That old adage, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’, is often true to life far more than we would like it to be. We all like to think life is a level playing field where you get on because of individual merit. Yet the fact remains, all too often, to achieve success and especially to obtain employment, a person’s knowledge and skill base would seem less useful and less important than their network of personal contacts.
And in a strange way the Word of God agrees: it’s not what you know, or what you have achieved in the past, it’s all about who you know!
The Apostle Paul knew this when he wrote Philippians 3v10. At the time he was seasoned and experienced in ministry and the service of God. It was now the best part of thirty years since he had given his life to Christ in that dramatic encounter on the Damascus Road when he was struck blind and knocked off his donkey by the Lord Jesus. Three decades later, he had embarked on three major missionary journeys. He had seen untold numbers of people come to Christ and mentored and shaped a great number of his converts to become Godly, Spirit-filled leaders. He had planted and established many significant city church congregations. Furthermore, without knowing it at the time, the letters and instructions he’d written to the churches he had pioneered were to later form no less than two thirds of what we now call the New Testament scriptures.
In terms of ministry and effective service this man had been around the block and back again. Let’s be honest, he’s up there! It could be argued that no one has ever matched his effectiveness and productivity where fulfilling the purpose of God is concerned. Yet Paul knew all this paled into insignificance compared to the most important thing. There was one thing that he considered immeasurably more important than all of the above, and that was ‘to know Jesus’, to be intimately acquainted with his risen Lord!
After thirty years of worship, prayer, obedience, talking and walking closely with God, and after three decades of Spirit-filled teaching, evangelism, ministry, service and achievement at the very highest level, you would have thought if anyone really knew Jesus, it would have been the Apostle Paul. But in Philippians 3v10 he reveals his heart, he declares his one all-consuming passion, his ultimate ambition, his one burning desire, and it was simply this: ‘to know Jesus’. Here Paul outlines what he considered to be of paramount importance in his life.
The ‘Prince of Preachers’ Charles Haddon Spurgeon put it like this:
‘The object of the apostle’s life – that for which he sacrificed everything: country, kindred, honour, comfort, liberty, and life itself, was that he might know Christ.’
As I alluded to earlier, Paul’s achievements in life were many but he puts them all into perspective when he says in comparison to knowing Christ they are not that important at all. This is how he put it: ‘Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ’ (v7). In other words, Paul was willing to turn his back on all his human and spiritual accomplishments in order to gain a real personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. He continues: ‘More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’ (v8). It is interesting to note that Paul uses the present tense ‘count’ here, indicating that this was occurring in his life at the time of his writing.
As this was at least thirty years after his conversion, it would seem Paul’s deep longing to know Christ was a current, ongoing and ever growing quest in his life. Now no doubt some of you are thinking, if the Apostle Paul felt he didn’t really know Jesus after all that time, then what chance have we got? But here’s a thought. Could it be that the more Paul actually got to know Christ the more he realised he didn’t know Him at all? The more he acquainted himself with the One who had created the universe, the One who had redeemed the world, the One who was risen from the dead, the One who knew him before the foundation of the world and the infinite One who had loved him with an everlasting love – the more he realised he hadn’t even begun to get to know Him. Sure, he knew Him from a salvation point of view, but in terms of knowing the immensity and fullness of God’s Son – well, that was another thing altogether!
And do you know what, if this is the case I think I know exactly how Paul felt. You see, having personally come to Christ over forty years ago, the more I get to know Him, the more I realise there is so much more of Him to get to know. I too, after four decades or more, find myself with that same all-consuming desire ‘to know Christ and the power of His resurrection’. It would seem that when it comes to fully knowing Him, then I’ve only just begun scratching the surface.
I have no doubt that Paul was fully acquainted with what the Old Testament prophet Daniel said about knowing God, ‘but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.’
Both Daniel and Paul understood that knowing God was infinitely more important than achievement and accomplishment. They also knew that the knowing of God is where we gain strength and receive the power and ability to achieve in the first place.
Service and being engaged in ministry are poor, poor substitutes for really knowing God! You see, it’s true in this respect: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know! My prayer is that the cry of your heart will be the same as Paul the Apostle’s – Oh that I may know Him!