Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
March 29, 2020
The world’s greatest treasure
One summer a young boy spent a week with his grandmother. His parents were good people but had no use for the church. When his grandmother took the boy to church, everything about the worship service was new to him. He was doing fine until the preacher stepped up to the pulpit and began preaching with a loud, booming voice.
Frightened by the pastor’s shouting, the boy asked with a trembling voice, “Grandmother, will that man hurt us if he gets out of that box?” Drawing the boy closer to her side, Grandmother assured her grandson that the preacher was not going to hurt them.
Isolated for many days now, in this “box” we call our home, I confess that I am a bit scared of the coronavirus. Like millions of others, I wonder if the virus is going to hurt me or kill me, or my wife, or a family member, or a friend. And like the little boy, I am asking questions. Two questions actually.
First, what I am going to do if this sequestration lasts for several more weeks? Here is my answer: I will continue what I am doing now – thanking God for the treasure I have found. That treasure is not my wife Dean, though she has been a treasured gift from God for almost 68 years. That treasure is Jesus, the greatest of all the world’s treasures. Fortunately, Dean and I found this wonderful treasure together and finding it was the greatest thing that ever happened to us. That treasure became the focus of our life together.
This is not a new idea. I got it from Saint Paul. Read his letters and you find him saying in a hundred different ways that Jesus was his greatest treasure, God’s “unspeakable gift.” Jesus preached often about the kingdom of God; he called the kingdom a treasure for which a man would sell everything he possessed in order to obtain it.
And what is the kingdom of God? It is that realm of life in which Jesus is the King, that way of life in which the servants of King Jesus find purpose, power and peace for the living of this earthly life – and joyous hope for the life beyond death. When Paul encountered Jesus and surrendered to him, he began living in the kingdom of God – and so do all who become followers of Jesus.
When Jesus is our treasure, we can face whatever comes up knowing that He will see us through it. Isolated? Yes, but not alone for He is with us. Troubled and anxious? Yes, but His peace breaks the grip of fear. Weary? Yes, but He renews our strength. Fearful of dying? Yes, but that fear is overcome by His assurance that on the other side of death He will welcome us home to our eternal reward. Paul calls this reward “our inheritance” which we will share with all the saints of God who now enjoy the “eternal life” that Jesus promised us.
As we await release from this strange seclusion, we realize that our earthly treasures are likely diminishing. The virus is robbing us of our earthly “wealth.” But this is a good time to remember that our true wealth was never our earthly possessions. The word “earthly” reminds us that we ourselves are but clay. Paul reminds us that it is in “earthen” vessels, or “jars of clay,” that we have this treasure. We are mortal beings, here for a little while and gone. Life may never again be as good as we had it before this maddening virus began sweeping the earth. But we who are believers will still have our treasure! We will still have Jesus! And Jesus will be enough!
Paul says it much better than I can. As you read his powerful words, you may find your heart beating faster. Read this slowly, allowing it to sink into your subconscious mind. Pause now and then to rejoice and celebrate the great truth of what you are reading:
“But now we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
“It is written, ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken. With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us up with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-18, NIV)
The truth of Paul’s words, vibrating in my mind, make me want to shout! I am perplexed but I am not in despair! I will not lose heart! I will fix my eyes on what is unseen, the true treasure of this life! I will look upward and travel onward! And He will go with me!
Martin Luther’s great treasure was also Jesus. He lived and served God in a time when a great plague was devastating Europe. But he did not lose heart! Read again his great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” The song is a mighty testament of faith in God. Though we must struggle with the “Prince of Darkness,” we will not tremble for we can “endure his rage,” confident that “one little word” shall ensure his doom! That that one little word is Jesus! In these days when everything is being shaken, Jesus will give us the courage to sing with Luther, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever”! That is good news at a time when the daily news is about suffering and death!
The second question I am asking is this: What will I do when I get out of this box, this perplexing confinement? I will continue as long as I have breath to encourage others to find this treasure and live in the kingdom of God. The coronavirus will not be the last problem the human race will face. But whatever the problems, there will be no greater treasure that Jesus. He is the unchanging reality in this world of chaos.
To live in the kingdom of God is to love God supremely and to love our neighbors. We cannot do that without help. Jesus gives us that help. When He is our treasure, He enables us to do His will, and to do even the impossible. He reveals to us how to love and encourage our family and friends. He helps us know how to pray and during these strange days, we have more time to pray than ever! And though we cannot socialize, we can still express love through cards, letters, books, gifts and telephone calls. These are channels of love available to us while we remain in the box!
Let me ask you one question. Do you have this treasure? Rejoice if you do! And if you do not have it, will you ask your heavenly Father to give it to you? He will be delighted to give it to you, for more than anything He wants you to live victoriously in this life and be ready to enjoy your eternal inheritance on the other side! Jesus alone can make that an unchanging reality in this changing world! + + +