Thursday, February 6, 2020

Sitting on an Unopened Treasure Chest

Have you seen any of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, starring Jack Sparrow? Or perhaps you can recall other pirate films from years past, featuring characters like Blackbeard or Long John Silver (not the restaurant). How about “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and Indiana Jones? A common theme in each of these movies was the search for a legendary treasure chest, despite encountering great obstacles. 

What if, once the heroes had overcome great odds and discovered the long-lost treasure, they simply chose to carry it around, or hide it somewhere else, without inspecting the contents of the treasure chest. Wouldn’t that be ludicrous?

And yet, many of us possess a storehouse of treasure, often within an arm’s reach, yet we never open it up to see what’s inside. What I’m talking about are the Holy Bible, which one passage describes as “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4;:12). 

For many millions of people around the world, the Scriptures aren’t so readily available. They can’t take advantage of God’s Word because it hasn’t yet to be translated into their own languages, whether in written or oral form. And in some cultures, including Communist China and many Middle Eastern nations, possessing even portions of the Bible is forbidden. Believers in these lands face opposition most of us in the Western world couldn’t imagine. 

We don’t face such obstacles – at least not yet. But perhaps because the Scriptures are so easily accessible, in many versions and an ever-expanding assortment of formats in print, online and even apps, we take them for granted. Like the air we breathe, it’s there but we rarely notice it.

This is sad. Because just as pirates would eagerly open a long-sought treasure chest to examine its content, we should be just as enthusiastic about plumbing the depths of the Bible’s treasures. Especially since, as I’ve discovered, the Scriptures aren’t like the average treasure chest: Even if we spent a lifetime exploring them, there would be so much more to learn. Here are just several of the passages upon which I have built my life and faith:

More than 40 years ago I adopted Proverbs 3:5-6 as my “life verse,” and it’s provided great encouragement through the twists and turns life has taken since then. It states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and learn not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” 

One day at a conference I heard someone quote Philippians 3:10 from the Amplified Bible, and it soon turned into my personal “mission statement”: “[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him – that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding [the wonders of His Person] more strongly and more clearly.” What greater purpose could anyone have than to strive to know and understand God through every aspect of life?

Then years ago I came across another passage, Psalm 45:1, that captured my ultimate desire as a writer and journalist. It reads, “My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.”

Three passages that have aptly described my life, my mission, and my career. But there’s been so much more. For instance, numerous declarations in the Scriptures have underscored the importance of making Jesus Christ central to the believer’s everyday life. A friend, Ted, often quotes Acts 17:28, which says, “For in him we live and move and have our being.” Another verse, Colossians 1:27 points out it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

I could go on and on, but I’ll cite just one more passage that helped to clarify what I desired for God to do through my life. In 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 we read about a seemingly obscure individual: “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers…(he) cried out to the Lord God of Israel, ‘Oh, that You would bless me and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested.”

Nowhere else in the Scriptures do we read anything about this fellow, Jabez. He’s not included in Hebrews 11’s “hall of faith” or anywhere else in the Bible. But I believe this very brief account was included for a very specific reason – that if our heart’s desire is to serve God and have a greater impact for His eternal glory, God will gladly answer such a prayer.

Have you discovered any “buried” treasures in the Bible? I hope you have. If you haven’t, perhaps you haven’t really been looking. As the apostle Paul prayed for believers he was writing to, that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).

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