Count all things for loss
Paul was truly an incredible man. His passion and zeal seemed to be unmatched in whatever it was he set his mind to do. In the verses directly before our text he speaks of his life prior to his conversion. In the eyes of the world this man was destined for greatness- he had everything he needed to be one of the greats of Israel.
However, something drastic happened. Saul seemed to be on the fast track towards being a high-ranking Pharisee; until Jesus stepped in. In Acts 9, Saul was on his way to destroy the church while Jesus was on His way to change the church forever. Jesus took a man the world thought was destined for greatness and made him great in ways the world could never imagine.
He went from being revered in the eyes of man to being, “in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27)
However, this was as it should be in the eyes of Christ, and that was all that mattered to Paul. He could honestly look at all he gave up to follow Christ and say, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ”. He was willing to give up everything and more to grow deeper in his relationship with Christ. He was willing, as he said, “That I may know him”.
One thing that I pray happens as a result of this virus is for Christians to see there are likely things in our lives we could easily sacrifice and count as “loss for Christ”. For far too long people have given excuse after excuse as to why they couldn’t serve Christ, or come to church, or even read their bible. God has certainly taken those excuses away for a significant portion of the population.
I don’t know how long this will last and I’m sure it will eventually come to an end and people will go back to their busy schedules; but for the time being use this time to take an account of your life and see if there are things that could, or should, be changed for the cause of Christ. Perhaps this is helping some see there are things that could be given up to grow deeper in their relationship with Christ; and I pray that we are all willing that we may know Him.
Peace be unto you
Uncertainty is a fact of life; one doesn’t have to live long to know the truth of that statement. Still, the uncertainty we are facing now, not just as city, but as a nation and a globe, is unprecedented.
This pandemic is unlike anything we have ever experienced, the fear that surrounds it is unsettling. Uncertainty is abounding- when will the disease stop spreading, how many will die, when will they develop a vaccine, will it actually be effective, when will the quarantine end, when will we go back to any sense of normalcy?
All of these questions led me to a specific story in the bible that is quite similar to what is happening in our nation right now. A mob had just crucified Jesus, and the disciples are frightened. It’s not hard to see why, if you know anything about mobs, they are like sharks- once they get a taste of blood, they want to devour everything around them. The natural thought of the disciples would be “are we next”?
Our verse shows us the similarities to our situation today. “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.”
First, they were quarantined. They had shut themselves off from the world. Any sense of normalcy was out the window. The world as they knew it was significantly different now.
Second, they were scared. As was stated, they feared the mob was coming for them next. They might not be panic buying toilet paper, but they are scared nonetheless.
Third, and not exactly mentioned, but they are also facing uncertainty in their future. For three years they have studied and followed their Messiah, their Rabbi, and their friend. Now, He’s gone, and they must figure out life without Him there with them in the flesh.
We too are quarantined, many are scared, and we are facing uncertain days. Allow the words of Jesus to His disciples speak to you now in new and fresh ways, “Peace be unto you”.
Nothing is truly different now than it was then:
Jesus is still reigning.
Speaking of Jesus 1 Peter 3:22 says, “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.”
Jesus is still in control.
Colossians 1:16-17- “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
When Jesus told His disciples to have peace, the same rings true for us today. We have no need to fear something that is within the power of God. (Romans 8:35-39)
Philippians speaks well to this issue, “Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). We have no need to be worried or anxious about anything going on in the world right now, coronavirus or otherwise, because the peace of God, the same peace Jesus offered His disciples, is available to the child of God who goes to God in prayer.
The amazing thing about this peace is it surpasses our ability to comprehend. It might not make much sense why Christians can go about life, even in the most extreme of circumstances, with peace- but we don’t have to understand it to experience it.
Lastly, just like the disciples, the fear that has been displayed, especially by Christians, is unwarranted. We can face uncertainty with certainty- certain that God is in control and our faith in Him should be enough to calm the fears. (Mark 4:35-41)