As many of you know, I have been ill for the past seven months and haven’t preached since September. I lay in the hospital for six weeks, then spent an additional six months at home in bed. At the same time my daughter Kimberly was in a car wreck in November and, because of severe infections, had to have her left foot amputated a couple of weeks ago.
Recently Kaye was diagnosed with lymphomic cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. While I was lying helpless in the hospital with lung disease, I thought I was going to die, then, in bed helpless at home, I thought I was going to be an invalid; it looked as though my preaching days might be over. I know now that I will preach again (starting May 13th) but the doctor tells me I will never recover my full lung capacity and will not be able to pursue my ministry as aggressively as before.
But before I knew that, I lay in bed thinking, “Of what value am I now?” Everything that made my life purposeful seemed to have been cannibalized by my disease. During this time I was led to start reading and studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians. God both rebuked me and encouraged me. He said to me that there was more to being His child than preaching, and if I found my worth only in health and strength and preaching, I was missing a big point.
The big point being that my ultimate aim in life was none of these, but “THAT I MAY KNOW HIM.” In Philippians 3:10, Paul brings to a conclusion the story of his conversion and sets his goal. In verse 7 and 8 he speaks of counting all his gains as loss that he might gain Christ; gradually he leads up to the ultimate goal. Read it like this:
IN ORDER THAT
I might gain Christ
be found in Him
having the righteousness that is from God
based on faith in Christ
I may know Him.
“That I may know Him.” That I may know Him more intimately, that my relationship with Him may grow deeper and deeper, never ceasing nor slowing this growth until I see Him in the final resurrection.
But that’s not all the apostle says; he goes on to describe what this deeper knowing of Christ involves: “The power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.” To know Christ means to know the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.
Some observations: It is strange that he should speak of power and sufferings in the same statement. We normally think power would cancel out any sufferings, as I’m afraid many do. But Paul asserts there is no inconsistency between the power and the sufferings. Both are part of the same experience.
Note the sequence: power, then sufferings. We would probably have reversed the order: sufferings, then power. And of course, with Christ that was the order: He had to suffer before He knew the power of the resurrection. For us, it is the opposite — first, the power and then the sufferings. The power of the resurrection is the life-giving power of God, manifested in the raising of Christ from the dead, which also works in us (Ephesians 1:19). When we are saved, we experience the power, but then we experience the sufferings. It is the power of the resurrection than enables us to share in His sufferings.
That the “sufferings” were the ultimate experience is plain by it’s coming after the power of His resurrection, and that Paul further amplifies it with, “being made conformable to His death.”
So the bottom line is that we are to share in His sufferings, enabled to do this by the power of His resurrection that resides in us. This is what it means to “know Him” in the way Paul meant.
To take as our ultimate aim in life “to know Him,” is to have an aim and purpose that nothing can interfere with or take away. Stripped by sickness, affliction or poverty, or anything, else cannot prevent us from coming to Him in a deeper and more intimate fashion.