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I suspect most of us would prefer a change of circumstances over a change of mind about our situations. The unintended consequence of this kind of thinking is perpetual vulnerability to your circumstances. It is a formula for being controlled by your conditions rather than having victory over them.
The only way to live victoriously, according to this worldview, is always to have favorable circumstances, which is an unrealistic probability. Think about the last negative thing that happened to you. How did you respond? That response is vital in showing you what you cherish the most (Matthew 6:21).
Mable wants her husband to change. She is right. He should repent. Sin has captured him, and for several reasons, he has not been able to extricate himself from his caught-ness (Galatians 6:1). She has become frustrated and impatient with him. Rather than helping her husband through his sin, she is complicating the problem by being demanding, controlling, and critical.
Biff has a wayward child, and he has not tried to hide his displeasure in his son. Like Mable, he has a good desire, but the rebellion has tempted him to sin. The Lord is too slow for Biff. He wants his son to change today, and he is resorting to all kinds of sinful actions to reel his wayward child back into the fold (Matthew 18:12).
What Mable and Biff don’t know is that God is more interested in helping them change their minds than their circumstances. When Job reflected upon his seemingly unchangeable circumstances, he fell to the ground and offered a worship-filled response to his Lord. His reflections were more on the Lord of his situation than the circumstance.
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21).
If your goal is for your situation to change, which is not a bad goal, the first step in that process is how you think about what is happening to you. We miss this point so quickly when staring trouble in the face. Job seemed to perceive how our gains and losses were not as significant as the God who was in the gains and losses. The New Testament equivalent to this kind of God-centered thinking was Paul.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ (Philippians 3:7).
Gains and Losses
Paul learned how to live counter to his world (Philippians 4:11-13). He was not impressed with the things his culture offered. For him, reputation, image, position, power, materialism, affluence, relevance, style, and any other something that would give him bragging rights were comparable to manure.
He took all the good things that he possessed and threw them in the garbage heap because he found something that surpassed those human-made aspirations. He moved his good accomplishments from the gain column to the loss column, which left nothing in his gain column but Christ.
You are at your strongest when the surpassing worth of knowing Christ causes all other loves in your life to fade in the background. Authentic Christianity is relinquishing all of your desires from rulership in your heart for the opportunity to gain Christ.
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-27).
You should not attempt to add Jesus to the plus column of your life along with everything else that you want. To have Jesus plus other things will always leave you vulnerable to those other things. This cluster will create unnecessary competition in your heart. You will forever live in tension until Christ rules supreme in your mind.
Though Paul was a great man who accomplished many things that surpassed nearly everyone else of his day, he was willing to let go of all those things because he found something that was superior. Can you do this? Can I do this?
Paul had a change of mind about those perceived good things in his life. He began to see how the things he cherished could be over-valued even to the point of controlling him. He learned how there was only one thing that needed to reign supreme in his heart (Matthew 6:24).
This lesson is one of the hardest things for any person to learn. At least it is for me. To be willing to let go of everything you value for the sake of Christ is the ultimate victory and your most significant challenge, which is why many people chose not to follow Jesus any longer (Matthew 19:22).
Are you willing to count everything in life as a minus for the sake of Christ? I’m not asking you to walk away from all of the things you possess volitionally. This appeal is not a call for self-flagellation or a vow to poverty so you can prove that Christ is most important.
I’m asking you if you could be okay if Christ were all you had. If your world falls apart and all the advantages you once had are no longer yours to have, can you get to the place in your thinking where knowing Christ is enough?
God is not calling you to punish yourself by ascetic practices. He is not a mean parent who wants to harm you by taking things away from you. Some people live with this view, always thinking the other shoe is going to fall because God does not want to bless us.
This kind of thinking is foolish. The Father gave His Son to die on the cross for you. If someone gave up his child so you could live, I think it would be safe to say that you are loved, and He would not withhold any good thing from you. See John 15:13, 3:16; Psalm 84:11.
His desire is not to withhold, but to release you from the captivation and domination that things can have over your thinking, even if those things are your closest relationships. He knows the only way to be strong is by being willing to suffer the loss of all things while standing in the confidence of Christ’s faithfulness on your behalf.
You are not strong because you can control your universe. Your strength is proportional to the degree in which you’re resting in Christ’s ability. Paul knew this, and when he looked at his foundation, he realized he had built it with the wood, hay, and straw of personal accomplishments (1 Corinthians 3:12).
His rank, pedigree, standing, and influence became rubbish in his mind because he knew those things were manufactured and maintained by his strength. He let those things go knowing there was something better found in Christ (Philippians 3:10).
You are only as strong as your vulnerabilities. Paul decided to chuck anything that made him weak, which was everything the world called strong (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). He made the great exchange: I will replace all my worth with the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus.
He learned the secret to life: for when I am weak, I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10), which brings you to a penetrative question: where are you vulnerable? What is the one thing you don’t want to lose? Job said it this way,
For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, but trouble comes (Job 3:25-26).
What is the one thing you pray God won’t take from you? Be careful here. God is not that mean parent who wants to watch you suffer. He wants to bless you. God gave His Son for you. The next biggest blessing He could ever give you is to free you from being controlled by things.
If you are controlled by what you are afraid of losing, you need to be free. You must mentally let those things go, so they no longer dominate you. You must be “okay” with losing all things while obtaining Christ as your most valued treasure.
He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward (Hebrews 11:26).
You will never be free until you are willing to forsake all things for the sake of Christ. Do you remember when you renounced the world for the greater riches found in Christ at salvation? Now it is time to forsake the world for those greater riches found in Christ during your sanctification.
Step One – The first step to freedom is to realize the nature of the call on your life. The Lord is systematically and incrementally putting you to death (Romans 12:1-2). The more you resist death, the more difficult you will make your life and your relationships (John 12:24).
Step Two – The second step to access the surpassing worth of knowing Christ is to identify those things that mean the most to you. These are the things that control you. If you don’t know what these things are, think about your fears or your anger.
Fear or anger are the typical responses from the person who is losing something they don’t want to miss. You must name it and claim it. You have to own your sin. Your mind must be renewed and released from these things. If you’re not willing to name what competes for your heart treasure, you will never change.
Step Three – The third step is to confess these things. Paul admitted that he enjoyed what he had and what he was. There was a long time in his life where he was not going to let go of those things. Like Gollum from “The Lord of the Rings,” who loved his gold ring, what Paul possessed was his precious.
Those things altered his thinking to the point of ruling his life. Part of Paul’s process of being released from this bondage was to let others know what those things were and how they dominated his thinking. He made a public confession (Philippians 3:3-6).
One of the most freeing things you can do is articulate what has gripped your mind. Let others in on your fears. When you look out over the landscape of your life and see people or situations who are not meeting your expectations, how do you respond?
If it is sinful, you have yet to find your surpassing worth in Christ. You are not free (John 8:36) and you will never be free until you do. Carefully read the rest of Paul’s public confession and ask the Father to help you to emulate his example.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8).
What would you rather have if you only had one choice: a change of circumstances or a change of mind about your circumstances? This question is critical and ties directly to the quality of life you will experience with God and others. I’m not sure if the Lord will ever change your circumstances. I am sure He can change your mind about your circumstances.