Surpassing knowledge

In writing to the Philippian Christians the apostle Paul talks about a particular knowledge that he proclaims surpasses all other knowledge and in fact everything else.

… I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing 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,                                                                Philippians 3:8

According to Paul, this is no ordinary knowledge but knowledge worth ditching everything else for. It is interesting to note the things that the apostle considers loss and counts as dung (worthless, fit only for the loo to be flushed down the toilet, gotten rid off and discarded) when compared to the surpassing, unparalleled value of the knowledge of Christ. These were things the apostle Paul had, at one time or another considered worthy and of great value enriching his life and affording him status and recognition.

In responding to those who claimed the moral higher ground in terms of keeping the Old Testament law, the apostle Paul boldly declares, If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more! (Philippians 3:4). He then continues by listing his credentials, going down the impressive list of his CV –
…circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:5 – 6)

But only to let us down by wiping it all away, deleting it with one stroke of a button in favour of something else, something totally different – But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

All for the knowledge of Christ which he considered matchless, incomparable to and unparalleled by anything else. He couldn’t even consider all that he had added together of an iota of value when compared to the value of knowing Christ, knowing God. It was worthless, it was as if all of it weighed nothing and was of no value except to be thrown out when placed on the scales of comparison with what he now possessed, the knowledge of Christ.

This is the knowledge that the apostle identified as surpassing all others when it came to value. This is the knowledge that we too should value above everything else and maintain top of the list of our value system making sure we are dedicated to its ever increasing growth and development in our lives.

This is the knowledge that we should give number one place and priority to not only in our spiritual lives but in our lives full stop.

We should not value anything more than our knowledge of Christ and God but consistently aspire to grow in and get more of it in our lives through a dedicated and systematic investment plan. There is no greater knowledge than the knowledge of God.

When it came to its value, the apostle Paul was clear and categorical that he considered everything a loss, in fact a liability (not an asset) when compared to the value of knowing Christ Jesus His saviour.  It is a shame to us and an affront to God when many of us consider our knowledge of God a liability in the world we live in and the environment we dwell in sometimes even refusing or find it embarrassing to acknowledge Him.

Paul’s position was crystal clear – nothing, absolutely nothing could ever come anywhere near to his knowledge of Christ when it came to his value system let alone knock it from prime position.  Paul considered everything put together (yes, put together!) as rubbish when compared to the exceedingly great and surpassing worth of knowing Christ in his own life. That is how valuable knowing God is – nothing else can even stand to be compared with it.

All other knowledge and status (acquired either through it or some other means – birth, ancestry, rites or promotion) fades into utter oblivion when compared to the surpassing knowledge of knowing Christ Jesus “my” Lord – the “my” emphasising the personal and individual nature of that knowledge, a knowledge that must and will only hold its value if it is made personal and not otherwise.

When viewed through the lens of a personal knowledge of God, when viewed through the lens of knowing God for oneself, everything else – put together – pales into insignificance, into worthlessness. In other words, what was once of great value and significance now becomes insignificant in value and worth.

Education and knowledge in every field of life is good but it is not the ultimate and definitely cannot have the last word in determining the quality of your life. Even though it is God given and of some value none of it nor all of it put together is any match for knowing God in terms of worth and value. The value of knowing God far surpasses the value all these put together. It is a matter of perspective and not one of replacing or eliminating the other.

When Jesus was visiting the family of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Martha was pretty upset and annoyed at Mary’s action (or inaction) of sitting down by the feet of Jesus and lapping up everything He was teaching and saying instead of assisting her in domestic tasks. She was agitated and flustered possibly with the preparation of food for Jesus and his disciples and the fact that in it all her own sister seemed  ignorant of her plight choosing instead to nonchalantly listen to The Lord. So she came to Him and complained how He seemed unconcerned at the injustice of it all, of her running about stretching herself to the limit while her sister did nothing to help but sat there at His feet listening to Him. She did not get the apologetic response she was expecting. In fact, Jesus sided with Mary’s choice from the options available to her at the time but not because food was unnecessary and he wanted to slam food down but because Martha’s outlook on the value of His teaching and her perspective on what weighed heavier in importance was skewed. The Lord corrected her by saying that Mary’s was correct and that Martha needed to recalibrate her perspective and hold a correct view like her sister.

The Lord challenged Martha to identify that which was necessary and essential from among the many things that were worrying and upsetting her, but by no means at the cost of the other – only as a matter of priority and order.

The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.”                                                                         Luke 10:41-42

It is essentially about making the right choices when faced with many things that are vying for our time and attention (which they constantly do). And all The Lord was saying to her was to not get flustered or agitated but adjust her value system first in order to be able to weigh up what is at stake and make the right choice. It is an adjusted, recalibrated value system that will lead to the selection of the right choice. So The Lord’s challenge to Martha was, “Adjust your value system and then practise it!” Your sister did and made the right choice based of the value system she held and practised.

If you’re ditching God and the opportunities that come your way to increase and deepen your knowledge of Him in your life at the first sign of an alternative or option, at the slightest distraction or opposition, then your value system is in need of a major overhaul.

The real value and quality of your life will never depend on the amount of wealth you generate, money you make or material possessions you acquire. Neither will it depend on the fame you manage to achieve or the amount of degrees and pursuant knowledge you amass – though all will go some way in making your biological existence an easier affair and afford you status and position in the eyes of men. The real value and true quality of your life is determined by the level of personal knowledge of God you have in your life for by it alone are we given access to everything that pertains to life and godliness: His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.            2 Peter 1:3

If we are to enjoy life and get the most out of it, then we must make the knowledge of God our primary pursuit in life.

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