What do you know? It is quite possible that we think we know some things that we really don’t know, especially not as well as we think we do. In working with couples who are struggling in their marriage its pretty common to hear someone say, “I thought I knew him (or her) really well before we were married. But I now realize I didn’t know them at all.” In reading the Bible, especially in the writings of Paul one often hears Paul mention things that he knows. In Romans 8:28 he declared, “I know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.” In Philippians 3:7-11 as he discussed the greatest decision of his life when he turned from treasuring all the things in his Jewish heritage to counting all this but loss that he might be right with Christ. “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
Paul certainly had lots of things in his life and heritage to be proud of. To be able to look back and see you were born right in the heart of the Jewish family life, religious life and had been as devoted to your faith as anyone can be. In some ways the depth of a persons commitment to any cause can be measured by his anger, hatred and disgust with those who aren’t of the same persuasion. He, before his conversion to Christ, hated Jesus and all his followers. He was so on fire to destroy the church, the gospel message and those who followed Christ that his rage was driving his actions. He noted here in Philippians 3:1-6 that such hatred demonstrated his zeal for the Jewish faith. It took a personal confrontation with Jesus, the resurrected Lord, on the road to Damascus for Paul to see himself right, to see the church right, to see Christians right and to see the Lord right. As is true with any honest person, when he saw the error of his life he turned it around completely. He became just as on fire for Christianity as he had been against it and for Judaism. Notice when Paul was struck down on the road and saw Jesus, his first question was “Who are you Lord?” When Jesus said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Paul’s next words were, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” Jesus told him to go into Damascus to be told what he must do. For three days, he waited, fasted, prayed and waited some more. I can’t help but wonder what went through his mind during those three days. Don’t you guess there was a world of introspection going. “How could I have missed it so badly?” I suspect his mind was running back through those Old Testament Scriptures he had been studying and learning all his life to see what he had missed in that study.
Finally, the Lord commissioned Ananias to go to him down on Straight Street. Of course, Ananias thought it was a crazy idea to go when he heard who the Lord wanted him to see. But the Lord gave him no option. Paul had already seen him coming before Ananias had ever agreed to go. When Ananias arrived and laid his hands on him to give him his sight back, he was a believer in Jesus ready to make the plunge into committed discipleship. Ananias asked, “What are you waiting for? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins calling on the name of the Lord.” He did and thus began a life of total commitment to the Lord. His whole value system was turned over. What had been of tremendous gain was now a loss. What had been treasured was now seen as garbage. What mattered was that he know Christ and be found in him, not based on how good and righteous he was but on how great the Lord is and how he believed in him and trusted his life to him. Even though he declared his knowledge of Christ, it is amazing that he turned immediately to say that what he longed for most of all was to know Christ.
Talk to a couple who have been married for over fifty years. Ask them if they knew each other when they first got married and they will laugh at you and say of course we knew each other then. But ask them if they knew each other then the way they know each other now and they will laugh again and say no they didn’t even come close to knowing each other then as they do now. When we first become Christians we know Jesus and love him. But as we grow in our faith, devotion and commitment to God that knowledge changes entirely. Suddenly, we can’t get enough knowledge of him. As Paul lays out his desire to really know Christ he wants to know his power, share in his suffering, become like him in his death and somehow, attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Later when Paul wrote the final letter of his life, 2 Timothy, he returns to this theme in chapter one and verse 12. “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”
When we are in trouble, struggling, hurting, facing huge trials what matters is not so much what we know but who we know. As Paul contemplated his final trail before Nero and knew that this would be the end of this life and of his ministry on earth, he wanted Timothy to come to him. But he also wanted to be certain that Timothy knew that he was sure in his knowledge of Jesus and that he had now doubt in the Lord’s ability to guard what he had entrusted to him until that day. The RSV translated this, “He is able to guard what He has entrusted to me until that day.” In either sense it is a powerful trust in Him, the Lord and Savior. I know Him, trumps everything else.