I Found the Treasure!
What is your most valuable thing? What do you treasure most? What motivates you to get up and out of bed each day? Your kids, your job, your health? Maybe you just get up, do the things, fall into bed each night, feeling like a robot... doing the things, mindlessly, hopelessly, methodically... not really thinking about the purpose or end result of your life, so life feels pointless, frustrating, exasperating. You find yourself worrying about things, yet at the same time, feeling helpless to make anything work right because so much of your life is unpredictable, uncertain, and unsatisfying. You feel empty- wishing, hoping, dreaming for more. For that emptiness to go away. So, you fill it up with more work, more social media, more stuff, more goals, more food, more accomplishments, more money, more striving, more doing, more vacations, more people.... but, did you ever think that maybe "empty" is the very place you need to be?
I am reading this book called, God Does His Best Work with Empty by Nancy Guthrie. The premise of the book is that in whatever place we find ourselves feeling empty, lonely, gutted, fearful, worried, alone, that is exactly the place where God meets us in clearer, greater, fuller vision.
God takes the emptiness of our lives- the places we have tried to fill with bigger, better, shinier, louder, busier, fuller, deeper, more and more and fills them with whatever pieces we have attempted to create by ourselves.
Because, the truth is, we can't create bigger. We can't make better. We can't have shinier. We can't live louder. We can't keep getting busier. We can't make full when our capacity is so little. The world around you tells you "you can". You can create your destiny. Follow your heart. Shine bright. Be the change.
But, then, what happens when you can't. When the job fails. When the home gets sold. When the kids don't turn out the way you wanted. When the pregnancy ends in miscarriage. When the friend leaves. When the spouse wants out. When the plans don't work. When the money is gone. When the diagnosis is real. When the loved one dies.
Maybe you get told that "it will get better". Or, "it won't always be this way". Or, "just keep looking up". Or, "put on your big girl pants". Or, "you've got this- don't let it get you down".
And, in your mind and heart, these might soothe for a minute, but the reality is you have no way of conjuring up any sort of appeasing the pain, the fear, the loneliness, the emptiness with more stuff. It just doesn't work. Because after you get a little better, then the emptiness is still there. After you get "the thing", the glitter of that accomplishment starts to wane. After what you think you wanted becomes reality, the reality suddenly comes with other challenges that leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
This speaks into my heart so much these days.
And, I've been there. Been there when I thought I had it all together. Been there when I kept trying to plug away, be better, be stronger, be "put together". And, it didn't work.
In the end, I was confused, angry, frustrated, scared, lonely, empty.
I was trying to fill up in my life what was God's place to fill.
There's a story in the Gospels about a young man called "the rich young ruler". He came to Jesus and asked what he must do to obtain eternal life. This guy was definitely thinking "long-term"; he was goal-oriented. He was accomplishing all the things, doing all the things, getting all the things.
Jesus tells the young man to keep the commandments, and he lists a few of them:
Don't commit adultery.
Honor your parents.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
The young ruler quickly responds with how he kept all these commands from his youth. Is there anything else he can do? Jesus, knowing the desires of this man's heart (namely, his possessions), then gives him this instruction: "Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and then you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come, follow me." (Matthew 19:21)
After Jesus said this, the Bible tells us the man's face fell and he turned away sad because he had many possessions.
What's the point of this story?
Did you notice in the commands Jesus told the ruler to follow, none of them were directed strictly toward your relationship with God?
Jesus didn't include:
Don't worship anything other than God.
Don't make any other gods.
Don't use God's name irreverently.
Don't forget to honor the Sabbath.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Why? Namely, because Jesus knew where this man's heart was focused. He was focused on things. On more. On filling himself up his own way. On his possessions. His prestige. His status. His stuff.
And selling everything would mean he no longer had what he wanted.
Jesus promised him treasure. Treasure in heaven. Yet, even that promise could not persuade the young man to give up what was presently his.
And, aren't we the same way? We think if we only had more; if we only didn't have to worry about payments; if we could only get our kids to listen; if we could only get that promotion; if we could only get the house we wanted; if we could only have the baby; if we could only look a certain way; if we could only feel better; if we could only have that relationship...
Jesus shares a parable after this story of the rich young ruler. He tells of a field laborer who finds a treasure in a field. He sells everything he has just so he can buy the field. Jesus also tells of pearl merchant who finds the pearl. He sells everything he has so he can get that pearl.
The purpose of this parable is to explain that the treasure is here. The treasure is available, but are you willing to get rid of the extra for the gain of what is to come?
Namely, the kingdom of heaven. God's kingdom. His riches.
Our pastor has been teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, and he has explained the kingdom of heaven as being "wherever God reigns as king".
Presently, in our world, because of sin, we are reigning as our own little kings in our own little worlds, erecting our own little dominions.
But, what Jesus is explaining in the Sermon on the Mount, is that there is a greater kingdom. However, in order for you to be part of that kingdom, you have to give up what you are creating as your kingdom for the promise of the greater kingdom to come. And, that's hard for us to do because we are so visually-minded, so presently-focused, and so goal-oriented. We want things to happen and happen now. So, we find ourselves being anxious, worried, fearful thus translating into our becoming more determined to create a better kingdom for ourselves by doing more, getting more, being more, having more.
Yet, God promises us treasure in heaven. What is this treasure? This treasure is found in knowing our destinies are sealed. That we have an eternal home in heaven where righteousness will dwell. This treasure leaves the treasures of this world which will be moth-eaten and rust-covered in literal dust.
Why? Because this treasure is eternal. This treasure exceeds anything our minds can conjure because this treasure is found in the infinite goodness of God.
So, how do I get this treasure?
We go back to the rich young ruler. Sell everything you have. "What?!" Give it to the poor. "What?!" Then follow me. "What?!"
What Jesus is saying here is certainly not that we be foolish and not plan or be providing for our families, but what he is saying is that true treasure is found in holding loosely what you have here on earth for the greater treasure of knowing and loving God.
That means giving up your idea of "kingdom" for God's kingdom.
That means you live differently.
Instead of holding on to stuff, people, things, money, creating your destiny, you give it up to live according to the Word of God.
Instead of trying to make yourself better, you live gratefully knowing the kingdom of God has been given to you by the good hand of the Father through the death of his Son.
And, in that reality, you cannot live for what is here. You can only live for Him. For the one who loved you so much he died for you. For the one who calls you to live righteously and godly in this present, evil world.
You live for the one who has called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light.
You live for a greater righteousness. Not an image you can create, but for the glory of God.
This looks weird to others. It feels weird when you're starting out. When you are first surrendering your kingdom to the true king. It feels foolish. It feels scary.
But it is in this "giving up" that you can be filled.
You don't have to live just to survive to the next "life goal". You can live for more.
Our pastor explained it this way: "We have a treasure that never fades and a Father who never fails."
This means we can live this weird, counter-cultural life of holding loosely what is present for the reality of future riches beyond what we can comprehend. And, living this way grants us greater, fuller, reasons for living. Because it's not based on my performance or checking all the boxes, but on what God can do through me for his glory.
And, in this living, we give all the glory to God for what he has done (granting us eternal life through his Son), what he is doing (creating visions of the kingdom to come by using us!), and what he will (reconciling all things unto himself with the promise of the kingdom that will never fade away).
Have you found the treasure? Or are you clinging to every little bit of this world's offerings hoping it will fill your empty spaces?
"And, which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, and yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is and tomorrow is cast into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious [about clothes, food, drink, etc]... your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all those things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself..." Matthew 6:27-34
We who follow the kingdom of God have a future, a hope, and a treasure that won't fade. That's what we live for. And, it is filling. It is greater. It is better. And, it's a lifetime of learning and experiencing the immeasurable treasure in store for us. Won't you join us?
"All the waiting will be over; Every sorrow will be healed;
All the dreams that seemed could never be will all be real;
And, you'll gather us together in your arms of endless grace,
As your bride forever, When we see your face."
Song for Meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0ac4sT-4-o