We sometimes hear about people who win the lottery, but soon after buying cars, homes, boats and traveling the world, they end up broke. Sixty-one year-old Brazilian billionaire, Eike Batista made his fortune in mining and oil and gas exploration. In 2012, he was ranked as the world’s eighth-richest person with a net worth of over $34.5 billion.
Just a year later, Mr. Batista’s oil company filed for bankruptcy after his oil fields were producing a fraction of what he had committed, prompting investors to withdraw from several of his ventures. The authorities charged Mr. Batista with money laundering and corruption in late January 2017. The value of his assets began to take a nosedive at light speed and today he has a net worth of only a fraction of it’s earlier value. He may also soon be serving a lengthy prison sentence.
In Philippians 3:8-10, Paul wrote, Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.
Paul says here that He “counts all things loss”; all that he had given up, walked away from when he surrendered to Christ. He says, that he counts all that as “rubbish that he may gain Christ.” In other words, all the work he had put into moving up the ladder of Orthodox Judaism was now to him a worthless heap of garbage compared to the privilege of knowing Jesus. He had traded all of his accolades and accomplishments for the privilege of serving Jesus Christ.
This brings us to a very important question. What are some of the things we want to hang on to in exchange for having more of Jesus?
Would we rather have our friends than Jesus? There are those we might call “friends” who are actually anything but. Often, they will be doing everything in their power to discourage or dissuade us from our Christian walk. Galatians 1:10 says, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” Sometimes we have to choose between “friends” and God.
A devout believer should rather have Jesus than all of the fame and popularity in the world. In fact, we should never expect to have both. James 4:4 says, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
Would we rather have our lifestyle and hobbies than Jesus? If we’re not careful, we’ll become so obsessed with these activities that we will become an embarrassment the Lord.
Would we rather have our religion and tradition than Jesus? We can aspire to become another Saul of Tarsus who would rather have these than Jesus? Or, should we emulate Paul, the Apostle of Christ who would rather have Jesus than religion/tradition.
Would we rather have our positions, politics and prestige than Jesus? I haven’t always lived as I do today. In times past, I’ve been to the business luncheons, cocktail parties, and the like. I’ve watched a room full of people who, if the fire sprinklers would have gone off, most would have drown without even getting their feet wet. If one wants to live a very shallow life, then hobnobbing with that crowd is the way to go. Can you imagine Jesus wasting his time doing that? Maybe you remember his railing admonishments of the Pharisees and the Sadducees in Luke 11:43-44: “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.” I think He may also say today, “Woe unto Christians who are playing these same games rather than dedicating themselves to serving both the Lord and your fellow man.”
These are but a few things that so many choose over Jesus. But when we read both Jesus and Paul, we tend to get very uncomfortable. Their words convict us of our shortcomings and lack of commitment. Matthew Henry wrote, “There are a great many that prefer their swine before the Savior, and so come short of Christ and salvation by him. They desire Christ to depart out of their hearts, and will not allow his word to have place in them, because he and his word would destroy their brutish lusts, those swine which they give themselves up to feed. And justly, will Christ forsake all that are weary of him; and say hereafter, Depart, ye cursed, to those who now say to the Almighty, ‘Depart from us.'”
In the 1930’s, America was still suffering from a catastrophic economic crash. There was a rumor of a salary cut at the New York insurance office where twenty-two-year-old George Beverly Shea was employed as a clerk. He had a deep melodious voice so when he was offered a radio contract, he immediately saw opportunities for fame and possible riches in his regular appearance on a secular program.
He had been pondering the matter for several days when he sat down to the piano early one Sunday morning to rehearse a hymn he was to sing in church that day. As he played and sang his eyes fell on a piece of paper, on which was written:
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold, I’d rather be His than have riches untold!
The poem, written by Mrs. Rhea Miller, had been placed there by Shea’s mother knowing he would see it when he practiced. She was aware of the job offer, but more than anything, she wanted her Christian son to become wholly consecrated to his service to the Lord.
As his eyes raced over the words, the sentences I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause and then, I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame struck his very heart. His fingers unconsciously left the tune he was rehearsing and began to find the melody which is today known to millions. He would sing that song thousands of times in the Billy Graham crusades. He finally went home to be with his Lord April 16th, 2013 at 104 years old. By then he had truly proven many times that “He’d just rather have Jesus.”
What would you rather have than Jesus?