When Life Throws a Curve Ball

We all love the stories that have happy endings, that end with “and they lived happily ever after.” But how do we respond to the stories that don’t end that way. How should we think when we are faced with circumstances that include disappointment and loss? When we or our loved ones or friends lose jobs or health or relationships or possessions? While there are many places to go in Scripture with those questions, one place that offers a unique perspective is Philippians 3:4-10:

“If it were right to have such confidence, I could certainly have it, and if any of these men thinks he has grounds for such confidence I can assure him I have more, I was born from the people of Israel, I was circumcised on the eighth day, I was a member of the tribe of Benjamin. I was in fact a full-blooded Jew. As far as the keeping of the Law is concerned I was a Pharisee, and you can judge my enthusiasm for the Jewish faith by my active persecution of the Church. As far as the Law’s righteousness is concerned, I don’t think anyone could have found fault with me. Yet every advantage that I have gained I considered lost for Christ’s sake. Yes, and I look upon everything as loss compared with the overwhelming gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I did in fact suffer the loss of everything, but I considered it mere garbage compared with being able to win Christ. For now my place is in Him, and I am not dependent upon any of the self-righteousness of the Law; God has given me that genuine righteousness which comes from faith in Christ. Now I long to know Christ and the power that is shown by His resurrection.” (J.B. Phillips translation)

The Apostle Paul dearly loved the church at Philippi, and they loved him. As such his letter to them was unusually heartfelt and transparent. As we read through this text we are reading Paul’s resume–the credentials and accomplishments that he had as Saul of Tarsus. He lists things that we would consider great: his genealogy, his social status, his education, his successes, his character and reputation. The things that our culture values and we so often aspire to achieve. But in verse 7 Paul tells us that the things that were once gain to him he now counts as loss for Christ. In verse 8 he counts all things but loss compared to the knowledge of Christ for whom he has lost all things and counts them but garbage that he might win Christ. Question: Why does Paul say “that he might win Christ” when clearly he already has Him? Note the progression from verse 7 through verse 10: from Christ, to the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord, to winning Christ, to “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection”. Paul didn’t see his relationship with Christ as a “once and done” event, but as a friendship that progressively developed and that he cultivated over time. Along the way his values and priorities changed dramatically and the things that were once dear to him he now saw as worthless. By the time he wrote his letter to the Philippian church his one passion was his personal, one-on-one, dynamic relationship with the Lord Jesus. He would no doubt have agreed with Hebrews 12:1 in that he had “laid aside every weight” that he might run and finish his race unemcumbered. Often times the things that weigh us down are not bad things at all, but good things that may hold us back from the best things that God has for us, even His friendship.