Winners demand precision. They need the best. They train to win. They never settle for less than perfection. In few places is it more evident this season than in Denver. For most fans, anything less than a Superbowl victory would be a failure of a season. Peyton Manning is playing the best not only of his career, but of anyone in NFL history up to this point.
Or ask the fans and players in Boston or St. Louis. Are they going to say, “It’s alright if we get swept in the World Series, at least we made it this far.”
Nope. Because they want to be the best. Players, coaches, and a good percentage of fans, punish their bodies to make them faster, stronger and better, all for the sake of victory.
And in Philippians 3, I hear Paul using the same sort of language:
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead… but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Yet somewhere along the line, we’ve lost this mentality. We’ve settled for ‘just getting by’ theology or a ‘hanging in there’ perspective to life. I know very few Christians who have experienced the life abundant that Jesus promises.
Because somewhere in our history we realized that when Jesus said that there was a cost to following him, we found that to be true, and we decided we wanted the rewards without the work, the benefits without cost.
We’ve lost of ‘win it all’ mentality and replaced it with a bland flavorless religion.
We’ve traded away the promises of life abundant for ‘just getting by’.
We’ve settled for stumbling across the finish line instead of standing on the podium.
We’ve reduced the Gospel and the Good News of Jesus to something that (hopefully) happens sometime in the future. Sometime after we die, we get to go to heaven and then the good life can finally start. We’ve counted the cost of following Jesus, determined it to be too high, and have attempted to create a shortcut.
We’ve eliminated discipleship for “saying the prayer” and Kingdom participation for a fantasy land.
And this is why Paul says so many of us are so joyless in our walk. Paul, while imprisoned, wrote of the great joy of following Jesus, because he’s not only committed to living like Jesus, but also suffering like Jesus.
The result: experiencing the resurrection of Jesus.
Paul even calls everything in this world skubalon compared to knowing Jesus. Most translations call it rubbish or garbage, a few call it dung or excrement, best understood, Paul says anything in this world that doesn’t bring him closer to Jesus and the joy of the resurrection is sh!$. He just doesn’t need it.
And you? Where are you in the joy and life abundant that God promised? If you find yourself lacking, maybe it’s because you’re trying to negotiate too much with God, seeking too much blessing and not enough suffering.
There is a cost to following Jesus, but as we see in Paul, it’s all worth it, because everything else is just skubalon.
What did you think? Please chime in below.