‘For whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, 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…’ Philippians 3:7-8
Loss…what does the word mean? The MacMillan Dictionary describes it as ‘no longer having something’, ‘having less than before’, failure to win’, and ‘death’. There are a few more meanings, but these are the most common. The most common meanings for gain include ‘get/achieve something’, ‘get benefit/advantage’, increase in value’.
We typically associate loss with losing something tangible, like money, baseball cards, dogs, etc. Anything of value that comes up missing…it’s a loss. We tend to think of gain as finding or receiving things of worth, such as, again, money, good jobs, nice homes, wonderful relationships.
But loss can also be a feeling. We can feel a loss when we lose a friend because of an argument. We can feel it if we lose our home due to financial reasons. We also can experience it when someone insults us, or if we lose an opportunity because of something that was unavoidable. We feel the loss, which sometimes feels akin to grief.
A very painful type of loss is the loss of relationships. Whether it be a tearing in the fabric of a close friendship, or separation because of distance, such as a close friend or relative moving many miles away, it can cause great suffering and heartache. Some of these losses may be repaired or rectified. Some may never be.
But the loss that is the most difficult to bear is the loss brought to us via death. Once that person is gone, it is over. It is a permanent separation, and cannot be changed, corrected, canceled out. Once death has occurred, that person is simply gone. And that feeling of loss will always be a part of us.
Death is part of the life cycle established by God. The human being begins the dying process at birth. Unless Jesus comes back before our appointed time, we are destined to experience it, each of us, and it is completely natural, and right. Death will be the end of life on earth, but the beginning of the most wonderful alternative…eternal life.
But death causes loss. Loss of ‘something’ for the one who has died…life. And loss in the hearts of those who loved the deceased, who long for them to still be with them, to be alive again, to hold and to love, and to spend time with. We remember those who have died in so many ways. We remember their laughter, their manners and habits, their abilities, and yes, even their faults. But we remember them with love, and with heartbreak. Because we continue to feel the loss.
Yet, Jesus died, and we don’t feel loss. We feel gain. We feel joy. And we feel hope. Because He died, we have hope for the future. Why is that? Why is His death different?
Because He rose again. He lived after the most horrible death a person can experience. He gave up His life on this earth to satisfy the prophesies foretold before His birth . He gave up His life to save souls, that we might have forgiveness for our sins, that we may have eternal life. Because of His sacrifice, we are reconciled with God.
Where, therefore, is the loss? When we envision the torture and pain that Jesus bore before and during His crucifixion, we feel the loss, and the guilt, of what He suffered. But the fact that He died and then rose again in three days changes that loss to gain. For the whole world has gained in an incredible way because of the loss. Salvation can be had for the simple act of belief, of faith in the Christ who came to save a dying world, who extends His magnificent grace to those who would accept Him as their Savior.
We should perhaps look at loss in our own lives in a different way then, shouldn’t we? Perhaps loss must occur before a gain. Maybe it is because with the pain and suffering we feel during the period of loss, we develop an understanding that anything that is worth grieving for is also something worth celebrating. Being thankful for what we once had, enjoyed, cared about, even loved, ushers in the appreciation and understanding of the great sacrifice our Lord made for us. And how He, and He alone, is worthy of all our praise, our honor, and our devotion. Christ is indeed our greatest gain.
‘To live is Christ and to die is gain.’ Philippians 1:21