“I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead. I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me” (Phil 3:10-12 NLT)!
What do you want most out of life? What life experiences do you value most so far? What gets you up every morning to face another day? Many would say they want happiness, a meaningful career, a healthy family and so on in this life. Many would want to experience adventure, joy and fulfillment, love and romance, fun and friendship. These are all wonderful gifts of God and worth praying for and pursuing with your life. Yet, Paul’s all-consuming passion and desires have a way of making our lives seem…well…shall we say less faith-filled and Christ-centered?
This realization should not shame us but rather to inspire us to desire a life that is even more saturated with the life, death and resurrection power of Christ. Let’s listen in on a short interview I had with Paul the other day as he answers the above questions.
JEREMY: Paul, what do you want above all in this life?
PAUL: That’s an easy one. I want to really know Christ.
JEREMY: Of course. We all want to have a relationship with Christ. Don’t we?
PAUL: Well, sort of. Many say they want to know Christ personally, but they are usually talking about the kind of knowledge that secures you salvation when you die. They want to know about Christ. That’s not how I want to know Christ.
JEREMY: Oh, so you want to really know Christ’s love and acceptance and to have a relationship with him that brings joy to your life now and salvation in the life to come?
PAUL: Yes, sort of…but that’s not all. That seems like a kind of self-serving kind of relationship. That’s kind of like wanting to know the owner of an NFL football team so that you can gain free tickets. That’s not really a genuine relationship. Our strongest, most intimate relationships come from sharing experiences together.
JEREMY: Can you say more about that?
PAUL: Sure, a couple of my closest friends are Timothy and Titus. Our great love and affection for each other was formed through our many significant experiences together. We faced love days and nights traveling by foot. We faced great opposition and hardship. We spent many nights in prison together. We spilled much blood, sweat and tears together planting new churches together. Because we have shared each others toughest moments, we now have a very deep bond between us.
JEREMY: So, how can you know Christ in this way?
PAUL: It’s not enough for me to know about the things my Lord and Savior experienced. I want to experience them for myself, and by experiencing what he experienced, I might come to know him more intimately, more deeply.
JEREMY: So what experiences of Christ do you want to share?
PAUL: I want to experience the most significant experiences Christ faced. So, first of all I want a taste of that mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead. I want to share in that moment when God shattered the laws of nature, broke into history and conquered the grave. Can you imagine what that moment would have been like? Was it accompanied by a flash of lightning? Did it make a loud thunderous noise? I wish I could have been there! I want to experience that for myself! Oh, how I wish I could really know what that’s like!
JEREMY: Well, you will someday, right?
PAUL: Yes! Yes! And I can’t wait! But if I really want to share in my Lord’s greatest, most defining moments in order to know him more intimately, then I need to also share in his suffering.
JEREMY: Are you crazy?
Yes, I know how crazy it sounds, and I swear I’m not some masochist out for a fix. Yet, I feel like there is a mysterious kind of intimacy and fellowship that can only be experienced through sharing one’s pain and suffering. The painful agony of the cross was Jesus’ most significant moment, the moment when his love and humility were most clearly seen. Jesus was never more alive — never more God-like — than when he was being unjustly tortured and dying and could yet say of his enemies,’Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.’ I want to not only know about that moment. I want to experience that kind of reckless love, mind-blowing mercy and radical forgiveness! So, yes, “I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death” so that I can more fully experience the victory of the resurrection!
JEREMY: Wow, Paul, this kind of ‘knowing’ and ‘experiencing’ Christ is a lot different than the Sunday school kind of knowing about Christ. You’ve inspired me to desire a more intimate relationship with Jesus as well.
PAUL: Hey, I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection.
JEREMY: Fhew! I was starting to feel like a spiritual wimp in comparison to you.
PAUL: No, remember what I said way back in my letter (1:6) we’re all just works in progress. God’s not done with us yet. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. And it’s quite a ride He’s got us on!
JEREMY: Thanks for your time, Paul. I know you have other places you’d like to be.
PAUL: Yeah, but considering I’m here in this prison cell, it doesn’t look like I’ll be going anywhere soon.