A year ago, I attended my twenty-year academy reunion, which alerted the alumni association to my location. Recently, they sent me a copy of the latest magazine, no doubt to tempt me to rejoin. I flipped through, and finally landed at the back, where each class chronicles what people are up to. There were change of command ceremonies, retirement parties, and growing families. My life is unsatisfactory, in comparison. I was reminded how I didn’t even feel like I fit in with my classmates, anymore. I asked myself, Is it enough? I have not accomplished anything notable. I would like to say that I am a good servant of God, but I feel like a failure there, as well.
I want to be able to point to something that I have done; I want to feel like my life has been worthwhile. When I decided to go to my reunion, I realized that my hesitation was because my pride didn’t want to face my past mistakes. My thoughts had gone back to this kind of pride that is rooted in a longing for significance. I should find my worth in being a child of God, but I keep thinking that maybe I could be significant to other people. I see that my insecurity and desire to be accepted by others drives my stupidest behavior. The result is that pride injures itself!
Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil–this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.Ecclesiastes 5:18-20
God used Scripture to cut off my self-centered, gloomy thinking. I realized it was vanity. Just as Solomon meant it in Ecclesiastes, the things of which I was jealous were mere vapor. And not only was my thinking vain in that is was futile, but it was also full of pride. I was concerning myself with how others perceive me, when I should be focused on God. Paul’s words from Philippians 3:7-8 came to mind: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” The preceding verses list what Paul had considered his gains to be, including his position as a Pharisee and his birthright as a Hebrew. He counted these as losses after he met Jesus.
God set me to thinking about what it meant to consider gains as losses. I realized this is an accounting analogy, and it would be helpful to picture a ledger. Those things which cannot save us and cannot contribute to our faith, righteousness, or knowledge of Christ, are negatives. Worldly accomplishments and the esteem of other people detract from our balance. Yet, if Jesus Christ is on the positive side of our ledger, we have everything we need. But we can only choose one accounting method. We either balance our books according to the world’s system or according to God’s. We cannot count our worldly achievements as gains and count Christ there, also.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 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. . .Philippians 3:7-8
The world’s accounting system is a “striving after wind.” On judgement day, the ledgers of all the world will be presented to God. Those who strove for worldly gains, even if they carefully ensured that their ‘good deeds’ outweighed the bad, will be found wanting. The only acceptable ledger is that which bears the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Like the Apostle Paul before us, we must daily “press on,” that we may “be found in him, not having a righteousness of [our] own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ. . .that by any means possible [we] may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:9-12) Every day is a struggle against the flesh and the world. I suppose that is why Paul wrote to us, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13b-14)
The happiest part of my day is the time I spend in the car listening to Christian music. I choose music that is grounded in Scripture, and God uses it to encourage me. The song I got stuck on this week is a bit of a throw-back, Caedmon’s Call Thousand Miles: “So take my broken offering and make it whole / And set my feet upon the road that leads me home / Let me walk as one fixed upon the goal / Even though I’ve got a thousand miles to go.” I have learned that an essential part of following Christ is believing that the goal and the prize are truly better than this earthly life we live. Nothing leads us more astray than believing that the things of earth – relationships, accomplishments, activities, or possessions – are better than what is to come. The antidote is knowing Christ better and better because we cannot view our worldly gains as losses unless we understand “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord.” This requires effort on our part; we must spend time in His Word and time speaking with Him. Lord, help me live my life to know you more!