Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Prize Inside

It's the 50's, and my brother and I were off to the news stand to buy some packs of baseball cards! We always hoped to find a superstar to add to our enormous collection of gum-scented players. One day I hit the jackpot! Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra were there in the same pack! Hard to believe, but true. What a find! Life was very good that day! But eventually and sadly the Mickey and Yogi cards were, like the gum, tossed out, and so there went what would have become a fortune in collectibles! In time, all of the cards, the gum and even the players were seen as perishable as well as the joy attached to them.

Yet there is a prize with an eternal shelf life and whose joy never fades. Shelf is the wrong word, for nothing of eternal value belongs on any shelf. Biblical examples abound that illustrate contained treasure: the man who bought property knowing that treasure lay buried somewhere on the premises; the woman who thoroughly cleaned the house to recover a valuable lost coin; the value of leaven as it raises the bread; the buried corn of wheat bringing forth a harvest; or the tiny mustard seed yielding a thousand fold.

More valuable than crops, money and abundance is the prized treasure God gives. And it is contained within believers. "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." (II Cor. 4:6,7)

The valued treasure is the implanted nature of God, purchased and secured by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are decaying vessels containing invaluable treasure, the very nature and mind of Christ empowering the believer and awakening him to the work of God. What a discovery awaits us! We go about our days not as card-holding Christians who show up at meetings, but as those experiencing the ongoing work of our sovereign God, His daily conforming us to Christ. All events of our day are designed to bring to the surface that treasure within, the very person of Jesus Christ himself.

What a find! What a friend, and what a gift!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Faith, the Crown Jewel

"Don't forget to remember" goes the lyrics of some country song. Jesus reminded Peter that although Satan desired to sift him as wheat, he had prayed that his faith would not fail.

Sifting comes in its many forms, some subtle and almost unnoticed, while other enormous pressures and distractions barge in and would seem to overwhelm us. Evidently the most important thing about those storms is not the storm, but faith. The Lord himself prayed on our behalf not that we could side-step the storms, but that the centerpiece of our new nature, our faith, would not be forgotten, but stand strong in the face of adversities.

Our faith is not exactly ours however. It is a gift produced by God's grace. "For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." His grace awakened us from our deadened state of trespasses and sins, and produced within us our desire for Christ.

It was the quickening of his Spirit that then jolted us out of darkness into his marvelous light. The prayer of faith was the result of God's working in us. So faith is that crown jewel planted within us by God himself, the trying of which becomes more precious than gold. Peter warns us not to be upset at firey trials, but to expect them. God gives faith, allows it to be tested, often by fire, and then strengthens it! Faith sees the Saviour inspite of the storm, and even instead of the storm!

Imagine, our very Creator looking directly into our eyes and earnestly encouraging us by name. "I have prayed for you that your faith fail not." Faith isn't just for ourselves, for next he says, "when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."

That still small voice in the midst of the storm reminds us: Don't forget to remember your faith.