Joseph Stowell served as president of the Moody Bible Institute for several years. Nearly anyone who has heard him speak knows he is not a good preacher; he is a great one. He sometimes writes devotionals for Our Daily Bread. One of these was written for June 23, 2018.
In it I appreciated Stowell’s vulnerability as he wrote about the time he was invited to sit next to Billy Graham at a dinner. He felt honored, but also a little nervous about what to say to the world-famous evangelist. As he anticipated his wonderful opportunity he came up with what he thought would be an interesting conversation starter. He asked the famous preacher what he had loved most about his years of ministry, but before Reverend Graham could respond Stowell’s nerves caused him to begin awkwardly suggesting possible answers: “Was it knowing presidents, kings, and queens? Was it preaching the gospel to millions of people around the world?”
Graham interrupted Stowell’s suggestions and confidently said, “It has been my fellowship with Jesus. To sense His presence, to glean His wisdom, to have Him guide and direct me—that has been my greatest joy.”
Stowell recalls being instantly convicted and challenged. He said, “convicted because I’m not sure that his answer would have been my answer and challenged because I wanted it to be.”
Graham’s words challenge me too. I have moments when I clearly sense God’s presence, but most of the time my relationship with God does not feel all that close.
Relating to God on such a personal level seems like an elusive dream to most of us, however, the Apostle Paul suggests it should be our highest aspiration. He wrote, “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8, NLT)
When I read Paul’s words, two significant facts stand out. First, knowing Christ is of, “infinite value” — and cannot be overstated, since it is infinite. Second, in comparison to knowing Christ, our other pursuits are like “garbage.” The Greek word literally speaks of trash, or even manure. The focus is not on the precise word but Jesus’ importance.
Here is the real point, in comparison to knowing Christ, everything else is a “trivial pursuit.” Stowell concluded his devotional by suggesting we “Think of how rich life would be if Jesus and our fellowship with Him was our highest pursuit.”