Our lives are full of pursuits. Be it marriage, a prestigious job, or the appreciation of our peers we all have things we seek after. We desire, and hope for these things. We expend our resources, and sacrifice to attain them. Ultimately our lives are characterized and defined by what we pursue. But why do we pursue things? and what makes something worth pursuing? Behind every search, every chase, and every dream is the hope of lasting satisfaction. When we try hard in school, or buy a new toy, we do so because we hope it will somehow amount to something worthwhile. So the logic follows that what makes something worth pursuing or not is how much lasting satisfaction we expect it will bring.
Not every pursuit is the same; each one carries differing levels of expectations of the payoff. The bigger the hope of reward, the higher we’ll place the pursuit in our lives; the more we’ll sacrifice, and work to get it. The ambitious student will place the pursuit of education, and career at the forefront of his life, because he believes it will make him happy; he’ll put in the effort, sacrifice, and energy required is in order to attain his goal because he trusts that in the end it will be worth it. At the same time, his pursuit for something like recreation, and immediate fun will be less, because it does not seem as worthwhile as his long term goals. You get the point.The same process goes for every person, just with different goals, and different ways of going about it.
But the thing about all pursuits apart from Christ is that they never live up to their expectations; and the greater the expectations the greater the loss when the pursuit fails to fulfill its promise. What seemed so enamoring while we were chasing it, turns out to be disappointing once we get it; our pursuits don’t bring us the satisfaction we long for. Toys grow old quickly, the praise of man is fleeting, people disappoint, and careers don’t satisfy.
As Christians, we are called to pursue Christ. Not only that, we are called to pursue Christ above all things. God calls us to commit the entirety of ourselves to love him with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul, and to abandon everything to know him more. And so, the important inescapable question arises: is it worth it? Following Christ is the riskiest decision anyone could ever make because one must forsake all things, in order to gain him. Jesus himself, in Matthew 13:44 describes the pursuit of the kingdom of heaven in this way. saying, 44“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (emphasis mine) The greater the pursuit, the greater the possibility of loss; and so the possibility for disappointment is enormous. Paul speaks of the crushing implications for the Christian if the pursuit of Christ proves useless: “14And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… 19If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
Yikes. As was said earlier, what makes something worth pursuing is the hope of lasting satisfaction. In the same way, we follow Christ because we believe he is worth it; we know that all other pursuits fail to live up to their billing, but we are confident that in Jesus Christ alone is everlasting satisfaction, and fullness of joy. And with that settled in our hearts, we can follow him full-tilt with passion. We can boldly say with Paul: “8Indeed, 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
Ah! This is so hard for me! In fact, my whole thought process on this topic (aka. this post) stems from a lingering doubt that haunts me with each pursuit counted as loss for the sake of gaining Christ. My unbelief tells me what if you count all things as loss in order to gain Christ, and find that he’s not worth it; that he does not bring lasting satisfaction, or fullness of joy? This lack of faith is not doubt in the happiness of heaven, but rather it is doubt in living my life full-on for Christ here on earth. I often struggle to believe the all-sustaining, power of God in everyday life. I think the dilemma is best captured in this question: if I were to lose everything: possessions, friends, and status, and had only Christ would that be enough? Or in other words, would Christ be enough to satisfy us if we lost the pleasures from all other pursuits?
It is a difficult question to answer, and ultimately one that is all hypothesis until I experience it for myself. Tim Keller captures it well when he says, “You don’t realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” I draw encouragement from something Paul says in Philippians 1: 20-22: “20as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Here was Paul, a man who had truly given up everything to follow Jesus. Heck, he writing Philippians from prison! And yet he could say with confidence that he would not be ashamed for living all-out for Christ.
Is it worth it to follow Christ? Is it worth it to count all things as loss, so that I might gain Him? These are not hard questions to answer. Of course it’s worth it! Not only in the eternal life too come, but also in earthly life now. The problem isn’t knowing the right answer in my head, but settling it in my heart. It’s having full courage in this glorious fact, trusting in it, finding comfort in it, dropping all rival pursuits for it, and having it seep into everything I do; that when I read my bible it would be with full courage that Christ is worth it, when I pray, and serve, and strive to be more like Him it would be with the eager expectation and hope that I will not at all be ashamed. Why? Because Christ is worth it, and it is a glorious thing to live for him! He is the one worthy pursuit, the one pursuit that brings lasting satisfaction.