Here is my testimony of some pretty life-changing things that have happened in my life. Hopefully it will be an encouragement and a way to see how God has worked just not thru my life but yours as well.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. 7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 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 and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:4-11
Here we have in these verses here in Philippians one of the greatest personal Christian testimonies ever recorded. I reckon if we had the apostle Paul’s Yr12 yearbook, he probably would’ve been voted the most likely guy to get to heaven because he seemed to have met every requirement to get to heaven. If we compare our resumes to Paul’s one, how would we stack up to his impressive list of achievements?
Yet we also have in these few verses one of the greatest statements dealing with salvation found in the New Testament. He does more than give us a run down on who he was, and who he is now. He gives us here an in-depth interview into what’s going on in his heart. He gives us a heart-felt, up close and personal account of what it means for Paul to convert from a sinner to a saint.
And we see in vs7 how it’s likened to a transaction for those of you who are business minded. “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”
Have you ever lost something that meant a lot to you? I have. Let me give you a run down of some of the losses I’ve had in my life.
- In 1992, my high school closed down. It then became a girl’s school. (try explaining that to your kids when you drive past showing them your old school)
- In 1999, my favoured Bears got kicked out of the NRL comp.
- In 2000, the Spice Girls split up.
- In 2004, Steve Waugh retired from the Australian Cricket team
- But the most memorable loss I have ever experienced was the break up of my parents when I was only 7. My younger brother was 5 and the youngest brother was only days or weeks old.
How do you cope with loss in your life? And what gives you the motivation to keep going? Well, I thought I’d come and share with you my testimony of what led me to become a full time ministry worker for God’s church.
If you had to draw up a list – on one side is your gain column and the other side a loss column, what things in your life would you put in each? You’ve heard of bucket lists, well, this is the next step. What do you think Paul would draw up in his lists? He seemed to have it all didn’t he? Well so did I, I at least thought.
Going back to 2001, I was working for a design and construct Engineering firm doing drafting and project management. Things were going well for me, working 60 hour weeks, travelling 55mins each way top and from work and my oldest son Jeremy wasn’t even 2 years old yet. Lesley was working shift work in a Women’s refuge for the Salvo’s which meant we didn’t get to spend much time together – only weekends when I wasn’t needed on a job site. Ah yes – Life was good back then!
Then during our holiday period, we went on a road trip down round Victoria, and SA, Kangaroo Island and back up thru Broken Hill and back to Sydney. A beautiful three week holiday with no radio cause Jeremy had seemed to have lost the radio face somewhere at home so it meant Lesley and I had to talk to each other. And when you’re travelling from Menindee to Condobolin, there’s not much to look at in the outback. Except for hitting a kangaroo and an emu in our car. Yes we did manage to take out the coat of arms in the space of an hour.
We discussed the possibility of spending more time together, maybe even resigning from our jobs and moving out of Sydney. But where? Then the idea of moving to Forster came up. Lesley’s family had a house up there, rite on the beach, you could sit there and watch whales frolic in the ocean, you could surf with the dolphins, the golf course was basically rite next to our house. But could we actually do this? Inner city living next to the train line or living in beautiful Forster next to the beach?
For both of us, it didn’t really take much convincing. But it made us think whether this was the rite decision in relation to work, to church and to our friends. And literally on the day before I was going to talk to my boss about resigning, I got called into his office to have a meeting with him. Redundancy. Well God, you couldn’t be any clearer about wanting me to move.
Paul also lived the life doing what he wanted to do. Here was, a pedigree Jew, the ultimate Pharisee with all the credentials he’d ever need. And he therefore thinks that by being so impressive, he’s gained entrance into the Kingdom and impressed God greatly by who he is and what he’s done. But it’s only when he’s confronted by the living Christ that all of that which he thought was profit was in fact equal to garbage, a stockmarket crash, bankruptcy. And the word rubbish at the end of vs8 literally translates to excrement. That’s a very strong word to use, don’t you think with all the impressive stuff he has inside his profit column? Yet he willingly gives it all up for Christ, exchanging a righteousness which he thought he could earn but couldn’t for a righteousness which God gave through faith. That seems to be the theme of this great passage and the theme for Paul’s life.
We moved to Forster later that year – didn’t know anyone, found the Presbyterian Church and within a year, we got rite into it. By the end of the year I was leading a bible study group, leading youth group and chairing regular church services. Lesley ended up getting a job at the end of the year there in a private Hospital and I was the stay at home dad. Our second son Harrison was born and I quickly learnt to bottle feed and change nappies once again. The following year an opportunity came up for a Metro worker (trainee ministry apprentice) in the church but I wasn’t the first candidate. Another guy came up to Forster to apply for the position but was turned down by the church. About a week later, I thought, why don’t I go for that position, I mean, I’m doing all the things that are part of the course requirements anyway, mite as well get paid for doing it and so I went and knocked on my pastors door and told him about the likelihood of me taking on that role. I applied and it was done. It was a very long way from earning what I could’ve been earning to work for a church and get paid about 10% of what I could’ve got as an engineer.
Paul knew what it was like to be the Jew of all Jews. He knew the perks and the benefits of all that he had. But rephrased, he says in vs7-8, “I had it all and I was well off and I knew what I had and now it’s all garbage.” You see, he knew what it was to be a Jew in the highest sense of the term and yet he deliberately, knowingly, willingly abandoned it all for the sake of Jesus Christ. He counted it all as worthless. He gave it all in to gain an even better treasure. He has his loss column in vs4-7 and then he goes on to what he gains in vs8-11. You see, Paul could have easily boasted about how well off he was, how great he was doing, having a job that everyone would’ve respected and earning for himself great religious profit for himself.
Yet Paul doesn’t go with that story anymore. He now says how foolish it is to boast in your religious profit. So he says to the Philippians, listen to me carefully when I say that most of the people in the world believe they can attain eternal life by accumulating religious profit. A lot of people believe that don’t they? The only people who don’t are Christians, but the rest do.
Into my second year of Metro, I started having to think whether we were going to move back to Sydney to do youth work or stay in Forster and continue on in our comfortable lives. But then something happened that rocked our world. Something happened to the minister and his wife that I’m not going to go into too much detail but it basically involved lies, deception and cover up. This turmoil happened for 9 months, Jemima had just been born and we were torn, spiritually, mentally and physically. I remember when it all started and I got a phone call about 8pm Saturday nite from the minister saying, I wont be at church tomorrow, could you organize a sermon for tomorrow.
It was a baptism of fire and for the next 9 months as a trainee I was quickly learning how to run a church and do everything. It was a time in our life where Lesley and I were tested in our faith, where we lost many good friends including the minister and his wife, where the church was torn apart and many people abandoned their faith. But again, this passage came up again to me and told me that in the middle of loss is Christ. Christ is our gain. No matter how far the line on the graph spirals down, Christ is always way above that line. I must admit that engineering was looking like a good idea again. Satan seemed to have a good tight hold of the noose and pulling it tighter each time something came up or someone else left the church. Our spiritual lives took a beating during those many months and Lesley and I were scarred for a long time after.
Yet after much prayer, we decided that leaving the situation and moving to Sydney to start Bible College was the way to go for us. Not that we were trying to escape the problems because we actually offered to stay in Forster, but for our own spiritual wellbeing, people said that if full time ministry was what we wanted, then go for it. We had managed to come out of the cyclone battered and bruised but knowing that we have added more to our loss column but also what vs11 says in “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Christ says to us in our own self-centered ways, in our own boasting and pride that he’s not impressed at all by that. God’s not impressed by what we do, in fact he considers it all rubbish. It’s worthless.
Have you ever look around and experienced people like this? Very religious outwardly, will do what it takes to win your affection, loves standing up the front and getting the attention, loves religion more than their family? God’s not impressed with any of it. Salvation doesn’t happen just by ritual or tradition. It only happens when we come to Jesus.
One more story about my time at the end of college and we had to decide where we were going to serve after we finished up. We got given a number of church profiles to choose from and everyone knew we already had our church picked out. Everyone knew we were going to stay in Sydney because of Lesley’s mum being sick and in a nursing home so it was left to the other graduates to choose where they wanted to go.
I went to church that week before the interviews were happening to tell the committee what church we were going to go to in 2010. One of the elders pulled me aside and said he wanted to have a word with me. He said he wasn’t happy that I was teaching the young people too much bible. And sadly the minister saw it that way as well. Running a Friday youth group, a Sunday bible study group and Sunday church was all too much bible input according to this elder.
And so I went home and said to Lesley, you know what, maybe we should work out our second and third preferences. So the nite before these church interviews, Lesley and I were madly flicking thru these church profiles and thinking no, no, no, no way!
What about Corowa? First question was, where is Corowa? It’s near Victoria somewhere according to Google maps. Do they play hockey there – yep! It’s as far away from Sydney as we can get without leaving the state and we’re pretty safe if we put Corowa as our second preference because no one else in their rite mind would want to live all the way down there. Let’s pray and see.
The next morning we caught the train into the head office to meet with the selection committee and Ministry & Mission and they asked us what our first, second and third preferences were. As far as they were concerned, we were staying in Sydney and had it all sorted out already. We walked in there and said to them our first preference is Corowa and we didn’t really have a second or third preference. All their jaws dropped and as one minister from Albury told us ‘That’s great and don’t you dare change your minds.’
You see, what God did in our lives without us even knowing at the time was he closed some doors and also opened other doors for us to come here. For us it wasn’t a last minute decision out of desperation to come here. I reckon God had it planned all along. What God had placed in our loss column in the church we thought we would end up in back in Sydney was multiplied in our profit column by opening up Corowa for us.
I mentioned at the beginning the greatest loss in my life was seeing my parents split up. But as I look at it now, I know that if that didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be standing infront of you all this morning. It was all God’s doing…..Church – Christian – Lesley – Forster – Bible college – Corowa. And so, if I come to a crossroads in my life now, I really am ready to place my trust and faith in Christ because I know he has done it all for me and knowing nothing compares with the surpassing greatness we have in Christ.
Philippians 3:7 has kept me going in my faith since I became a teenager and it still keeps me going today. Because it doesn’t matter what I have, where I’ve come from, how good I think I am, Jesus says, “Who cares Thomas, drop it all and follow me.” I count it all as loss but in Christ I gain so much.
Therefore let me ask you, what are you investing your life in, who are you counting on for your salvation? You’re either investing in yourself and your achievements, or you’re investing in Christ and eternal treasures. Because it’s only when you come to come to Christ, when you trust him, that all our past and present achievements become rubbish. That’s the exchange that needs to take place.
May my testimony be an encouragement to you all knowing what Christ lost by dying on the cross was purely for our gain. What we lose in life is nothing – is rubbish compared to what we gain in Christ.