As I get older I have less and less attraction for material possessions. Oh yes, there was a time that I sought after the faster cars, the finer house, antiquities with their decorative novelty, and many other treasures the world could offer. But there came a time when those things required just too much time and energy to maintain, not to mention space to display or store them. Maybe I just realized that none of those things really matter on the eternal scale.
There are some treasures though that we want to hang on to for some sentimental reason, ones that stir up memories of hopes and dreams of days gone by. One of my elementary school classmate friends is struggling through the burdensome task of cleaning out her parents house, the house she grew up in, to prepare to put it on the market. Both of her parents are in nursing care and with their declining health she knows they will never need that old house again. She made an interesting discovery while going through the various objects in the home. Her mother had written notes, some with markers directly on the object, and some with paper notes taped to the objects, describing in just a few words where they came from and what made them memorable. What foresight this dear mother had in making sure the precious memories she had would someday be passed along to her children so that maybe they would last just a little while longer.
There are a few things however that have come into my possession that I will cherish until the day that I leave this world. On the last Sunday in July of 2005 I taught my first Sunday School class lesson. The title of the lesson was “What is Hope?” and the scripture text was taken from Ezekiel chapter 43. Still today I tend to shy away from public speaking and I’m sure that day I was a basket case of nerves. But that afternoon whatever fears I had of knowing whether or not I was serving within God’s will were completely and utterly wiped away.
That Sunday afternoon we stopped in to visit my aunt, my dad’s youngest sister. I had not told her that I was teaching that morning for the first time and had not yet mentioned it when she told me she had something to give me. What she placed in my hands drove solidly home the lesson I taught just a few hours before. A little black Soul Winner’s New Testament. I had received several of the little Gideon Testaments in my life before then, but what made this one special was when I opened it to the presentation page. On that page, I saw my name written in a familiar handwriting style I will never forget, that of my Pa-Pa. He had intended to give me this Testament on February 5th, 1974, thirty one years earlier. I don’t know what happened that he was unable to give it to me then but I’m claiming that it was just God’s perfect timing.
Pa-Pa passed suddenly in 1977, just a few weeks after my fifteenth birthday. He was a man that showed unconditional love to all his grandchildren. He was a fair and honest man but sadly I don’t remember him ever going to church or saying anything that would give an indication of faith. I do remember the story of a couple men coming to invite my Pa-Pa to come to church. He gave them the same excuse that I’ve heard when I’ve witnessed to people and I’m sure many of you have, “I wouldn’t fit in with church people. I can’t give up my drinking.” And the answer they gave him still breaks my heart when I think about it. They told him that it was okay, they liked to drink a little too. Pa-Pa told them if that’s the kind of hypocritical church men they were that he wanted no part of it and promptly ran them out of his yard. Sad story, yes, but when my aunt placed that little book in my hand, on that particular day, and I read who scribbled my name on the presentation page, a hope gushed forth in me that could only come from my heavenly Father. Maybe my Pa-Pa had trusted Jesus, and he certainly had a desire for me to know Jesus. Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew chapter seven said this, “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” This treasure, this little black Soul Winner’s Testament with my name written on the first page, was my Pa-Pa’s “good fruit”. In this treasure I have hope.
Jesus taught in Matthew chapter 6, verses 19-21 that the treasures we collect on earth are only temporary, that decay would one day take them from us. He taught that we should put our efforts to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven”. We can do that by living our life in surrendered obedience to God. Earthly treasures, those material things we want to hold on to, can stir up a sense of ungodly pride if we’re not careful.
God does however ordain or allow earthly treasures in order to accomplish His divine plan and to provide peace and hope within the hearts of His children. The Ark of the Covenant for instance, taught Israel to reverence God by representing His presence in their midst. It was still a temporary treasure, crafted by man’s hands according to God’s instructions. God instructed Joshua to set up the twelve stones to be a reminder to future generations of how He heaped up the waters of the overflowing Jordan river to provide a safe passageway into the promised land. And I believe, God’s watchful eye and caring hands were on a tiny sprout which would one day grow into a towering tree to be cut down and used to make the paper on which a pocket-sized soul winner’s Testament would be printed; because He loved a filthy, wretched sinner like me so much that He wanted to give me assurance that I was in His will at that particular moment on that last Sunday afternoon in July of 2005.
The greatest treasure that we can possess here on earth however is not something made with hands. We cannot touch it, we cannot see it, but it provides a comfort and assurance that all the treasures of the world could never provide. That is the treasure of salvation, a gift from God, by His grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. I think Paul said it best in his second letter to the church in Corinth;
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Therefore take comfort in God’s boundless supply of the treasure of His salvation and grace through His Son, Jesus Christ.