‘Christ Jesus my Lord, for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things.’
These words of St. Paul seem very definite when we begin to think about them. They appear to contain an allusion to some definite circumstance in his past life, of which we hear nothing, or next to nothing, elsewhere.
I. What loss had St. Paul suffered?—How comes it that during the greater part of his apostolic career he is evidently a poor man? The conclusion is irresistible: St. Paul must have been disowned by his family. He had become one of those of whom our Lord speaks, who had left home, and brethren, and father, and mother, and lands for His Name.
II. Christianity does not make any appeal to the mass of mankind to sell all that they have and follow Christ.—It is only in exceptional cases that this appeal is made, and sometimes those to whom the suggestion comes cannot rise to the height of this counsel of perfection. Like the young man with great possessions, they go away sorrowful. Yet, if one reads the obituary notices in the newspapers, it is almost startling, I think, to see how many men and women nowadays do give up their fortune, their lifetime, sometimes even their life itself, to the service of Christ and the good of their fellow-men. Little is known of their lives by the world at large; but they have heard their Master’s call, and have left all and followed Him. These are the chosen few, spiritual natures, gifted with an exceptional enthusiasm.
III. To the mass of men the appeal which Christianity makes is something different.—It bids us do our duty, follow our conscience, take our stand on our moral and religious principles without counting the cost. We must be ready with St. Paul to suffer the loss of all things for the sake of Christ—we must be ready, I mean, to risk losing much that we value for the sake of what we hold sacred. The man of high principle differs from the unprincipled man in that he would do this unhesitatingly. The perfect Christian differs from the imperfect Christian in that he would do it willingly and gladly for the sake of the love that he bears to Christ. We are not, I dare say, called upon to give up our inheritance or to break entirely with those nearest and dearest to us, as was St. Paul; but, none the less, the claim which Christianity makes on our religious life is an exacting one.
Rev. Dr. H. G. Woods.
‘Every one who has acquaintance with the practical side of missionary work amongst the Jews will quickly realise that the Jew who begins to inquire seriously about the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ to be the Messiah and Redeemer of Israel quickly becomes a marked man amongst his fellows. When once a Jew has been baptized, he has broken definitely with his past. He is so completely ostracised by kith and kin that he is regarded as dead to them, and unless Christian people come to his aid he cannot but drift lower and lower till all be lost.’
‘That I may win Christ.’
With St. Paul Christ was the one object which eclipsed everything he had before counted gain. Can you, as St. Paul did, take the things you value most, and with true sincerity of heart put them side by side with Christ and count them all loss?
I. What place has Christ in your heart?—In the past, the present, and the future with St. Paul, it was all Christ.
II. What is Christ to you now?—Can you say, ‘I still count, as I did at first’? Is Christ to-day as precious to you as when you first started on your Christian course?
III. What have you suffered for Christ?—For your Christian testimony, your cleaving to and living for Christ?