Assessing gains and losses is a matter of interpretation of facts, rather than the facts themselves. Some gains are really losses and some losses are really gains. Context is important, because the bare facts of any assessment rarely tell the whole story.
- A lower number on the bathroom scales in the morning reports a loss of poundage but a gain of more important things: discipline, reward, optimism, and hope.
- A business loss can be magically transformed by the inscrutable tax code into a gain with the use of a magic potion called “deductions.”
- The loss of a beloved, believing family member can be mitigated by the knowledge he or she has gained heaven.
- In the worldly view, great gains can actually be terrible losses in heaven’s assessment.
- In a Kingdom of God context, a loss can be a victory, a triumph of good over evil.
- Business people know that in starting a new enterprise, losses will most likely mount before gains begin to accrue.
The scriptures help us shake all of this confusion down to a manageable, predictable prescription:
…godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Tim 6)
These two things act to level us when loss shakes the earth beneath our feet and steady us when success brings new challenges. The productive life is lived in a dynamic tension between these two opposites:
- Godliness motivates us to act: writing wrongs, preaching truth, living holy, gaining ground, and “climbing the Hill of the Lord.”
- Contentment compels us to rest: waiting on God, trusting the truth, quiet obedience, holding our ground, and “standing in the Holy Place.”
Sometimes we move at the direction of and in the power of the Spirit and at other times we rest at the direction of and in the power of the Spirit. At the point of balance between these two forces is a rewarding place to live. Truly, this is great gain and it is more than an interpretation—it is a fact!
Be patient today as you work or rest, the whole story has not yet been told. The heavenly books are still being written of your deeds of mercy in the name of the Lord. Obedience to the will of God is always counted as gain. Your prayers are still being collected in a golden bowl before the face of God. Be content in your obedience to God and confident of your inevitable gain.
Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice.
By standing firm you will gain life.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
1 Timothy 6:6-10
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Philemon 1:20; 3:7-11 NKJV
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,1if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders…He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Exodus 15:23-25 NKJV
Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.
Lord Jesus, I would make gains today! I pray that this 24 hour period will somehow make a mark in eternity. Each moment is a gift from You not to be squandered. Help me seize every opportunity to serve, hear every cry for help, see everything Your Spirit will reveal and taste the sweetness of everyday life. Just as for Israel in the wilderness, if there is bitterness in this day, may the Cross of Christ strike the bitter waters and make them somehow sweet again as did that ancient tree. As I count the day’s deeds, may Your smile be my greatest gain. Amen and Amen,
And Can It Be?
Words: Charles Wesley; Music: Thomas Campbell
1. And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be?
That Thou, my God, should die for me!
2. ‘Tis mystery all! Th’Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine!
‘Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
3. He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race;
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.
4. Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.
5. No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved