Is Knowing Jesus Better Than Anything?
[Editor’s Note: Ephesians 2:6 says, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” But what does this mean for us on Earth as we live out our day-to-day routines? In an excerpt from her book Seated with Christ, author Heather Holleman discusses one side of this spectacular reality and how “if onlys” compare to knowing Jesus. Excerpt used by permission of Moody Publishers.]
Scripture contains several dozen “better than” statements. What’s better than fame? What’s better than wealth? What’s better than even life itself?
I think about what I believe is “better than” being with Jesus. When I’m seated in Christ, I begin to believe that knowing Jesus and being with Him is better than any life I could design or even imagine for myself. Should I say that again?
Knowing Jesus and being with Him is better than any life I could design or imagine for myself.
What’s the very best life you could imagine for yourself? Marriage and children? Houses? A prestigious or meaningful career? Beauty? Fame? Wealth?
Is knowing Jesus better than any of these? And by “better,” I mean this: Is knowing Jesus more pleasurable, more exciting, more satisfying, more meaningful, more purposeful, and more full than anything I have or hope to possess? Can I really say that?
The Question That Saved My Life
I think this question saved my life. It continues to save my life.
If the answer is no, then I’m going to continue to struggle. Jesus must not have been telling the truth when He promised life “to the full” (John 10:10), or that “rivers of living water will flow from within” (John 7:38). He must have been confused when He suggested that it would be foolish for me to “gain the whole world, yet forfeit [my] soul” (Mark 8:36). And Paul, proclaiming the truth of God, must have been out of his mind when he said in Philippians 3:7-8:
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.
Did Paul honestly believe that knowing Christ Jesus was better than “all things”?
To know Christ—that was what excited Paul. That was what he dreamed about for himself. And for others? What did he dream for other Christians? He modeled a beautiful prayer for us in Ephesians 1:17: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”
Knowing and enjoying Jesus is the point of the Christian life, and when I lose this essential truth, I’m doomed to a life of forever chasing after the next dream. I will continually compare my life to that of others, imagining their happiness and their joy, while bemoaning my own situation.
If the answer to the question, “Is knowing Jesus better than anything?” is no, then why bother with worshiping that kind of God? If knowing Jesus isn’t enough, then of course we might turn to whatever does promise satisfaction.
I’ve lived long enough to know that what we pursue apart from Jesus does not satisfy. I’ve also lived long enough to know what kind of mental lists we make about what we imagine will bring us happiness. We think, “If only this were different.” God might be enough for us if this one thing changed…
The Problem with “If Onlys”
The problem with “if onlys” is that they don’t deliver what they promise. Truly, they don’t. My fight to want more didn’t end when I earned my PhD, published, married, and had children. The if onlys continued, imprisoning me in discontentment and longing. They did not ever provide the unfailing love, acceptance, and joy that comes in the presence of Jesus. They don’t ever provide the well-being and the shalom of completeness and absolute contentment (Psalm 29:11; Psalm 85:8) in the presence of the Prince of Peace. The women I know who’ve changed jobs, husbands, noses, and cities still suffer inside. The women I know who’ve earned PhDs, published books, traveled extensively, achieved fitness goals, or amassed wealth still want more.
Eve was in paradise, and yet, she could be tempted by an “if only.” That brings me some comfort because if even in paradise, Eve was enamored with an “if only,” then I can be sure that regardless of my circumstances, I’m not alone in the power of the “if only” temptation that slithers into my own heart.
The first question is my weapon against the “if only”: Is knowing Jesus better than anything?
Yes. Yes it is.
Ask for Faith to Believe
But how can I believe it? I asked God to help me to believe it. I asked for the faith to believe it. I asked God to help me to know Him—not primarily as my provider or the One who blesses me (although He does both), but as my Lord, the almighty God. I asked God to help me to worship Him like this.
I think of worshiping Jesus from my seat in the heavenly realms, sometimes every few minutes if I must. And sometimes, God sends someone with a childlike heart to remind me what it means to know Jesus like this. A few weeks ago, my daughters and I explored the Hayden Planetarium’s Digital Universe that combines data from all over the world to provide the most comprehensive video of the observable universe. I play the video, and we sit there, mouths agape, as we observe quasars (the farthest objects scientists can detect) amid all the known galaxies in the universe. I turn to my daughters, overwhelmed with the sublime experience of it, and I say, “I cannot wait to get to heaven so I can ask God all about this. I have so many questions about the universe!”
My youngest daughter looks at me as if I’m completely crazy, like I have completely lost my mind. She says, “Mom, none of this will matter because you will be with Jesus.”
Here’s the Truth
I will be with Jesus. I am in Jesus. In my seat in the heavenly realms, I worship this God who set me free. Knowing this God is better than anything—even all the knowledge of the mysteries of the universe.
In my seat, I have asked God—and continue to ask Him—to help me understand my seat in the heavenly realms. I want to receive all of Jesus. Not receive His gifts, but receive Him. I need to empty my hands of the junk I want and receive what Jesus has.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Heather Holleman
Heather Holleman, PhD, is a faculty member of Penn State’s English department. She also serves on the staff of Faculty Commons with Cru and helps to direct the graduate student ministry at Penn State. Heather is the author of Seated with Christ. You can follow Heather on her website, Twitter or Facebook.