Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hidden Treasures

Have you ever stopped to think about where precious materials come from? Things like diamonds, rubies, gold, silver and pearls are treasures that were once hidden. I'd like to share some thoughts with you about how that relates to the believer in Jesus Christ, because the Lord has deposited treasure within us.

In the apostle Paul's letter to Timothy, he told him to "Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you." (2Ti 1:14). And when he wrote to the Corinthians, Paul said, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;" (2Co 4:7). In fact, Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to treasure when he said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." (Mat 13:44).

So let's take a look at the treasures of the earth and sea and learn from them for our own lives as believers.

Gold is a beautiful metal on which we place very high value. Yet it's a treasure hidden beneath the surface of the earth. Someone needs to do the hard work of mining it. A man first needs to decide on a place to mine for gold, and then he has to purchase the land. If he decides to establish an underground gold mine in 2009, it will cost him a billion dollars. So he needs to make a calculated risk.

Then he hires a crew of men to bring in expensive equipment and he begins the mining. Once the gold is discovered and excavated, it needs to be purified. So it's put through a refining process, in which it's heated with intense heat in the fire and melted down. During this process, impurities rise to the surface as dross. The dross is then skimmed off and the gold allowed to cool. Later the gold is refined in the fire again and more dross is skimmed off. Through each successive round of heating, skimming and cooling, the gold becomes more and more pure. As it is purified, it become more and more illustrious. Eventually, you can look down at the gold and see your face in it.

It's no wonder we pay so much for gold and it has been valued so highly throughout the centuries. Much work must be done to find this rare metal and put it through a process until it is made into a neckklace around someone's neck or a beautiful watch on their wrist.

Much like gold, silver goes through a similar process of refining. It needs to be searched for, dug out of the ground, refined in the fire, and then formed into vessels that are both beautiful and useful. We often take this for granted when we eat from sterling silverware or enjoy looking at a silver beautiful tea set or silver candlesticks on the fireplace.

Beginning as carbon deposits in the earth, this substance undergoes a natural process that involves just the right combination of high pressure and intense heat. Through this process, diamonds are formed far beneath the surface of the earth. And there are very few places on earth where diamond ore is known to exist.

The diamond ore is brought near to the surface through volcanic eruptions that originate deep inside the earth. Once the ore is brought near to the earth's surface, it can be mined. Again, someone needs to make a calculated risk to lay out the money and buy the land where they believe the diamonds exist. Since only a small portion of diamond ore consists of the actual diamond, once the ore is excavated from the earth, it undergoes a crushing process. This must be done carefully in order to avoid destroying larger diamonds inside the ore.

Rough diamonds at this stage appear quite unremarkable. They have rather blunt edges and they're covered with a gum-like skin. That's why the rough diamonds need to be cut and polished, which requires a specialized skill.

A cutter needs to look at the stone and determine exactly what type of cut would be best to bring out the beauty and luster of this stone. He considers the shape and size of the diamond to determine the best way to cut it. The cutting is especially important, because it is the type of cut made to the stone that determines how the light will pass through it. Therefore precise geometrical calculations are used to determine the cut. And due to the extreme hardness of these stones, diamonds are used to cut diamonds.

A pure diamond should appear as a clear, colorless crystal, because it transmits visible light. As the cutter makes his cuts at various angles, he does so with great skill, care, and knowledge of how these cuts will enable light to enter the stone from one side and refract through it at different angles, creating that extraordinary brilliance and fire.

Some diamonds do have color, but any presence of color in diamonds is due to impurities. These impurities are the result of certain minerals introduced into the stone during the high pressure formation process.

The surfaces of the gem are then polished smooth and the rough edges removed. Since diamond is an extremely hard stone, and it is so valuable, these gems are typically polished slowly. As with the cutting process, diamonds are used to polish diamonds, which requires painstaking techniques, and greater attention to detail must be given than with most other gemstones. Consequently, polished diamonds have extremely flat, highly-polished facets with exceptionally sharp edges. Eventually it is placed carefully in a setting such as a ring, a necklace, or an earring to adorn the one who will wear it.

The pearl is another great example of this process. It originates beneath the surface of the ocean, hidden inside a living mollusk. There a grain of sand or some other irritating microscopic object enters the mollusk and becomes trapped in its mantle folds. The oyster secretes a minute, crystalline form of calcium carbonate and conchiolin substance that coats the irritating particle. This secretion occurs repeatedly, and in time more and more layers of this coating are added in concentric layers. This eventually becomes a pearl.

Jesus likened His kingdom to a merchant looking for pearls, saying, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Mat 13:45-46)

In the wild, real natural pearls are very rare. In days of old, wild pearls were the only kind that existed. That's why they were once so expensive. Of course, today the pearls we buy are made through human intervention on pearl farms, so it's not necessary to spend so much time killing thousands of mollusks in search of that one hidden, natural pearl. Unlike the natural pearls, however, these manmade ones are not 100% pure calcium carbonate and conchiolin. The manmade ones only contain a thin layer of this translucent nacre on the surface, while the body inside is mostly non-pearl substance.

But the rare, natural pearl is a great example of another hidden treasure of great price that is formed in secret through an irritation that is introduced into the life of a mollusk. When it is found, this white, round bead has a lovely luster to it that is caused by the refraction and diffraction of light through its translucent layers. It is eventually placed into a beautiful setting and someone pays the price in order it to wear around the neck or wrist.

Treasures in Earthen Vessels
Now let's look at how this applies to believers. The process God takes us through is much like the process He uses to form these rare and beautiful treasures that we consider so precious.

First of all, the Kingdom of Heaven is hidden from our natural eyes. Jesus Christ is also. The wonderful treasures in His Word are hidden, until the Holy Spirit begins to open the eyes of our heart and reveal these things to us.

We know that when we discover the Kingdom of Heaven, when we truly discover Jesus Christ, in whom "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2:3), we are so overjoyed that we give up our very lives and everything else, in order to have Jesus in our hearts. As Jesus said of the man discovering this treasure, "from joy over it, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."

But that is just the beginning. That is the calculated risk. That is just the decision. But it is not the same as having the finished product such as the beautiful diamond necklace or the gold watch. There is a season of hiddenness, where this treasure is buried deep beneath the surface where most cannot truly appreciate what is there.

But with time, great skill, care and patience, our Heavenly Father does His wonderful work within us. We experience pressures in life at times that seem very intense. This is not unlike the pressures a diamond undergoes in its formation process. The apostle Paul experienced pressures every day from the churches he was responsible for. He wrote to the Corinthian believers, saying, "we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;" (2Co 4:8)

We go through fiery trials that seem unbearable sometimes. How many times are we surprised by the fiery trials we go through. We dont understand them. Yet the apostle Peter said, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; (1Pe 4:12).

Peter also compared our faith to gold that is tested by fire when he said, "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; (1Pe 1:6-7). So like the gold that undergoes a refining process in the fire, our faith undergoes a similar process to remove the impurities.

What we do in this process is crucial. This is the crucible, and we can try to run from it or we can submit to it. During this process, we will see ugly, impure things arise from our hearts and come out of us that we never knew were there. We should not despair or lose hope in these times, but rather go before the Lord and confess to him what He already knows. We should cry out to Jesus, asking Him to remove these things from us that ought not to be there.

And as if the pressure and the fiery trials were not enough, in addition we then go through times when we are being cut or polished and changes are being made inside of us that will remove the rough edges. Sometimes it is a tiny irritation that enters our life and becomes trapped there where we just can't seem to get rid of it. We may absolutely despise these times. Maybe it comes through an unpleasant relational issue with a loved one or through financial difficulties. But no matter how it happens, it is not pleasant.

During these times, we can get mad at God and blame it all on Him. We can give up or give over to the enemy. Or we can respond appropriately by going before the Lord in prayer, asking Him to go ahead and remove those things from us that he wants to cut off, as well as polish those edges and coat the irritation inside of us. This is what He wants us to do.

The Goal
We need to keep our eyes on Jesus and the joy He has set before us. We need to put to death the sinful earthly nature, allowing Jesus to reign as Lord in us. When His glory is revealed one day, we shall also be glorified. Like the cut and polished diamond, His light and glory will shine through us in ways we never thought possible. Like the gold that has been refined in the fire and purified until the refiner can see his own face in it, the Lord will be able to look down into our hearts and see Himself in us. His character and love will be seen in us by all, and He will receive all the credit. We must never forget the goal, because we will be tempted to do so.

Many of the things we see in this world will draw our attention and call to us to invest ourselves in them. But Jesus said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Mat 6:19-21)

To the rich man who came to Jesus asking what he must do, Jesus looked at him, felt a love for him and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Mar 10:21)

Where are you storing up treasure today? Are you in that hidden place beneath the surface, where no one can see the treasure God has deposited inside you? Perhaps you're under intense pressure and you feel as though you will be crushed. Or maybe you're going through a fiery trial that has you bewildered. Are you being cut or polished to remove those rough edges? Is God using another diamond to do the cutting and polishing? Or is there some irritation trapped in your life that God is using to form you into a pearl?

Don't despair, my friend. Don't give up. The Lord knows exactly what He is doing. He is the perfect Goldsmith, the very best Refiner of Silver, the Supreme Diamond Cutter. Fix your eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross. You will not be disappointed.

Let me close by encouraging you with something we are all familiar with. We are all familiar with various vessels used in a large house. Some are valuable treasures that receive a place of honor in a glass cabinet or on a mantle. As the apostle Paul said, "Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work." (2Ti 2:20-21)

As you yield to the process the Lord Jesus is taking you through, you will surely become a vessel of honor fit for His use. You will be a trophy of His grace on display for all to see throughout eternity. And every time someone looks at you or thinks of you, they will glorify the holy name of Jesus Christ.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's Note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other posts in this blog available through the Main Directory. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

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