Some of us might answer that question by saying, “I was raised by Christian parents and came to know the Lord at a young age.” Or “I knew the facts of the gospel, but I didn’t really know the Lord until later in life . . .”
Often our answer is a reference to a past experience, such as praying the “sinner’s prayer” or “going forward” at a church service or evangelistic meeting.
J.I. Packer takes a different approach. He challenges us to look at how we respond to specific situations in the present as the evidence of true knowledge of God.
“Can we say, simply, honestly, not because we feel that as evangelicals we ought to, but because it is plain matter of fact, that we have known God, and that because we have known God the unpleasantness we have had, or the pleasantness we have not had, through being Christians does not matter to us?”
In other words, when things don’t go well for us, how do we react?
For one who knows God, “Past disappointments and present heartbreaks, as the world counts heartbreaks, don’t matter.” According to Packer, those who really know God “never brood on might-have-beens; they never think of the things they have missed, only of what they have gained.”
And what have we gained? To answer that question, he quotes Philippians 3:7-10 –
“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. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him . . . I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
Knowing Christ is the ultimate gain. When we know Christ, we have everything we need to live a life of contentment and joy, regardless of any circumstances that come our way.
This is the mark of genuine knowledge of God – the recognition that being “found in him” has “surpassing worth.” Knowing Jesus is a priceless treasure of infinite value, and being in possession of that, we need nothing else and seek nothing else to satisfy our souls.
May this be our prayer and our reality:
“Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.”
NOTE: This is one of a serious of posts on “Knowing God” by J.I. Packer. For details on how to join me, blogger Tim Challies and hundreds of other Christians on this journey, click here. To read the other posts in this series, click here.