Nothing Counts, But Christ.
"NOTHING counts, but Christ." All else is without value. All else will perish. The knowledge of God revealed in His person, and communion with Him by the Holy Ghost, satisfy the soul here, and they never pass away. True service to His name, humble and obedient following of Him, devotion of heart to His interests here below, will "count" in courts above. "If any man serve Me, him will My Father honour" (John 12: 26).
How feebly have we learned the thoughts of our God as to His blessed Son! For Him, Christ is exclusively the centre, the purpose, the object and end of all. The ways of God are all for His glory; the purpose of God is, "that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father" (John 5: 23); and the heart of God, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3: 17).
Faith receives of His fulness and enters into His thoughts. Christ is for faith what He is for God, whatever the measure in which it is given to us down here to enter into it. The more simple faith is, the more the soul is with God. Kept by His Spirit simple and humble in His presence, it thinks and feels and judges according to God. Christ becomes its one object. Faith ever judges of things as they affect the honour and the interests of Christ. It lifts the soul above the influences and motives which would naturally govern us, and gives a new and divine test by which to try everything.
An ambitious man is governed by his love of power, an avaricious man by his love of money, a Christian, by Christ. To rule is the passion of the first; to amass wealth, the second eats his bread with carefulness; and the third, "for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. 3: 8), "that I may win Christ" (Phil. 3: 8), "according to my earnest expectation and my hope . . . that with all boldness, as always, so now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death; for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil. 1: 20, 21). Such is the subject, such the life of the Christian.
What does power over his fellows avail a dying man? It would be less than vanity to one going to be with Christ, and a nether millstone round the neck of one sinking to the "place of torment." What is money to a miser, as he crosses the threshold of eternity? What means will he devise to take it with him? And if he could keep his grip of it, what value would it have for the soul that dwells with everlasting burnings?
But Christ in that solemn hour----so far from our having to part from Him, it is then that the soul knows how precious He is; it is then that His presence is fully enjoyed. When the eye is bright and clear for things down here, how the soul "sees through a glass darkly!" But now the lid drops, the eye is fixed, it sees no more! It is the very moment when the "glass darkly" is gone, the "heavenly vision" is in all its brightness, the ransomed spirit is with Christ. In the hour of death, wealth does not count, nor power in this world, nor a fair name in it. "Nothing counts, but Christ."
Paul had been a prisoner some four years. Personal liberty is sweet, sweeter for him because of his labours for Christ. To the one who, even in prison, could exclaim, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3: 8), it must have been a keen trial to be withdrawn from the field of free labour.
He loved the work, he had wrought at it as one who loved it----a model for us! But year after year, he hears about it in prison, he thinks about it, he dwells upon it in memory, in interest, in longing. The walls which confine him, the chain which binds him to the soldier that keeps him, forbid the activities in which he has grown grey, but for which his heart is still fresh. And now, the imprisonment is likely enough to end in his death. He is about to appear before Nero. He writes to his beloved Philippians, and we see down into his heart, as he opens it to them. One word sums up its breathings and longings, its hopes and expectations----Christ.
He hears of some who, taking advantage for their own exaltation of his absence from the work, are preaching Christ of envy and strife, supposing to add affliction to his bonds. At once, his soul refers it all to Christ. He measures it not by Paul's reputation, but by the interests of Christ. It is Christ they are preaching. Had they been false teachers of the law, he would have wished them "cut off." But it is Christ they preach. The savour of His name reaches souls, hitherto dry and cold, having no hope, and without God in the world. Not a word of reproach, not even of righteous indignation; his bonds have turned to the furtherance of the gospel he loves. Christ, the covering of his eyes, "Christ Jesus, my Lord," is preached. He rejoices, yea, and will rejoice.
Thrice happy prisoner, what liberty is thine! Thine, in the third heaven for a moment, to taste the joy of the Lord; and thine in the prison to prove His presence, and in its rest and liberty to forget thyself! Hallowed courts above where Christ fills the free and happy gaze! Hallowed prison-house and hallowed heart (in spite of flesh within and conflict all around): "Where only Christ is heard to speak, where Jesus reigns alone!"
As to his fate, how shall he decide? for it does not depend upon Caesar. "What I shall choose I wot not" (Phil. 1: 22). Blessed choice, though difficult to make, when either way it is Christ! For if it be death, Christ will be magnified in his body, and he will "depart and be with Christ, which is far better" (Phil. 1: 23). If he still lives in the flesh, he will have the fruit of his labour, and Christ will be magnified in his body; to live is Christ.
For Paul, with the need of the saints on the one side, and the joy of being with Christ on the other, "nothing counts but Christ." His work for Christ is not finished. Christ in the persons of the saints, has still need of him down here. His choice is made. The decision is come to, not in the court, but in the prison. Read Phil. 1: 24-26, and see how Christ counts in the heart of the apostle. The happiest man in Rome was not the Emperor, but his (apparently) helpless prisoner. The purple cannot make the former happy, nor can the prison make the latter unhappy. Caesar has not Christ----he has nothing! Paul has Christ----he has everything! "Nothing counts, but Christ."
Later, the same servant of Christ is again in prison. Circumstances are greatly changed, but not Christ! Paul the aged has lived long enough to find himself all but alone. The energy of his faith, the steadfastness of his purpose, the devotedness of his heart, the faithfulness of his love, had carried him too far for the luke-warmness of those who, under God, owed everything to him. "At my first answer, no man stood with me, but all forsook me" (2 Tim. 4: 16). But it was Christ for him to live. Not a regret that two years before his happy spirit had not escaped to be with Christ, and this isolation been avoided. Christ had been magnified in his body by life. In nothing is he ashamed, for Christ stands by him now. Sweeter that company, more blessed that communion because of the moral desert in which he tasted it. His "earnest expectation and hope" were gained; by him, the preaching was fully known.
And now the "heavenly kingdom" of that same Lord stands bright before his unwearied eye. His days are numbered. He has no choice to make. His service is complete, save the service of death; and he is "ready to be offered up." Bright, and not far off, he sees "a crown of righteousness" in the hand of the One Who stood by him when all forsook him. How well, through grace, he knew Him! It was He Whose love he tasted, when, with bound feet and bleeding back, he sang praises at midnight in the inner prison at Philippi. It was He Whose power and smile raised him up after the stoning at Lystra. It was He Whose presence cheered the long, lone day and night he passed in the deep. Happy servant, sweet has been thy toil and blessed thy sufferings with Christ so near to thee! But toil is past and suffering over. "The mark for the prize" is reached; Christ in heavenly glory is "won."
In heavenly courts, the noble descent of Paul, his high attainments, his lofty position among men, and his righteousness in the flesh, count for nothing. But all the knowledge of Christ he gained in paths of keenest trial and lonely sorrow, all the communion of His love that he there proved, all his service for Christ----these count with God as costly jewels to shine in undimmed splendour throughout an eternal day. They count according to God's estimate of the worth of Christ. "If any man serve Me, him will My Father honour" (John 12: 26). Priceless honour in that everlasting Home of Love! There, "nothing counts, but Christ."