Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "From Ocean Unto Ocean"1 (Lyrics)
Philippians 3:8 – I count everything as … rubbish. (ESV)
These words by the apostle Paul often come to mind when I help seniors de-clutter their homes. I see a lot of things get counted as rubbish — designated as dispensable. It's exciting to watch how the offloading of accumulations leaves home-dwellers happy and relieved. They enjoy their new space. It feels like a new lease on life — even as the years are ebbing away.
De-cluttering has its challenges. It takes courage to let our familiar "nest" get stirred up. It takes humility to let someone dig up long-forgotten items or reveal those embarrassing bits of junk. It takes mental effort to determine the destiny of each item — whether to the trash, thrift shop, or a friend. And it takes emotional energy to re-live memories triggered by items — things that signify a past career, a way of life, or a cherished loved one. Past griefs may be rekindled.
Similarly, de-cluttering our spiritual life is a challenge that requires courage. I call it God's De-Cluttering Program. It's God's process of freeing us up for new and unimagined possibilities. It involves experiences of loss, trials, and suffering — as it did for Paul. Paul lost everything that once gave him security and significance: the privileges of his Jewish heritage, his status as a gifted scholar, his respected position in society. Paul lost everything that had made him who he was: his entire identity. That's drastic de-cluttering! Yet, Paul willingly designated those blessings as dispensable — because he found something better:
- 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 3:8 ESV)
In gaining Christ, Paul's entire life got re-purposed. You know what it means to re-purpose an item. It means that we adopt a new vision for it. For example, we no longer use it to preserve our past; we now use it to bless others. Rather than it pointing back, now it points ahead. This may be as simple as polishing up a stashed item and displaying it so that guests can enjoy it.
God's De-Cluttering Program involves a re-purposing of our lives. For Paul, it meant that he no longer needed his religious and social privileges for personal benefit. Now they would be used to bless others. Now God would use his knowledge and skills for the future — to establish and preserve the church. He would write epistles aimed to build mature character and keep God's people Christ-focused.
May you and I be among the many, many blessed through God's De-Cluttering Program in Paul's life.
Prayer: Lord, help us to appreciate Your De-Cluttering Program — whether applied to our most trivial possessions or our most significant commitments — that we may be freed up to embrace a revived vision for our lives — and most notably, to gain Christ. Amen.