Keeping The Right Stuff

“But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ.”
Philippians 3:7-8 NET

Several years ago, we sold our home and moved into a much smaller house. It’s where we raised our girls for over 21 years. So, we had collected a lot of stuff. The closing process was long, so we had plenty of opportunity to clean out closets, attics, basement and other storage areas. I was amazed at all we had acquired . . . and never got rid of.

The cleaning out process was overwhelming. Finding everything, determine the value of it and the deciding if we wanted to keep it or could keep it was paralyzing. Clothes, books, memorabilia, toys (don’t even ask about the Beanie Babies), the girl’s old school papers . . . I needed a 12 Step program for hoarders. And, because of moving into less space, we needed to get rid of some items that we liked, wanted to keep, and even enjoyed . . . but, there wasn’t room in our lives for them, anymore.

We often measure effectiveness and impact by things accomplished, acquired or attained. Like that deer mount on the wall or an award on a shelf, we archive these items as examples of what we can do or evidence of we have done.

At times, these “trophies” become a badge of success, blanket of security or a banner of significance.

The Apostle Paul wrestled with the impotence of these endeavors. In Philippians, he writes, “The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life.” (Phil 3:7-8 MSG)

To appreciate the power and permanence of God’s Kingdom, we must abandon the piety and pettiness of our own. We must make room for the right stuff.

Living with this kind of purposeful determination requires giving up, letting go and not holding on.

Hands Up – I Give Up: Surrender. I hate the implications of that word. It often is associated with defeat, failure, or weakness. I do not surrender because I have lost the battle . . . I surrender because He has already won the war. I willingly yield to a Greater Power, to a Higher Authority, to a Conquering King. There is little enduring value in “my kingdom”, there is lasting eternal value in “His Kingdom”.

Paul writes, “Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.” (Phil 3:9-11 MSG)

Hands Off – I Let Go: Letting go is tough. It means releasing a part of you. It’s severing the cords of artificial worth for actual value. It’s realizing that our trophies memorialize the past, while recognizing our hope and meaning is in the future. Sarah Young writes about God’s cleaning out process in “Jesus Calling”, “[God’s] main work is to clear out debris and clutter, making room for [His] Spirit to take full possession.” We need to collaborate and cooperate, confidently trusting our Creator. Young writes that we need to be willing to let go of anything He chooses to take away. Paul reminds us, “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Phil 3:13-14 NLT)

Hands Open – I’m Not Holding On: A longtime friend has often reminded me to “leave my hands open” so that when God puts something in, He can take it out at His pleasure. There is a tendency to tightly close our hand when God gives us something good, feeling the sense that it is now “mine”. Once we place our grip on it, we no longer have an open hand for God to “remove and replace”, as He sees fit. Too many times, we hang on tightly to our “blessings” and they eventually become a “burden”. It becomes a transforming change to serve and not be served. Young writes, “Your sense of security must not rest in your possessions or things going your way. I am training you to depend on Me, alone, finding fulfillment in My presence. This entails being satisfied with much or with little, accepting either as My will for the moment. Instead of grasping and controlling, you are learning to release and receive.”

Lead others by surrendering, severing and serving . . . it’s the right stuff.

Hands up, hands off and hands open.

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