Living Life with God's Irrepressible Joy
Do you feel pretty good about your skill set? When you think about the life, job, task, or mission in front of you, do you feel confident that you’re equipped and ready to successfully complete what you need to do?
There’s no problem in feeling confident or qualified for a job or position at work. We just need to be careful that we don’t transfer that feeling of self-assurance into our spiritual lives. The world pushes self-reliance, self-image, and self-possession so much that we often feel we must be fully confident and sure in our own abilities. However, when it comes to our spiritual lives, God calls us to put no confidence in the flesh or in ourselves. As Paul shares with the Philippians:
“For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”
The Jews during Paul’s day were really good at feeling self-confident (much like our culture is today). They had rules to obey, schools you could attend to learn all the rules and how to follow them, and levels of piousness and self-righteousness that people could attain. Paul had attained the highest level of righteousness, according to first century Jewish tradition. He had reached the top. He was the best of the best, the most successful of his peers.
While we cannot relate to how much the Pharisees were looked up to and revered during Paul’s day, our society idolizes and extols other accomplishments. We may relate Paul’s success to that of a businessman trying to climb the corporate ladder and successfully reaching the top of the fortune 500 company. Or maybe the aspiring football player who finally makes it into the professional game and goes on to win every game. Think of the highest level of professional or public success and that would be equivalent to what Paul achieved in first century Israel.
He had it all—the name, the fame, and the respect of fellow Pharisees. Paul truly did have reason for confidence in the flesh or in his achievements. However, he counted it all as loss.
Paul writes, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”
When we follow Him, Jesus often asks us to give up things—things that would distract or lessen our love for Him. For instance, when the rich young ruler approached Jesus and asked what he must do to follow Christ, Jesus told him to sell all that he had and then come and follow Him. (Matthew 10) For Paul, Jesus asked him to give up all the success and accomplishment he had as a Pharisee, because He had a greater work in store for Paul.
So the question for us is...what is Jesus asking us to leave behind? And what is our response to Jesus’ request? Will we be like the rich young ruler who felt that the cost was too high or like Paul who said that whatever gain obtained is counted as loss?
If we think that the price Jesus asks is too high, just remember the price He paid to give us salvation. He gave us His life, so how can we not surrender and give ours back to Him?
Therefore, let’s be careful not to put our confidence in the flesh or in our human works or accomplishments, but only in the work Jesus is doing in our lives, so that we may join Paul in saying:
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”