As I think about the Apostle Paul’s qualifications and calling (mentioned in Philippians 3), I’m encouraged and humbled. He had so much of the world’s accreditation. A pharisee of pharisees would be the equivalent of “professor of professors.” He went to the best school – studying under Gamaliel, came from a notable family line (of Benjamin – which King Saul came from), and had been given authority over even the lives of others, politically. In the world’s eyes, he was a success.
How often I am distracted by the expectations of this world and become intimidated by other people who seem to be successful. I feel very small. While there have been some notable people in my family line, I am not one of them. Ralph Waldo Emerson is an ancestor. I’ve done some writing… but cannot compare myself to him. I’ve done teaching, but don’t have a masters or a doctorate, though my father and grandfather had those achievements. I have some ability, and have created some original things. But in these also, am not recognized by those beyond my small circle of influence. By the world’s standards, there is little to recommend me. I can look at that – and be stopped in my tracks from pressing on.
The Apostle Paul was an achiever of achievers. But he considered all the world’s accolades as “dung,” that he might have something better.
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.” Phil. 3: 7-9
He fixed his eyes on that prize..
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, 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” Phil. 3:12-14
The author of Hebrews encourages me too. The audience we run for are those who have gone on ahead, in the Hall of Faith not the Hall of Fame.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3
Both forgetting past victories and failures, with eyes on Jesus and what He has done, not on self, my confidence is in Him and His ability. He has also promised to finish the work He began in me. Phil. 1:6 says, For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. I can have hope for success in the eyes of the One who really matters, and not be distracted by the praise or the put-downs of this world.
It isn’t always easy. The voices of the world are pretty loud. This is why it is important to be careful what voices we heed and believe what God says is true about us, instead of what the world thinks. Then – our praise will come from God. Then – our success will be lasting. We can have hope in His ability working through us.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:25-31
May He who gave us life renew our sense of purpose!
1 Thess 5:24 “The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it!”