Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What we have gained

I walked in the sunshine with a scholar who had effectively forfeited his prospects of academic advancement by clashing with church dignitaries over the gospel of grace. “But it doesn’t matter,” he said at length, “for I’ve known God and they haven’t.”

. . . [Not] many of us ever naturally say that in the light of the knowledge of God which we have come to enjoy past disappointments and present heartbreaks, as the world counts heartbreaks, don’t matter. For the plain fact is that to most of us they do matter. We live with them as our “crosses” (so we call them). Constantly we find ourselves slipping into bitterness and apathy and gloom as we reflect on them, which we frequently do. The attitude we show to the world is a sort of dried-up stoicism, miles removed from the “joy unspeakable and full of glory” which Peter took for granted that his readers were displaying (1 Peter 1:8). “Poor souls,” our friends say of us, “how they’ve suffered” – and that is just what we feel about ourselves! But these private mock heroics have no place at all in the minds of those who really know God. They never brood on might-have-beens; they never think of the things they have missed, only of what they have gained. . . . When Paul says [in Philippians 3] he counts the things he lost “dung,” he means not merely that he does not think of them as having any value but also that he does not live with them constantly in his mind; what normal person spends his time nostalgically dreaming of manure?

J. I. Packer, Knowing God, pages 20-21.