In Philippians 3 Paul expressed his longing to know the treasure that was his Savior. . . .
Few can draw a word picture like that master wordsmith, C.H. Spurgeon. This is only slightly adapted from a sermon of his, painting a word picture of what it means to desire to know Christ.
Imagine that you’re living in the age of the Roman emperors. You’ve been captured by Roman soldiers and dragged from your native country; you’ve been sold for a slave, stripped, whipped, branded, imprisoned, and treated with shameful cruelty. At last you are appointed to die in the amphitheater, to make sport for a tyrant. The populace assemble with delight. There they are, tens of thousands of them, gazing down from the living sides of the capacious Colosseum. You stand alone, armed only with a single dagger—a poor defense against gigantic beasts. A ponderous door rises, and out rushes a huge lion.
You must slay him or be torn to pieces. You are absolutely certain that the conflict is too great for you, and that the sure result must and will be that those terrible teeth will grind your bones and drip with your blood. You tremble; your joints are loosed; you are paralyzed with fear, like the timid deer when the lion has dashed it to the ground.
But what is this? Oh wonder of mercy ! A deliverer appears. A great unknown leaps from among the gawking multitude and confronts the savage monster. He quails not at the roaring of the devourer, but dashes upon him with terrible fury, till, like a whipped cur, the lion slinks towards his den, dragging himself along in pain and fear. The hero lifts you up, smiles into your bloodless face, whispers comfort in your ear, and bids you be of good courage, for you are free.
Do you not think that there would arise at once in your heart a desire to know your deliverer? As the guards conduct you into the open street, and you breathe the cool, fresh air, would not the first question be, “Who was my deliverer, that I may fall at his feet and bless him?” However, you are not informed, but instead you’re gently led away to a noble mansion, where your many wounds are washed and healed. You are clothed in sumptuous apparel; you’re made to sit down at a feast; you eat and are satisfied; you rest upon the softest down. The next morning you’re attended by servants who guard you from evil and minister to your good. Day after day, week after week, your wants are supplied. You live like royalty. Nothing that you can ask you do not receive.
I’m sure your curiosity would grow more and more intense till it would ripen into an insatiable craving. You would scarcely neglect an opportunity of asking the servants, “Tell me, who does all this, who is my noble benefactor, for I must know him?”
“Well, but,” they would say, “isn’t it enough for you that you’re delivered from the lion?”
“No!” you reply. “That is the very reason that I long to know him.”
“Your wants are richly supplied—why are you vexed by curiosity as to the hand that supplies you? If your garment is worn out, there is another. Long before hunger oppresses you, the table is well loaded. What more do you want?”
But your reply is, “It is because I have no wants, that, therefore, my soul longs and yearns even to hungering and to thirsting, that I may know my generous loving friend.”
Suppose that as you wake up one morning, you find lying up on your pillow a precious love-token from your unknown friend, a ring sparkling with jewels and engraved with a tender inscription, a bouquet of flowers bound about with a message of love. Your curiosity now knows no bounds. But you’re informed that this wondrous being has not only done for you what you have seen, but a thousand deeds of love which you did not see, which were higher and greater still as proofs of his affection. You’re told that he was wounded, and imprisoned, and scourged for your sake, for he had a love so great, that even death itself could not overcome it. He has sworn by himself that where he is there you shall be; his honors you shall share.
Why, I think you would say, “Tell me, men and women, any of you who know him, tell me who he is and what he is,” and if they said, “But it is enough for you to know that he loves you, and to have daily proofs of his goodness,” you would say, “No, these love-tokens increase my thirst. If ye see him, tell him I am sick with love. The flagons which he provides for me, and the love-tokens which he gives me, they comfort me for a while with the assurance of his affection, but they only impel me onward with the more unconquerable desire that I may know him.
“I must know him; I cannot live without knowing him. His goodness makes me thirst, and pant, and faint, and even die, that I may know him.”
This sermon goes on to challenge us to pass through the outer court of intellectual knowledge of Christ to the inner court of experiential knowledge of Christ. And, as Tozer reminded us in The Pursuit of God, to keep on, all our lives, seeking to know Him more . . . and more . . . and more. This is the treasure of Philippians 3. This is the passion of Paul.