengers begin to throw cargo overboard. If you had to throw away the things of value in order of importance, would only Christ be left at the end? All Paul had was Christ and Christ had all of Paul. Considering history, did Paul really lose anything that counts? Will you?