Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Prize of Knowing Him by Mike Bickle

"But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I count everything loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish that I might gain Christ...that I may know Him in the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to Him in His death." (Phil. 3:7-8, 10)

In Philippians 3, where Paul gave an autobiographical look at what motivated him, we find a very striking example of what it means to be a person of one thing. He sometimes gave a sentence here and there in his other writings, but I don't know any place where he shared his deepest heart so richly. Without apology, Paul pointed us to the necessity of fierce abandonment for the sake of one thing. He confirmed that stunning and fascinating things happen when new discoveries of the God-Man touch our spirit. Verse 8, "Oh the excellencies of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things! I count all of these losses as rubbish that I may experience Him." He was not saying that he suffered these things to earn Jesus' approval but that in forsaking them, he removed what hindered his ability to experience Jesus to the fullest possible degree. He purposefully narrowed his options. He willingly became a man of one thing.

Paul went on in verse 10 to give three foundations of his inner motivation. By the anointing of the Holy Spirit, he put them together in a strategic way.

1. "I want to know Him," speaking of sharing intimacy with Jesus.

2. "I want to know the power of the resurrection," speaking of the ability to operate in the anointing.

3. "I want to know the fellowship of His suffering," portraying his desire to bear the inevitable counterattack of suffering and persecution. Paul understood the paradox that even as the anointing prepares and equips the heart for suffering, it also triggers the counterattack that brings suffering. It starts a chain reaction in the kingdom of darkness. When we operate in new levels of the anointing and plunder Satan's kingdom, we touch new dimensions of counter-attack. Paul actually gloried in the privilege of having intimacy with Jesus in suffering, which is a necessary dimension of the kingdom of God.

Paul revealed the inner activity of his soul in verse 1, "I press on." In other words, he committed himself to experiencing the three things he just spoke of. He said, "I want to lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by God." The Lord Jesus laid hold of each one of us for a very specific reason. God had something in mind for you when you were born and when you were born again. You were "laid hold of by God," handpicked by Him in His creative genius and created with certain passions. But it is so common in the kingdom of God today for people to never lay hold of the thing for which they were born and to never enter into the destiny God prepared for them. This is because we are not yet a people of one thing. We are not people after His heart. We are trying to do business as usual. We don't want fellow Christians thinking we're strange; we don't want discomfort. We want to live like everybody else lives. But we're in danger of not laying hold of what God has for us in this hour of history.

Paul went on to say that he didn't consider himself to have already attained to this. He didn't believe he'd fully apprehended the fullness of what he was created for. Yet he committed himself to one thing: to forget the things that were behind him and press on to what was ahead. Paul was a single-minded man, much like David was. He reached forward to take hold of knowing Christ, of experiencing the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering. He determined in his heart to spend his entire life doing this. He went out of his way to remove any known hindrances to his destiny in God.

Beloved, we will not accidentally lay hold of the highest things God has called us to. We must press into them knowing that the devil will press back. We must push against our resisting flesh. We must fight as believers and unbelievers alike come against us. We must lay hold of the prize, and the only way to accomplish that is by being individuals and churches of extravagant devotion to Jesus. No other kind of devotion will survive the onslaught of the enemy.

I believe that the "prize" Paul referenced in verse 14 was the experience of intimacy and power spoken of in verse 10. He wanted the dimension of power and fellowship that was found only in suffering for the gospel. His prize was not just eternal, but was meant to be experienced in some measure on the earth. Daniel prophesied about this same reality saying, "...the people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits...yet for many days they shall fall by sword, and flame, by captivity and plundering" (Dan. 11:32-33). Daniel spoke of two different time periods in this prophecy. First was the time of Antiochus in 167-175 B.C. which was a type of persecution just before the Second Coming of Jesus. The second time frame is at the end of the age. This tells us the people of God will know their God, will have a mighty spirit and will do great exploits. They will also know suffering and fall by the sword and flame as martyrs. Notice Daniel describes the same three things Paul described, these three dimensions of being a people of one thing.

1. Knowing God.

2. Operating in the anointing.

3. Being equipped to fellowship with Him in suffering.

In this pursuit, we must not apologize for our intensity. We must not accept some idea of "balance" that is not the balance of the Spirit, though it might be the balance of religious man. We want to be balanced Jesus-style, so God says on the last day, "You had a fiery heart. You bore the sufferings. You learned to operate in the anointing. You knew how to worship in the Spirit. You were a person of one thing, after my own heart." That is balance from God's point of view.

What's the point of being a person of one thing? What do we gain? God Himself! God revealed Himself as the primary reward of the human heart in Genesis 15:1 when He stood before Abraham and said, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward." Those words amaze me. God reveals Himself as our prize. He is the ultimate satisfaction of our hearts. He gives us secondary rewards, too, and I love them as well. There's the anointing to touch the ends of the earth. There's health, wealth and influence, anointed ministry and favor in significant relationships. God gave all of these to Abraham and promised them to us. But they are all secondary. God Himself was the great reward surpassing all others. He is the prize of the ages.

God demonstrated this truth again with the story of Levi. "At that time the Lord separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to minister to Him and to bless in His name, to this day. Therefore Levi had no portion nor inheritance with his brethren; the Lord is his inheritance, just as the Lord your God promised him" (Deut. 10:8-9).

In this passage, the words "to bear the ark of the covenant" symbolized receiving the presence of God. God separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark, or to experience the presence of the Lord. He set them apart to stand before Him and bless the name of God. That was their anointing. Because of this unique blessing, Levi and his brothers received no portion of the land and no inheritance when the other tribes of Israel received their portion. Why? Because the Lord Himself was Levi's inheritance. "I Myself will be your inheritance" (Deut. 18:2). God set this tribe apart to receive the greatest blessing: the reward and the inheritance of Himself. That's a picture of true intimacy with God, when we don't need anything else but Him to make our lives complete.

Beloved, this prize will not automatically fall at our feet. There is a pressing in. We reach for the one thing, the exceedingly great reward. There is a forgetting of what came before, both success and failure. In Phil. 3:13 Paul said, "One thing I do, I forget the things which are behind." Part of our offering to the Lord is forgetting our dedication and personal sacrifice. Paul counted them as nothing. We do not stand before the Lord and calculate how much we have given Him in prayer, fasting, finances and persecution. We forget all of that because our glory is not found in anything we can give. Our glory is in being loved by Him and in the anointing to love Him. That alone gives us value. When we become preoccupied with our sacrifice, religious pride steals in and our motives become corrupt. We also should forget our accomplishments. God doesn't look at spiritual risumis. The great revivals we lead, the Bible schools we started, the ministries we ran; these are not our offering. No matter how many people we lead to the Lord or how many sermons we preach or how many people grow to spiritual maturity under our leadership, these mean nothing when compared to the privilege of knowing Christ. We should discount them, let them go. God will reckon them in proper balance when we get to heaven, but for us there is nothing so valuable as simply knowing God. For this reason we should also let our failures go. These can distract us more than our accomplishments. Paul tells us to forget all of that and to press in to God's heart with a spiritual violence, reaching toward the prize with all the energy we have. That's how we want to live. We want to be a people of one thing, forgetting what is behind and pressing to what is ahead. That's how we become men and women after God's own heart.