When is the last time you were ever in a cow pasture? Are there any distinct features that you remember? Was there anything that stood out to you?
Enjoy the Beauty but Watch Your Step
From my most recent foray into a cow pasture with several of my children, multiple observations stand out in my mind.
First, the beauty. There is something sweet about going outside and enjoying the countryside. The rolling hills, the variations of color, the wildlife, and the cows with their calves create a wonderful environment in which to rejoice in the goodness of God. As we make our observations, we allow Psalm 19:1-6 to roll through our minds. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” On a recent trip, watching the cows, I reminded my children of Asaph’s Psalm 50 which states, “For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountain, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine” (Psalm 50:10-11). Pausing just a few moments to think together created a valuable opportunity to enjoy all the good gifts that God gives us, as well as a moment to consider God’s character too.
In addition to those things, there were two other striking observations: the smell and the cow patties. Whenever you get close to a cow pasture, you smell it. If there are cattle, there is also the smell of manure. No complaints here, God made it that way. The smell and cattle go together naturally. The overwhelming sense of the smell of course rises and falls on many other conditions; nevertheless, the smell to one extent or another remains.
Is that a bad thing? Certainly not. Without the smell, walking carelessly would be more likely. Possibly you, the reader, did not grow up in the country or around cattle. But, the smell heightens your awareness of the necessity to watch every step, unless you step in manure. Why do you not want to step in manure? Not because manure is bad per se. Manure represents a functioning digestive system in the cows. Without manure, you have no cattle. Furthermore, when collected and processed, manure provides great fertilizer. However, even with those things in mind, it is still manure. It is excrement, refuse, dung, cow chips, cow-pies, cow patties, cow flops, or may be known by other synonyms as well. For sure, it does not belong on the shoe or on the body. Again, it is manure.
Apply These Observations to Life
The Bible talks about excrement / refuse / dung as well. Paul writes, “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 dung that I may gain Christ and be found in Him” (Philippians 3:7-9a).
What is the context of Paul’s comments? He referred to his list of accomplishments in life. He lists eight. He introduced his list of life’s accomplishment with this statement, “If anyone else things he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so” (Philippians 3:4). In other words, his list trumps all the others. His pedigree? Remarkable. His accomplishments? Impressive. If anyone in his day had a right to brag, Paul did. He was highly educated, accomplished, recognized, and successful. But when he compares all these things to the value of his relationship to Christ, he considers all those accomplishments dung.
Is Paul saying that all those things are bad? No. In a similar way to the cow manure earlier, there are things about the manure that are beneficial and good. Likewise, these accomplishments of Paul were helpful in their rightful place.
However, when Paul compared his status, accomplishments, and successes to knowing Christ, he said these were dung. On the ledger sheet of life, no matter how many or how impressive his facts and stats were, they equaled nothing as compared to knowing Christ.
What should we do?
Although there are many implications to be explored, let me highlight two responses.
First, pray in light of this truth. Let me suggest a few prayer requests for you as you consider this helpful word picture from Paul.
- Pray God gives you a spiritual nose to smell your accomplishments for what they truly are in comparison to Christ. Ask God to grant you discernment to see how the best this world has to offer and the best you can offer the world are both nothing compared to the privilege and grace of knowing Christ. Just as the smell in a cow pasture helps you walk carefully, may God grant us the spiritual insight to smell our successes, accomplishments, and status in similar ways.
- Pray God helps you value your relationship with Christ with the true significance it deserves. The joy, honor, pleasure, and grace of having a relationship with Jesus, being found in Him, and knowing Him is infinitely more valuable than anything else in this life or even eternity.
Second, recognize good things as gifts and blessings to use and enjoy, not for which to live. Good things abound in life as part of God’s good gifts or common grace. Do people tend to give you status or respect you? Can people appreciate your accomplishments? Has God blessed you with an impressive pedigree from which you came? Possibly the answer is, “Yes” to all these things. If so, see them for what they are. Any good things comes from God and should be used for His glory and the benefit of others.
Join the Conversation
How much do you value Christ? How much do you value the world? How impressed are you with your own résumé?
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