I’m a big time Chicago Cubs fan. I know about loss. I’m proud to be a Cubs fan but also saddened by it. I sometimes wish I was a fan of another team, a winning team. I live in the disappointment of game after game as another ball is dropped or another hamstring is pulled or another runner is left on base. But year after year I keep holding out that hope, you see. The Cubs have this way of stringing their fans along to believe that this could be their year, that this year everything is looking good, that this was the year to make a run for the pennant, or even, (gasp!) to the world series. Whether they’ve placed their hopes in some slugger’s unnatural muscles or in the talent of young pitchers who keep breaking down, again and again it has been shown that what the Cubs considered as gain have actually turned out to be a loss… or a ton of losses.
Paul, in Philippians 3, uses a word (hagomai) that means “to lead the way, to go before.” To hold something out in front of people that causes them to follow. As a Cubs fan, I keep following whatever hope is laid out in front of me. Whether it’s a new player, a new manager, a new hot dog vendor in the stadium, I’m too corrupted by long suffering to realize that I’m being led by a false carrot. That’s how Paul uses the word here. He uses hagomai to mean that these things that he once pursued as vitally important were held out before his mind as the things to follow. They were the things he was led to think, to view, to regard, to consider as being the way his life should go. But after meeting Jesus, Paul now realizes that those things led him down the wrong track. Now he holds out in front of his mind the idea that those things resulted in a huge number in the loss column of his life.
Paul wants to emphasize this for us. Look at verse 7-8. Paul uses hagomai three times and he uses the word for loss, zamian, three times. Listen to the repetition in these verses: Whatever was to my profit (my gain), I now consider loss. What is more, I consider everything loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I might gain Christ.
Followers of Jesus are big time losers. But not in a bad way, like the Cubs. Not because they try to succeed and fail, like the Cubs, but because they decide to lose. They decide to lose the things that don’t help them run in the postseason. They discard those things that are held out before their mind that hinders their ability to run all out for Jesus.