I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. Phil. 3:8
Our hearts are easily lured away by the fleeting shadows of this world, and these shadows have a way of slowly enticing our hearts in ways that are so subtle that we are often unaware of how tightly they have begun to grip us. Unaware that is, until we find ourselves reeling emotionally from being pulled in two opposite directions. If we follow the ways of Christ, our hearts break in longing for that which we will have to deny, and if we give ourselves to whatever it is that has our hearts inordinately bound, we know that we will find ourselves disappointed in the long run, even though it seems like it is the very thing we need to give us the peace that seems to be eluding us.
We know in these moments that it truly is impossible to serve two masters, for we will end up despising one of them. If we were left to ourselves, we would run headlong into sin, but praise God, our savior has ways of showing us our folly. The things that have held us captive and entranced are often exposed, by some providential means, to be things to which we must bid farewell.
How does the Lord do this? Often it is through trials, for when we are tried, we are reminded that this world is not our home, and no matter what it was that we were pursuing, we begin to realize that next to the excellency of knowing Christ, all other things will let us down. For if we are pursuing youth and beauty, he can remind us of our own frailty through illness and make us to be cognizant of our own end. If we are pursuing wealth and affluence, even if he allows us to attain it, he can cause us to experience great emptiness in the midst of it all through a time of spiritual depression. If you have made an idol out of some relationship, he has ways to show you how easily it is to be let down by those we trust or how easy it is to let someone down ourselves.
After the Lord has broken our hearts by showing us the futility of making anything of this world our ultimate treasure, he then reveals to us in even greater ways the unfailing treasure of knowing Him. For anything we may pursue in this life apart from Christ, only leads us to greater condemnation. Our sin separated us from a Holy God, and no amount of youth and beauty, wealth and affluence, or any earthy relationships could have removed the penalty that we deserved. But Christ, the Lord of Glory, stepped out of heaven into human flesh to save those who will have faith in him. He was a man who had no form or comeliness (Isaiah 53:2), and any youth and beauty he did possess was marred beyond recognition as they crucified Him. Being born in a stable he was not a man of affluence. He had no place to call his home (Luke 9:58), and even the robe he did own was stripped from his back and gambled away by the roman soldiers. Finally, he was denied by those closest to him; he was betrayed by Judas, disowned by Peter, and the rest of the disciples scattered as he was being tried and sacrificed for our salvation.
If Christ denied himself all these things when it was necessary, how much more should we who follow him. What good would it be if we had all these things, but did not have Christ? For there was one aspect of suffering Christ bore in order that we would not have to. While Jesus was suffering on the Cross, he was bearing something much more terrible than the loss of beauty, wealth, and friends. He was bearing the very wrath of God the Father. When Jesus told the people, “do not fear those who can destroy the body, but fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell,” he knew that he would be bearing that destruction in our place, and the blow would be given by his Father in Heaven. As he cried, “my God, my God why have you forsaken me,” he was doing more than simply drawing a comparison to the suffering servant of psalm 22. He was fulfilling its prophecy, and it pleased the Lord to bruise him (Isaiah 53:10).
Now why would Christ, who could have refused the suffering, choose to bear it, and why did the Father, who loved the son, choose to pour his wrath on his only son? It was so that we could be reconciled to God, through the forgiveness of sins. The punishment for our sins has been met in Christ, for He loves us with an everlasting love. In Christ, though we may lose some of what this world calls pleasure, relationships, and maybe even our lives, we will gain all the blessings of God, including eternal life and a friend who sticks closer than a brother. As we experience these losses, we must remember that those losses will be gain as we find our Savior. There is no treasure that can compare to the greatness of knowing Christ.