I was reading some of J.I. Packer last night and I came across the following quote, “What normal person spends his time nostalgically dreaming of manure?” He was referencing something Paul was saying in Philippians. His point is we don’t think we’re doing that, but we are. When we focus on things other than the things of God, we’re focusing on the lesser things. We’re thinking about things that have no eternal value.
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3:7-11, NASB
We are reminded in other places in Scripture where earthly things just don’t compare with heavenly things. The things of this world are like manure, rubbish, or dung in comparison to the things of God. But so often we’re focused on the earthly things: jobs, houses, cars, entertainment systems, sports, time share condos, boats, vacations, hobbies, etc. We pour our time and money into these things. They become paramount in our lives. For someone who is not a Christian, it’s understandable. Those folks are looking for something worthy to fill their time. They’re not familiar with the things of God. And as a result, you can excuse their pursuit. Until they know Christ, they won’t know anything better. But what about us Christians? Why are we tying ourselves to chasing after these things? And I say we became I’m included in that. Think about that for a minute.
If the things of God are so much greater, why do we spend our time wanting and longing for the things that aren’t? God is presenting before us the most succulent and enjoyable meal we could ever want. But instead of taking in in, savoring it, and enjoying it, we turn our noses up at the feast He has prepared. Instead, we are wallowing in garbage and trash and nastiness. We are hungering for manure when we could be enjoying the very best instead. While we don’t think of things that way, it’s really the way it is. If we try to pretend otherwise, we’re only fooling ourselves.
Now this isn’t to say that we can’t have comfortable homes and cars that don’t threaten to fall part every time we hit the gas pedal, and hobbies and the like. Far from it. But it’s more about our heart condition with respect to these things. Are we chasing after them or are we chasing after God? We can say we’re chasing after God, but what does our time and effort show? Are we really focused on God, to the point where we can honestly say we count all the rest loss? I know that’s where God wants us to be. Not only does that mean we are better able to worship Him, but it also means we’re better able to live life.
Live life? Absolutely. Think about how much wanting and chasing after all those things encumbers us. Our buddy gets the newest big screen TV. And that starts a twinge inside of us to have something comparable. Or a friend of ours buys a new car and we look at ours that we’re still making payments on and we wish for a new one ourselves, with that new car smell, that shiny, unmarred finish, and that new car sound. Or someone around us receives the promotion that should have been ours. As a result, we go into a funk, trying to figure out why we didn’t get that promotion instead. Consider all the time and energy we will spend on those things and things like them. Think about the range of feelings and emotions we’ll go through. Now imagine we didn’t have to deal with any of it. Imagine that none of that stuff mattered to us. Wouldn’t life be easier if that were the case? Absolutely it would be. And that’s Paul’s point. And that’s J.I. Packer’s point. Why are so focused on manure when we can count it all loss and focus on what’s really important?
It’s time we looked at things for what they really are. If they aren’t of God, they’re manure. And if we have dreams and hopes based on them, we need to refocus. We need to put our efforts and our concerns into what really matters. We need to concentrate on Christ. We need to seek His will, join Him in His work, and let the rest of the stuff fall where it may. Not only will be do a better job honoring and glorifying our Savior, but we’ll simplify our own lives as well.