Knowing Our Place: Pascal and the Service of Christ
The distinguished American philosopher Forrest Gump famously said: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gunna get.” Gump’s statement has become somewhat of an American proverb because it reveals a profound and perplexing fact of life: Sometimes life isn’t what we expect it to be.
On this day in 1654, God saved Blaise Pascal. Pascal, who was a famous scientist and mathematician in 17th century France, dedicated the rest of his life to knowing and serving the God who saved him. Pascal was so serious about his salvation that he sowed the following poem into his coats to have this poem on his person at all times:
“From about half past ten in the evening until half past midnight…
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob.
not of philosophers and scholars.
Certainty, joy, certainty, emotion, sight, joy
God of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God (John 20.17)
Your God will be my God. Ruth (1.16).
Oblivious to the world and to everything except GOD.
He can only be found in the ways taught
in the Gospel. Greatness of the human soul.
Righteous Father, the world did not know you,
but I knew you. John (17.25)
Joy, Joy, Joy and tears of joy.
I have cut myself off from him
They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 2.13).
My God, will you forsake me?
Let me not be cut off from him for ever [sic].
This is life eternal, that they may know you,
the only true God, and him whom you sent,
I have cut myself off from him. I have fled from him, denied
him, crucified him.
Let me never be cut off from him.
He can only be kept by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Sweet and total renunciation.
Total submission to Jesus Christ and my director.
Everlasting joy for one day’s tribulation on earth.
I will not forget they word (Psalm 119.16). Amen.”
Pascal’s commitment to carrying a passionate poem about his salvation reveals something that I wish more Christians would realize: Salvation is a lifelong commitment. Salvation is not reducible to signing a card in a church, being baptized, or praying a certain prayer; true salvation is as serious a lifestyle as it is a commitment.
Like all true, committed believers, Pascal wanted others to know about the peace he’d found in Christ. He thus sought to use his talents to serve and advance the name of Christ in whatever way he could. To this end, Pascal, who was a brilliant thinker, began writing what he hoped would be a comprehensive apologetic for the Christian faith.
However, life did not go as Pascal thought it would. Unfortunately, Pascal didn’t live long enough to finish his apologetic for the Christian faith. Instead, Pascal died and left his book as a pile of unfinished notes written on scraps of paper. These scraps were later collected and published as the Pensées.
Pascal’s story illustrates two things. First, Forest Gump was right: Life doesn’t always work out like we expect. Pascal was a devoted follower of Christ who wanted to write a book to encourage his contemporaries to have faith in Christ; little did he know that one of his best-known contributions to apologetics would be that he died before finishing his book.
Second, Pascal’s story reminds us that the kingdom of God is much bigger than we are. While it’s true that Pascal didn’t get to finish his book, it’s also true that God has used Pascal’s writings in ways that he couldn’t have seen coming. All Christians would agree that “the important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.”
Notes & Sources
 Blaise Pascal, Pensées and Other Writings, trans. Honor Levi, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1995), 178.
 Philippians 1.18, NIV.