Apostle Paul was a successful person by whatever measure we may use, both before and after his conversion. Before his encounter with the risen Lord, he was a zealous Pharisee who persecuted the church, and after his conversion, be became a zealous Christian with a powerful and thriving ministry. He certainly had reasons to boast about his background and achievements. Yet, he wrote: “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…” [Philippians 3:7-8]
Paul counted all his credentials and accomplishments as sheer loss because of the infinitely more valuable gain of knowing ‘Christ Jesus my Lord’. Isaac Watts echoes these thoughts in his hymn ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
We may also have reasons to boast - our background, education, profession, achievements … But we must recognize that all of that becomes insignificant when compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. When we consider the Cross of Christ, all our vanity and pride is exposed for what it is, and our response should be to surrender ourselves and “all the vain things that charm me (us) most” at his feet. Only by doing so can we become true followers of Christ, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross.” [Philippians 2:6-8]
Our only boast should be that we have come to know Christ, that we have received the grace of God.
St. Stephen's celebrated its centenary on 26th December 1953 with much fanfare. Until then there had been no electric lights or fans. They were installed during this time.