Considering Loss as Gain

A Call to Treasure Christ

One day after the day we Americans give thanks for all that God has given us is the day we search with our hearts for the things we don’t have. We not only search for that which we don’t have, but we yearn with our hearts to have it, to cling to it—and in this, we treasure it as gain. However, for those who trust in Christ, we have everything and could lose all the gifts of this world and count it gain. On this Black Friday, we’ll take a look at two passages in Philippians that reminds us Christ is gain and everything else is loss, and then we’ll quickly look to a passage in John’s Gospel that shows only Jesus is truly and wholly satisfying.

“To Die Is Gain”

First, let’s look to Philippians 1:20–21:

“As 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. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Paul’s aim is, according to verse 20, to honor and magnify Christ—and to do so in his living and in his dying. And the question we can ask is “Why?” To understand this, let’s mainly put our focus on the “death” part of verses 20–21.

Christ will be honored in Paul’s death, why? Simply because “to die is gain.” What’s the connection? This is the connection: Christ is being magnified or honored in death because Paul is saying the experience of death for those who treasure Christ experience gain. In other words, Christ is magnified at the moment of losing everything in life—that is, when you die—when you consider it to be gain. Hence, Jesus is honored in your death when you consider this loss (of life and its implications) as gain.

No matter what all this life can give—think about everything we can have in this life—Paul is ready to give it all up and consider that dying would be gain. But why? Why would someone think this? Answer: Philippians 1:23: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” To die and lose everything in this life is gain because, for the one who believes and treasures Christ, they get to be with Christ, which is far better than anything.

“I Count Everything as Loss”

Now, let’s consider Philippians 3:7–8:

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.

To restate it quite simply (or repetitively), Paul considers all things that he gained as loss. Why? Because there is surpassing value in knowing Jesus. Everything else that could be gained in this world is loss, but Christ is gain.

And it is significant that we read these words from Paul the Pharisee—one whose reputation and social status exceeded most in his day (Phil 3:4–6). Paul had power, a pedigree, and a premise for boasting in all his religious achievements; even these he considered "garbage" (Phil 3:8 NIV) when juxtaposed with Jesus Christ. 

And lest you think that there isn't any real gain in anything other than Christ, you must know the gains of the world are real gains, otherwise Paul wouldn't have wrote vv. 7–8! Consider the gains of being the president, or a CEO of a cooperation, or pastor of a thriving church, or a straight-A college student; these are all wonderful achievements! Paul doesn't diminish this fact. His personal list of gains in vv. 4–6 are impressive—and if you lived in his day, you'd think they were very impressive.

But here is the point: even Christ is better. Knowing Christ means what you will reap in heaven infinitely exceeds that which you sow on earth. Why? Because the value of your reward will be infinite—Christ himself.

Christ Wholly Satisfies unto Eternal Life

Now, finally, let’s look to John 6:35:

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’”

Like the previous passage, this text speaks for itself and requires little exposition and simple repetition: Jesus is the true bread of life. Sure, bread and water can sustain your physical life, your vehicle can get you from point A to point B, and yes, electronics can supply your entertainment, but none can offer what Jesus’s says here: “whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” In short, this passage says that our soul’s thirst and hunger are no more when we are in Christ; put positively, Jesus satisfies our desires and needs to the point that we are never in want.

A parallel text is John 4:14–15: 

Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Again, what Jesus offers is that which forever satisfies, and this satisfaction isn’t that of any regular life, but one that “wells up to eternal life,” which should surely remind us of our first passage, Philippians 1:23, for in such abundant, eternal life, we will be with God.

Conclusion: ‘If . . . ’

From the divine texts themselves, God speaks clearly: Jesus is the satisfier of our souls, the one who is gain for us, the one who gives eternal life. The inference or conclusion drawn from this is simple: Jesus is better than anything this world has to offer, and we are to treasure him above all things. Further, if we have Jesus, we could lose absolutely everything, and still consider it gain. Don’t go chasing after tin when you can have God; don’t cherish that which fades away instead of treasuring that which is eternal; and finally, stop searching for life in lesser things when Jesus is the supreme satisfaction of our souls and Life itself (John 14:6). Treasure him—he is gain.

To conclude, we’d like to close with the lyrics of the first verse of Beautiful Eulogy’s song “If . . . ”

If in one unfortunate moment

You took everything that I own

Everything you’ve given from heaven above

And everything that I’ve ever known  

If you stripped away my ministry

My influence, my reputation

My health, my happiness

My friends, my pride, and my expectation

If you caused for me to suffer

Or to suffer for the cause of the cross

If the cost of my allegiance is prison

And all my freedoms are lost

If you take the breath from my lungs

And make an end of my life

If you take the most precious part of me

And take my kids and my wife

It would crush me, it would break me

It would suffocate and cause heartache

I would taste the bitter dark providence

But you would still preserve my faith

What’s concealed in the heart of having

Is revealed in the losing of things

And I can’t even begin to imagine

The sting that kind of pain brings

I would never blame you for evil

Even if you caused me pain

I came in this world with nothing

And when I die it’ll be the same

I will praise your name

In the giving and taking away

If I have you I could lose everything

And still consider it gain