that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, ¹¹that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. —Philippians 3:10-11
What have you achieved in your life? What are you proud of? What hope do those achievements offer?
This week’s Fighter Verse passage is the culmination of Paul’s consideration of his impressive worldly and religious achievements. He considers his place in his culture based on his family, learning, and achievements. He then compares all of that to knowing Christ. And his conclusion is definitive—worldly achievements are rubbish and knowing Christ is everything. Being found in Christ, with a righteousness that depends on God’s character and not his own, is worth more than all of his many earthly accolades.
Paul’s commitment to Christ is a model for us to follow. Whether you grew up in the church or became a believer at 80, the gospel call to take up your cross and follow Jesus is not a one-time decision. It is worked out in the day-by-day, hour-by-hour grind of everyday life, at the office and the dinner table, with your neighbors and your family.
This is why Paul’s response to the gospel is exemplary. He is not just saying he “would” lay down all his achievements. He has already done it. He has already “suffered the loss of all things.” He doesn’t just mentally “count them as rubbish,” he has actually taken practical steps that say “I am with Christ and my old standing means nothing.” The impressive religious leader who came to Damascus to carry off Christians was aided by those same Christians as he escaped in a basket to avoid being killed by the Jews.
In every new synagogue, as Paul preached the gospel, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus was the promised Messiah, there must have been those moments when he was tempted to reclaim his status and seek the honor of the world. But over and over again, day after day, in difficult moment after difficult moment, Paul said, “No! Christ is worth more than all of that.” Even as he writes the words of this letter from a jail cell, Paul is saying, “Christ is enough!”
This is the single-minded focus we see from Paul in Philippians 3:10-11. He wants to live a life of intimacy with Christ. He desires to live in the newness of life that comes from Christ’s victory over sin and death. And he knows that suffering is the path to fulfilling this desire. In verse 11 he is considering the possible outcome of his imprisonment and saying that he wants to “attain the resurrection from the dead” whether he lives as a faithful suffering servant or dies as a martyr.
Suffering is hard. Suffering well takes a deep conviction that God is at work. It takes eyes opened by the Spirit to see that the sovereign and kind God of the universe truly is in control. God uses our suffering to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). Suffering as those “in Christ” is associated with glory (1 Peter 4:13) and with comfort (2 Corinthians 1:5).
Paul is an illustration of the fact that you only keep suffering if you believe the goal of your suffering is worth more than your relief. Whether you’re training for a marathon or missing a promotion at work because of your faith, whether you risk offending a family member or are caring for a sick child, you only stay the course if you are convinced the goal is worth it. Christians stay the gospel course when we are convinced that Christ is enough, that no amount of worldly honor is worth sacrificing the honor of being found in Christ, and that being in Christ is worth more than every worldly honor.
In our lives in the 21st century, the cultural pressures may be different than Paul's were. The sacrifices we are asked to make may be different. But the gospel call is the same—we are to live lives focused on “attain[ing] the resurrection from the dead.” And this, not because it is uncertain for those who trust Christ, but because our lives must reflect that being with Christ forever is most important. It is above all things.
Are there things in your life that you hold more dearly than your identity in Christ?
What cultural pressures do you need to resist in order to treasure Christ above all things?
What one change should you make this week to treasure Christ above all things?
Peter Morris serves as a missionary with ReachGlobal, focusing on family discipleship and multicultural church planting. He and his wife, Melanie, host the Joyful Family Discipleship Network, a global learning community for parents and church leaders committed to investing in intentional discipleship of the next generation. For three years, Peter and his family served in San José, Costa Rica. They have served from Sydney, Australia since 2018. Peter grew up and completed college in Australia but lived in the United States from 2001-2015 where he completed his Masters degree and met Melanie. From 2007-2015, he served as the Family Ministries Director at Ambassador Bible Church, near Washington, DC. He and Melanie have four children: Samuel, Madeleine, Benjamin, and Alexandra.