When my oldest son – an international business major in college – fell in love with a girl with a beads jewelry making hobby and decided to turn that into an importing, mega-business retail chain, I said to him, “Are you crazy? What market is there for that? Who in the world buys stuff like that? You can’t make a living selling little beads!”
His answer was to say that beads jewelry and the wearing of valuable gemstones and accoutrements was a timeless passion that probably went back to the beginning of mankind. For example, remember Wilma Flintstone? What did she always have around her neck but a necklace of large gemstones! Since Fred worked in a quarry, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t wearing pearls.
However, natural pearls have been valued over the millennia for their symbolism of beauty and purity. Originally from the Persian Gulf, they are not really available much anymore. What you can get at Potomac Bead Company are cultured fresh water pearls or imitation glass bead pearls. Still beautiful, but not the same as the type of rare pearl spoken of in this parable by Jesus in Matthew 13:45-46…
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
As we wrote yesterday, the single main idea to take away from the story is that God’s kingdom is of such value, that it is worth giving up everything to have and possess it … just like the merchant was willing to risk everything on the one pearl of incredible value.
There is nothing new about this calling from God to such a depth of commitment. In fact, it is what God has always honored, and it is what He rewards as true greatness of faith. It is timeless.
This is also the big idea of Hebrews 11, that great chapter that talks about those whom God, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, included in His Word about those who were commended for being “all it” in terms of their faith and obedience.
Consider a couple of these all-stars …
Noah – He is described as both as “righteous” and “pleasing to God.” Noah responded to an unseen calamity, acting out of faith in God. BUT, He was surely mocked for this belief, year after year while exchanging a normal life for building a boat in a place where it had never flooded and possibly had never even rained to make a flood! The ark may have taken 120 years to build.
Abraham – He was originally a pagan in his homeland of Haran, when he was called to leave behind everything he knew and was comfortable with and go to a land that he did not yet know about. Sarah, also, was given the miraculous ability to conceive despite her age. For Abraham and Sarah, unexpected fertility (and the sheer number of their progeny) was the sign that God had the power to do what He promised He would do. BUT, there were obstacles all along the way – from his own family, the offering of Isaac, to that of those who attempted to thwart God’s plans for him. But he pressed on without seeing all of it come true in his own lifetime.
Joseph – He saw in God-given dreams a future that involved blessing for himself and the entire family of Jacob. But, he was unjustly sent from a place of comfort to a place of despair, slavery and prison.
Gideon – When God comes to him and calls him a great and mighty warrior, he essentially says “You talkin’ to me?” … “I ain’t seeing any blessing around here.” But God calls him to deliver Israel and gives him awesome signs and assurances. BUT, Gideon trades relative comfort for being a religious whacko. Later, he is forced to exchange trust in the size of his army for an army of only 300 men—that is, to trust in God’s strength and not his weapons.
The writer to the Hebrews says it this way in his summary about these heroes of faith … these followers of God who saw the value of God’s kingdom as greater than anything this world had to offer …
11:39-40 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
And then, turning the page to the next chapter (which the writer did not divide as chapters, that was done later)…
12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Really, it is pretty crazy to not go “all in” for God and value his kingdom and follow him. Yet we often find it hard to do. Why? What keeps you (or other Christians that you know) from being “all in” in terms of valuing Christ’s kingdom?
And finally too, what specifically does it look like practically to value God’s kingdom as something of inestimable worth?
Hi Randy. You asked a strategic question or two that I will attempt to answer and hopefully shed some light on. Yet as you know their is often more than one motivation that drives people to act as they do.
Here is the part of what you wrote that I intend to address.
“Really, it is pretty crazy to not go “all in” for God and value his kingdom and follow him. Yet we often find it hard to do.Why? What keeps you (or other Christians that you know) from being “all in” in terms of valuing Christ’s kingdom?”
Here is one answer, I can support this answer from either the perspective of a literal creationist or a believer in evolution over billions of years. One problems is that selfish is wired into us.
A literal [Ken Ham following] creationist has to accept that since the fall we have sin ingrained into us. We sin because it is natural. Someone mistreats us or insults us and our bodies and minds may find it ever so natural to scheme how to repay evil that to person. Jesus urges us to pray for those who mistreat us and despitefully use us.
In any case whether things like aggression or fear are wired into us as a result of Adam sinning or of evolution … a vestige from humans descending from earlier savage forms … we all have some savage wiring in us. Turning the “other cheek” is something we can easily dismiss … and maybe most of us can argue correctly that it isn’t always the appropriate response to evil. Even Jesus challenged someone who struck him when he was in the presence of the High Priest (or former High Priest) that he needed to give evidence for his behavior.
22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.
23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” (Joh 18:22-23 NIV 1984)
We can doubt that we actually know what God wants of us. So sometimes we don’t follow God correctly out of lack of confidence about what it the best course of action. So we do nothing.
Maybe other times we attempt to follow God and have been deceived about what God’s will is.
Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson for the confederacy during the Civil War. The battles they fought did not bring about the military and political objectives they hoped for. Maybe their character though still advanced in some way the Kingdom of God over time. Robert E. Lee’s finest moment of the war was his decision to surrender to Grant rather than put the country into a multiple decade long gorilla war that would have made the south unmanageable and ruined the country perhaps for centuries.
(I hope that last tangent doesn’t seem as irrelevant or meaningless to you as it does to me, But not being sure of what God really wants … and that we pour so much energy into things that aren’t clear … well we end up with Christians in one country spilling the blood of Christians in another country. A whole theological – or practical – can of worms here that can’t be adequately addressed in my little comment.)
• Fear of people may exacerbate our indecision or uncertainty about following God.
• Our interest may be divided. We have to please a spouse … as Paul said happens.
• We may want to do good but not have the opportunity … as Paul said happens.
• We may not have the capability or background necessary to accomplish a task. Just like an eye can’t walk, a leg can’t see … God gifted people differently.
• We may get discouraged and even forget or be distracted from doing the good that we can do.
• Our prayers might be hindered from sin. Peter talks about valuing a spouse so that our prayers won’t be hindered.
• God may limit us to keep us humble – and the limited results then (what we have not achieved) may at least appear to us (or others) as a failure of effort on our part.
• We all stumble in many ways … God doesn’t always call us to accomplish all that we want.
• We sometimes need the cooperation of others. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. (Mat 23:37 NIV 1984)
Now the final part of your question Randy was this. “And finally too, what specifically does it look like practically to value God’s kingdom as something of inestimable worth?”
I won’t wrestle with coming up with a long answer to this question. But I think that the following line from Jesus may add some value to the conversation.
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Joh 13:35 NIV 1984)