[Editor's Note: The following excerpt is taken from Seated with Christ: Living Freely in a Culture of Comparison, ©2015 by Heather Holleman. Used with permission of Moody Publishers.]
Question One: Is knowing Jesus better than anything?
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Scripture contains several dozen “better than” statements. What’s better than fame? What’s better than wealth? What’s better than even life itself?
I think about what I believe is “better than” being with Jesus. When I’m seated in Christ, I begin to believe that knowing Jesus and being with Him is better than any life I could design or even imagine for myself. Should I say that again?
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Knowing Jesus and being with Him is better than any life I could design or imagine for myself.
What’s the very best life you could imagine for yourself? Marriage and children? Houses? A prestigious or meaningful career? Beauty? Fame? Wealth?
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Is knowing Jesus better than any of these? And by “better,” I mean this: Is knowing Jesus more pleasurable, more exciting, more satisfying, more meaningful, more purposeful, and more full than anything I have or hope to possess? Can I really say that?
I think this question saved my life. It continues to save my life.
If the answer is no, then I’m going to continue to struggle. Jesus must have not been telling the truth when He promised life “to the full” (John 10:10), or that “rivers of living water will flow from within” (John 7:38). He must have been confused when He suggested that it would be foolish for me to “gain the whole world, yet forfeit [my] soul” (Mark 8:36). And Paul, proclaiming the truth of God, must have been out of his mind when he said in Philippians 3:7–8:
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.
Did Paul honestly believe that knowing Christ Jesus was better than “all things”?
To know Christ—that was what excited Paul. That was what he dreamed about for himself. And for others? What did he dream for other Christians? He modeled a beautiful prayer for us in Ephesians 1:17: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”
Knowing and enjoying Jesus is the point of the Christian life, and when I lose this essential truth, I’m doomed to a life of forever chasing after the next dream. I will continually compare my life to that of others, imagining their happiness and their joy, while bemoaning my own situation.
If the answer to the question “Is knowing Jesus better than anything?” is no, then why bother with worshiping that kind of God? If knowing Jesus isn’t enough, then of course we might turn to whatever does promise satisfaction.
I’ve lived long enough to know that what we pursue apart from Jesus does not satisfy. I’ve also lived long enough to know the kind of mental lists we make about what we imagine will bring us happiness. We think, “If only this were different.” God might be enough for us if this one thing changed. Some people will think such specific “if onlys” as:
1. If only I owned _______________________(fill in the possession)
2. If only I had _________________________ to love me (fill in the name of the person)
3. If only I could ________________________(fill in the accomplishment)
4. If only I lived _________________________(fill in the location)
5. If only I looked like ___________________(fill in the dream body, face, or wardrobe)
6. If only I had a purpose like_____________(fill in the area of influence you desire)
7. If only I could raise____________________(fill in the type of family you imagine)
8. If only I could master__________________(fill in the skill you want to learn)
9. If only I could experience______________(fill in the adventure you long for)
10. If only people would see me as _______________(fill in what you expect others to think of you)
The problem with “if onlys” is that they don’t deliver what they promise. Truly, they don’t. My fight to want more didn’t end when I earned my PhD, published, married, and had children. The if onlys continued, imprisoning me in discontentment and longing. They did not ever provide the unfailing love, acceptance, and joy that comes in the presence of Jesus. They don’t ever provide the well-being and the shalom peace of completeness and absolute contentment (Psalm 29:11; Psalm 85:8) in the presence of the Prince of Peace. The women I know who’ve changed jobs, husbands, noses, and cities still suffer inside. The women I know who’ve earned PhDs, published books, traveled extensively, achieved fitness goals, or amassed wealth still want more.
Eve was in paradise, and yet, she could be tempted by an “if only.” That brings me some comfort because if even in paradise, Eve was enamored with an “if only,” then I can be sure that regardless of my circumstances, I’m not alone in the power of the “if only” temptation that slithers into my own heart.
The first question is my weapon against the “if only”: Is knowing Jesus better than anything?
Yes. Yes it is.
But how can I believe it? I asked God to help me believe it. I asked for the faith to believe it. I asked God to help me to know Him—not primarily as my provider or the One who blesses me (although He does both), but as my Lord, the almighty God. I asked God to help me worship Him like this.
I think of worshiping Jesus from my seat in the heavenly realms, sometimes every few minutes if I must. And sometimes, God sends someone with a childlike heart to remind me what it means to know Jesus like this. A few weeks ago, my daughters and I explored the Hayden Planetarium’s Digital Universe that combines data from all over the world to provide the most comprehensive video of the observable universe. I play the video, and we sit there, mouths agape, as we observe quasars (the farthest objects scientists can detect) amid all the known galaxies in the universe. I turn to my daughters, overwhelmed with the sublime experience of it, and I say, “I cannot wait to get to heaven so I can ask God all about this. I have so many questions about the universe!”
My younger daughter looks at me as if I am absolutely crazy, like I have completely lost my mind. She says, “Mom, none of this will matter because you will be with Jesus.”
I will be with Jesus. I am with Jesus. In my seat in the heavenly realms, I worship this God who set me free. Knowing this God is better than anything—even all the knowledge of the mysteries of the universe.
In my seat, I have asked God—and continue to ask Him—to help me understand my seat in the heavenly realms. I want to receive all of Jesus. Not receive His gifts, but receive Him. I need to empty my hands of the junk I want and receive what Jesus has. As I think about my seat in the heavenly realms, I can say this to Jesus:
Lord, help me to empty my hands and receive all of You.
Knowing You is better than anything else. I turn away from these idols, my “if onlys,” and I pray that You help me to find fullness in You alone.
This article is part of a 3-question series, read Question 2: Will I live the life God asks me to? here and Question Three: “Is there anything in my life that doesn’t please God?” here!
Heather Holleman, PhD, is the author of Seated With Christ: Living Freely in a Culture of Comparison. She is a speaker, writer, and college instructor and serves on the staff of Faculty Commons with Cru. Heather lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and their two daughters. To learn more about Heather, visit her at http://livewithflair.blogspot.com/