A Search For Buried Treasure
A distinct memory from my childhood was the reading of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. I can still see in my mind’s eye that great green parrot sitting on Long John Silver’s shoulder and crying out: “Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!” I can still picture the frightening, brown-skinned fellow with the jagged scar down the side of his face, and with the pigtail which grew from the back of his head and dropped down over his right shoulder—I can still picture him sitting in the Admiral Benbow Inn and saying: “Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest. Yo! Ho! Ho! and a bottle of rum.”
It’s a great story. It reminds me that there is something very exciting about going after treasure. That’s still true. All along Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf Coasts today, there are divers searching the briney deep for the ruins of Spanish galleons that went down long ago loaded with silver pieces of eight and gold doubloons. Yes, I think it’s safe to say that there has always been a fascination with finding hidden treasure. I want to build on that theme today, because I want to talk to you about the only treasure in life which is really worth having—a treasure which is infinitely more valuable than any other treasure ever was or ever will be. I want to talk with you about the treasure which is the gift God gives.
Take a long hard look at the great men of Scripture and you will see the impact the discovery of that treasure had upon their lives. Here was Abraham who, late in life, literally walked off the map and started a whole new life with God in a whole new place. Measure him against those of us who haven’t thought a new thought in months or run a risk in years. Here was Joseph who, by following a highway called “catastrophe”, discovered that it led to a king’s throne. Measure him against those of us who in the face of minor disturbances or hardships become ? rather than royal. Here was Moses who was led by God and went on to lead others for God. Measure him against the legions in life today who go through the motions of everyday without meaning or purpose in their experience. Here was David who brought the giant Goliath to death in the dust. Measure him against those of us who are afraid to tackle even our own little individual troubles, let alone the giant troubles that plague” our society. These Biblical heroes lived triumphantly and they lived that way because they laid hold on the treasure of which I speak. And we can discover the same treasure in our lives. But how do we find it, how do we discover the secret of such triumphant living? Very much like we find any treasure—we search for it…
First of all, we have to know the general location of the treasure.
Those treasure-hunters off the Florida coast have studied the historical records time and again trying to find in them some clue as to the general location of those Spanish galleons when they were sunk. Once they determine the general location, then they are ready to begin the search.
The treasure of which I speak is found in the Kingdom of God. Have you ever sat in a concert hall while some musical genius conducted an orchestra of talented musicians? You hear the splendor of the brass, the rumble of the tympani, the soft sigh of the woodwinds, the surging majesty of the strings. But then in the course of the concert, there comes a moment when the orchestra begins to play some familiar melody. At that moment, you can almost feel a sense of hush, a sense of awe begin to grip the people who are seated there. You suddenly find yourself caught up in the music itself—no longer do you distinguish between parts of the orchestra. You hear only that melody, and that melody wraps itself about you and lifts you up. It transforms you. It enables you for just a few moments to transcend any ugliness, any tawdriness in life. That’s a grand and glorious experience. But that is nothing when compared with the majesty and the thrill of suddenly discovering that you belong to God and that God, in His majesty, belongs to you. There is no experience in all of life which can begin to equal that moment when we put our hand in the hand of God and feel the sure, strong grip of His love. That experience grips us and lifts us and enables us to transcend all the ugliness and the difficulties of life. That’s the treasure which is above all the treasures.
There are so many people in our day who do not seem to know from where they have come or where they are going. They seem to be stumbling their way through life, feeling deep inside that surely there must be more to life than this, but they are unable to find out what the “more” is. Well, I want to say to them and to you: We are made not only of the dust of the earth but also of the dust of the stars. And as we commit our hearts to the heavens and reach out to God, we discover that God is reaching out to us in Jesus Christ. And when we experience the gift of His Spirit in our lives, when we feel the touch of His guiding hand upon our shoulders, then we know that life is indeed treasure-filled.
The second thing we have to know about this treasure is the secret of how to find it.
Those pirates of old were clever fellows. They regularly drew their maps in such a way as to confuse people. They used secret signs and symbols to deliberately trick the unknowing. Well, just so in life. There are many false treasures that gleam and glitter about us, attempting to lure us away from the only treasure which is really worth having.
Take, for example, the false treasure of great riches. Some people try to put their treasure in the form of bank books and safe deposit boxes. But Jesus says that that kind of treasure can be lost or stolen. And besides, what good is that treasure in the end? What good were 2 1/2 billion dollars to Howard Hughes? All of those dollars couldn’t buy him true friends. All of those dollars couldn’t alleviate his paranoid fear of disease and dying. And now that he is gone, all of those dollars have simply attracted modern-day pirates searching for those earthly riches that don’t mean a thing in the end.
But let me come at this another way. Look back in history to the time of the Caesars. Their names are written in dusty history books, and if I were to give you a little time, you could probably come up with the names of four or five of them. But other than that, they are forgotten. At one time they possessed all of the wealth and power of the Roman Empire. Yet now they are forgotten—while the whole earth remembers the poor carpenter-preacher from the village of Nazareth who brought that Empire to its knees. Or tell me, if you can, who was the mayor of Corinth when Paul was preaching there? Give me the name, if you can, of the one who was King of France when Joan of Arc gave up her life. Or who was the wealthiest, most powerful man in Germany the year that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the cathedral door? What I am trying to get you to see is that the ones who are remembered are the ones who have offered themselves and everything that they are to the service of the Almighty. It is not in riches or even in reputation that we find ourselves. It is in surrender. It is not in what or who we gather about us here. It is what we send ahead. This is what gives life that dimension of glory, that dimension of victory that we seek. And as you go searching for the treasure, do not be led astray by all that glitter, for Shakespeare would remind you that “all that glitters is not gold.”
Then a third thing to remember in seeking the treasure is that you will never find it if you don’t give yourself totally to the search.
Those treasure-hunters along our coast have spent years and years in the search. It has cost them dearly. In some cases it has cost the life of friends or family or even their own lives, through diving accidents. The search requires a costly commitment.
Shakespeare again. “The Merchant of Venice”: Three suitors try to win the hand of the very lovely Portia. Each one selects a marked box, hoping that in the box he chooses will be a portrait of Portia. But none of them claim her except the one who has the courage to open the box on which these words were written: “Who chooses me must give and hazard all that he has.” It is like that with the gift God gives. In order to have it, we must be willing to give, we must be willing to hazard everything that we have.
Now please do not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that you must be living a life which is such a perfect imitation of Christ that you can offer yourself to Him without shame. I am not suggesting that out of the fabric of your days you must have created something so magnificent that you can offer yourself to Him with pride. There is no room for pride and deceit and self-righteousness in what I am talking about. And I am not pleading here for some emotional spasm which might mean something today, but which may be forgotten tomorrow. I am asking you to say: “Jesus, I offer myself to you, nothing held back.” That’s not an act of emotion. That’s not an act of passion. Rather it is an act of will! And don’t let anything deter you from that act. Don’t waffle around trying to invent an excuse. Face up to the challenge. For the love of God, claim the treasure He has for you.
Some years ago now, Charles Goodell was preaching from his pulpit in one of our great northeastern cities. As he preached, suddenly a young man in the congregation rose to his feet and interrupted the sermon. He asked: “Preacher, is what you are saying really true?” Then this young man, who just a few days before had been released from prison, stepped out into the aisle and walked toward the pulpit. Again he spoke: “Please tell me if it’s true that Jesus Christ can transform me from the inside out if I offer myself to Him. Is that really true?” And Goodell said: “Son, if it isn’t true then I will never preach again.” Goodell proceeded to ask the congregation to pray as this young man placed his life in the hands of King Jesus. Then Goodell said to the young man: “I want you to come back to church next Sunday and tell me if what I have said is true so that I may preach again.” The next Sunday the word had gotten out as to what had happened, and the church was filled to overflowing. There were many who thought that Goodell had made a terrible mistake. He had laid his entire ministry on the line for a shiftless, no-good fellow who might forget his commitment overnight. So the people had come, many out of curiosity, to see if the great preacher was going to be embarrassed, if his distinguished career was suddenly going to be ended, if his thundering voice was going to be silenced. The service began—the young man was not there. The service continued—the young man was not there. They came to the part in the service where there was the singing of a hymn just before the sermon. Still the young man had not appeared. The people began to sing. There was a tension in the air. As they worked their way through the verses of the hymn still the young man had not appeared. As they began to sing the last verse of the hymn, suddenly the back doors of the sanctuary flew open and the young man rushed in and cried out: “Stop!” The great organ and the people’s voices immediately fell silent. The young man ran down the aisle and gasping for breath he said: “My car—it broke down—I had to run all the way. But Dr. Goodell, it’s all right. You can go ahead and preach. Everything you said is true!”
Yes, it is true.
You see, the heart of a person’s problem is the problem in a person’s heart. Where you put your heart, Jesus said, that’s where your treasure is. And where your treasure is, that’s where you: put your heart. So I ask you today in the name of Jesus Christ to put your heart in His hands. Become one with Him. Then you will discover the gift God gives. You will discover that there is just no limit to what you and God will be able to do together…