Ever made an emergency plan? One where you had to have a “bug out bag” or an emergency kit ready to go in the event you had to leave quickly? What was in it? I looked up what others recommended to go into such a bag and there was some variation of opinions, but the basics remained the same. Food, water, clothing, first aid kit, important papers, and the like. These are things that in an emergency you would need to grab and go. No thinking about it at that moment, no making of lists or rummaging through the pantry. Nope, you just grab it and leave. The things that are in that bag are essentials. They are the basic items you “must” have, not what you would “like” to have. There may have been some items that you took out of the bag, like that Michigan State snow globe you got years ago from your Aunt Rita. Or that U of M back scratcher you won at the church raffle… had to leave that behind. It’s not that you didn’t like them, they just weren’t essential.
Emergencies or crises often make us evaluate what is really important and what can be left behind. These moments in our lives can come on us suddenly or they can unfold over months or years. We live in such a time. Our present situation has forced us to confront what we consider important. This is a good thing.
From 1938 to 1945, Martin Niemöller, a Lutheran pastor, was held prisoner by the Nazis during WWII. His crime was speaking out against the evil that was enveloping his nation. The last four years of his captivity were spent in the Dachau concentration camp along with a few other political prisoners. It was at this time, from Christmas of 1944 to Easter of 1945, that he wrote 6 sermons that he shared with his fellow inmates. In each of these messages, the central theme that came through was the all sufficiency of Christ. When all else had been taken away and each day gave way to an uncertain future, Jesus remained. The apostle Paul, who also had been imprisoned, wrote in Philippians 3:7-8 “But whatever things were gain to me those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” Paul had his spiritual “bug out bag”. The essential thing – the one thing – that mattered to him was Christ.
Just like with an emergency grab bag, preparation is key. We do not just throw things into it randomly, but much time and thought have preceded each decision. Notice how many times Paul uses the word “count” in these verses. Three times he counted something or considered something or regarded something and compared it to something else. Suddenly the things that were at one time valuable to Paul changed to the status of garbage. When Paul understood who Christ was and is, suddenly those things that at one time were dear to him lost their value and were cast aside. Paul was a redeemed man but his past reliance on the legalistic system of Judaism was a hindrance and had to be discharged. Then and only then was he free to pursue Christ and grow in his relationship with Him.
Today we are forced to make those same comparisons. What in life really matters? What are those things that I once thought were so important that can be left behind? What are those things that we hold onto that give us a sense of importance, security, or value? For each of us that question may be answered differently. We only need one thing, and that is Jesus. He is our wisdom, our righteousness, and our peace. We also need each other. Relationships are not disposable and our mandate includes preferring one another. So, let us do the work of counting or considering those things that do not belong in the bag. Allow God to do the evaluating by His word and His Spirit in our lives, and let us focus on what is really the most important.