Like many other sports fans, I spent much of last weekend in front of a TV watching college basketball. While I’m happy that four of the teams in the Sweet Sixteen are from the Big 12, I’m disappointed that Wichita State was knocked out of the tournament in the first round.
It was either the success of Kansas and Kansas State or the failure of WSU that reminded me of coach John Wooden. The coach was a man of character and wise words, and he once said: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
Wooden’s words remind me of the self-portrait Paul painted in Philippians: If it were right to have such confidence, I could certainly have it, and if any of these men thinks he has grounds for such confidence I can assure him I have more. I was born a true Jew, I was circumcised on the eighth day, I was a member of the tribe of Benjamin, I was, in fact, a full-blooded Jew. As far as keeping the Law is concerned I was a Pharisee, and you can judge my enthusiasm for the Jewish faith by my active persecution of the Church. As far as the Law’s righteousness is concerned, I don’t think anyone could have found fault with me (Philippians 3:4-6).
As a Pharisee Paul thought he knew it all, but when he met Jesus he underwent a life-changing transformation: But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead (Philippians 3:7-11).
Let me paraphrase the verses above in just a few words: I got rid of my worthless-self-righteous-know-it-all attitude so I could know Jesus.
Stephen Covey said that “In the last analysis, what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do.” The “what-we-are” communication of Paul, was the harsh restrictive, and punitive mindset of the Old Testament. Paul knew the nitty-gritty essence of what it took to be a Pharisee, but he didn’t have an itty-bitty speck of “what-we-are” grace. Paul was a know-it-all theologian, and at his core, he would abhor the grace-themed principles of Christianity.
Paul’s pace was slowed on the Damascus Road, when he had a personal encounter with Jesus. Up to this point in his life, Paul had tried to find fullness in a silhouette of truth. When he met the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Paul couldn’t ignore the majestic mercy and the grace galore that Jesus offers.
The arrogance of what Paul was, was quickly overshadowed by the eloquence of what he became. He became a Christian of significance because he was not content to just talk-it-up. He knew he needed to live-it-out.
The Covey quote I shared earlier seems to be based on the teaching of John: “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” If “what we are” determines the effectiveness of what we say, how influential is your life?