But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
What was the ground of Paul’s confidence that he could achieve his mission? He could be confident in four things: his ancestry, his orthodoxy, his activity and his morality. But it is important to see how and when Paul changed his mind about these matters. Most commentators suggest the change came in the dust of the road on the way to Damascus, when he was converted in that remarkable encounter with Jesus Christ. I don’t think that is true. Only one of these values was changed at that time.
When Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor, blinded by the light, was led captive into Damascus, he immediately got busy in another direction and substituted another form of activity in which he took great pride. For at least five to ten years after his conversion, Paul was just as confident in the flesh as before his conversion. His life was therefore as barren and ineffective as when he was Saul of Tarsus and persecuted the church, with one exception: he was born again, and the indwelling Holy Spirit was teaching him what he needed to become an effective minister for Jesus Christ.
Eventually, Paul learned that all his background, training and education, his ancestry and morality and activities, added not one thing to God’s purpose in him. He came to the place that he could write, But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ (Phil. 3:7).
This is the great secret of a Christian’s life. You cannot have confidence in the flesh and in Christ. It’s one or the other. If you believe that more education or more prayer, or more effort or more zeal, or more Bible study, or more anything will make you a better servant of God, you are putting confidence in the flesh. No, Christ alone is all you need. He can supply every need. He can cope with every lack and every situation. Believe that! Count it true! He will probably begin to lead you to study more, to pray more, to work hard, to learn more, but you will know that these are only instruments through which the power of his life can flow. When Paul stepped out of himself, he stepped into the fullness of Christ. Have you learned that?
Father, may these words be more than mere words to me, that I will catch this glowing secret from the heart of this apostle, that I may indeed see that you have provided another way by which life may be lived. Not in my own strength, not in any confidence whatsoever in what I do but in who you are.
Do we assess our worth by our possessions and/or achievements? Are we caught up in a syndrome of self-effort and self-defeat? Isn’t it time to cut our losses and choose the surpassing worth of our union with Christ?