After Mark Twain, the American humorist, returned from a world cruise, he told of his experiences meeting some of the world’s greats. His son, then a little boy, listened rapturously and then exclaimed, “You know, Dad, you must know about everybody except God.”
It’s the exception clause that makes the rest meaningless. Which really is more important, knowing the greats of society, or a humble knowledge of the Almighty? “Just a minute,” you may be thinking, “are the two necessarily contradictory?” No, but the fact remains that a real knowledge of God is something which you don’t gain through good social connections, or by hob-nobbing with the shakers and movers of society.
Knowing almost everybody except God doesn’t cut much ice when the line begins to go flat on your heart monitor as you lie beneath the cold sheets of a hospital bed. It’s at that point that your social relationships are not terribly meaningful, along with how meaningless is the amount of cash you have on reserve or how many stocks and bonds you have in your account.
Knowing God is not a religious exercise but a personal relationship, one that makes all of life different and, yes, meaningful. Paul, who had studied as a rabbi, had an encounter with God on the road to Damascus. Humbled, he rose from his knees a changed man. From that point on, everything which he had previously considered important was no longer meaningful. “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ,” Paul wrote to the Philippians. This included his family connections, his professional network, his years of experience carving a reputation for himself, and his educational achievements.
In this passage where Paul talks about the difference between profit and loss, he says that he had developed three goals, three great desires: The first was to know Christ; the second, to know the power of His resurrection; and finally, the fellowship of His suffering.
“Just a minute,” you may be saying to yourself, “if Paul didn’t know Christ, then who could? Certainly that would leave me out.” Before you despair, let me assure you that Paul knew Him. For years he had preached Christ to others. What does He mean? Paul is saying, “I want to know Him more deeply, more intimately, more completely. I want to go beyond where I am right now in an ongoing, developing relationship.”
Can you relate to that? Chances are, what Paul said well expresses the desire of your heart. A closing thought. A person can know a very great deal about Christ– about God, for that matter– without knowing Him either personally or intimately. Many people know certain facts about Christ. They are religious, all right. They know the songs, the liturgy, and the language. But lacking is a personal relationship. Are you one of them?
Don’t be content with less than a full, complete, personal knowledge of Christ, who said, “”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Is the desire of your heart to really know God? Then pursue that goal. No, it isn’t necessary to go to a convent or a monastery, but it is necessary to come to the Father through His Son, to learn of Him through the pages of His Word, and to live out the inward love of God so that He touches others through you.
The Jesus that you grew up with, the one you heard about in religious education, may well be different from the one revealed in the New Testament. Get to know the real Jesus. He’ll change your life. Knowing everybody but God, as did Mark Twain, falls short of the most important friendship of all. Never forget it.
Resource Reading: Philippians 3:1-11
Text: 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. Philippians 3:10
GUIDELINES with Harold Sala – April 12, 2017