October 2, 2011
When you have it all, it’s hard to give it up. I recently went to an estate auction where everything had to be sold, not because of death, but because of divorce. More than $2,000,000 was the bottom line. The owner rode his prize show horse in the ring while the bidders nodded their heads. Though the horse sold for an amazing $102,000, the owner quickly had to dismount and go into his house where he cried like a baby. It’s one thing to be forced into giving things up, but quite another to willingly part with that which has given you joy, consumed the attention of your life and made you proud.
All the apostle Paul had lived for previously he willingly gave up to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. It was not because God wanted to rob him of his joy, but because God wanted to give him a joy that was not built on the temporal, but the eternal. When Paul understood the difference, he willingly gave up that which would not last for that which would not end. His passionate love for Jesus left him focused on grasping all for which Jesus Christ had grasped him. His was a life of passion!
We Must Give Up What Stands Between God and Us (vv. 4b-7)
The religious zealot, Paul, found that his zealous credentials, though noteworthy among men, were the impenetrable barriers between himself and God. He had been born in the right family and spent a lifetime of discipline proudly developing these credentials. Not only was his family proud of him, but he was proud of himself. It would be unthinkable to consider giving up that which was the very center of his life. What is the cost of giving yourself to that, which is less than the most important?
In his book The Passion Promise, John Avant relates a story regarding Desert Storm. The storm was blowing, and “Colonel William Post had a job to do. He was in charge of receiving all of the incoming supplies for the ground forces. Among these supplies were the tons of food that came in every day.
“One day, Colonel Post received a message from the Pentagon requesting that he account for 40 cases of missing grape jelly. The colonel sent a soldier to investigate the mysterious missing jelly; the soldier reported back that it couldn’t be found. Colonel Post made his report and assumed that would be the end of it. After all, it was just grape jelly.
“He assumed wrong. The Pentagon continued to press him, pointing out it needed to close the books for the month, and jelly just couldn’t vanish like that. Finally, it ordered him to find the jelly!
“The Colonel had had enough by then and sent back this response: ‘Sirs, you must decide. I can dispatch the entire army to find your missing jelly or kick Saddam out of Kuwait, but not both!’ He got no reply.”
Paul, realizing he couldn’t have both, gave up the things that were gain to him that he might have Christ.
What is it that stands between you and a life of passionate love for the Lord Jesus? It’s really only jelly. Give it up!
We Gain in Christ What We Can’t Gain Any Other Way (v. 9)
When the curtain falls on our lives here on earth, we’ll have to stand before Holy God. Paul didn’t want to stand before God in the clothing of his own deeds, but rather in the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness comes not through earthly achievements, but through faith in the Christ of Calvary. Only in His righteousness will we experience acceptance with God.
Passionate Pursuit of Christ Is the Lifestyle of a Grateful Believer (vv. 12-14)
One cannot read this passage seriously without feeling the passion the apostle Paul has for Jesus Christ. We are not speaking merely about a philosophy of life here. We are not addressing a code of conduct that can be mimicked to facilitate a good life. We are hearing the testimony of radical transformation from one who has moved from fanatical religious idealism to a passionate relationship with the living Lord. It is a testimony of one who has been delivered from the stuffiness and bondage of legalism by the power of the God of grace. It is the victory of deliverance from a life of me-ism to a focus on the One who is worthy of the total attention of my soul, my life, my all.
This focus on Christ, like a magnifying glass, effected a fire of passion that would drive him to declare, “For to me, to live is Christ; and to die is gain” (
This is the passion that is to be normal for every child of God; but oh, how hard it is to turn loose of the temporal to gain the eternal, to give up the immediate self-gratification to hear the future, “Well done,” from our Lord, to die to self to possess the abundant life of Christ.
That which separates high achievers from mediocrity is passion. That which propels one team ahead of another is not just talent, but passion. Passion for all that God has planned for you in Christ Jesus will be that which propels you beyond a life of status quo, failed dreams and regrets.
The songwriter said it well. “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!” Keep pressing forward…with passion!