- Religion and Philosophy»
- Christianity, the Bible & Jesus
Hidden Treasure: Is It Worth The Risk?
Life is risky business. There are never any guarantees of success.
Hang on a minute—we want guarantees. No, let’s be entirely forthright for a moment: We demand guarantees.
We want to know beyond doubt that if we take a chance it’s going to accomplish something—if we stick our neck out we want strict assurances that, metaphorically speaking, our heads won’t get chopped off.
Consider the tale about a man who took a risk and went into business on a shoestring—he tripled his investment. Now he’s got to figure out what to do with three shoestrings.
That poor attempt at humor serves to remind us of the universal nature of risk—risk is risky, which causes us to ask: Risk—is it worth it? Is the potential reward worth the risk?
Even as those questions rattle around our brain, we need to have a clear comprehension that everything has a cost. By intentional action or default inaction, we assess the risk and reward in every aspect of life.
Our choices define us.
Count The Cost
Let’s be clear: The walking by faith necessity of the Christian life involves costs and benefits—the Bible NEVER presents the faith-journey as ease, comfort, and safety personified.
On the contrary, it’s challenging to be true to the dictates of Scripture—it’s hard to forgive people—it stretches us to love our enemies—it’s not a walk in the park to conquer our ingrained weaknesses—it requires genuine honesty to repent of sin—it’s difficult to follow-through and put spiritual disciplines in place in our lives.
This is where our demand for guarantees really kicks in. If we are going to implement the upside down principles of Scripture, then we want to see and experience tangible results.
No setbacks—no hiccups—no glitches—no bumps or potholes along the way, thank you very much. We want to know that the Bible works.
If we put forward every effort to overcome evil with good, then we hang onto a reasonable expectation that good will triumph according to our plans and timing. We so easily forget the big picture of eternity—we so easily forget that God’s sovereignty operates on a timetable seldom in sync with the temporary nastiness of our fallen world—we so easily forget that our faith-journey is about trusting God every step of the way, especially in those angst-ridden periods when the steadfast application of Biblical principles doesn’t appear to make any headway or difference.
Following Christ can be costly. It can involve danger, toil, and sorrow—it can result in discouraging circumstances. Jesus counseled his first disciples that “in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
We need to heed that caution and give it considerable credence. Fact is, the more faithful we are in our obedience, the more likely that we’ll slam up against problems, failures, adversity, and disappointments.
Jesus knew that, which is why he warned his followers to count the cost before embarking on the mystical faith-journey of being a disciple. Yet, he also provided balance to assure us that it is worth it. Yes, we need to count the cost, but we also need to behold the reward.
Take a fresh look at a parable Jesus told about the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 13:44 - NIV
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Is D. A. Carson correct--do those who know where the treasure lies joyfully abandon everything else to secure it?
Freely Or Grudgingly
These words of Jesus are not about a man’s ethics—was it morally right for him to buy the field without telling its owner what he had discovered?
That’s a query that doesn’t really matter because it’s outside the realm of the story’s pithy point. It’s about the enormous, life-altering value of the treasure, and the lengths the man was willing to go to obtain it.
As the New Testament scholar D. A. Carson put it: “The kingdom is worth infinitely more than the cost of discipleship, and those who know where the treasure lies joyfully abandon everything else to secure it.”
Is that our attitude? Are we not only willing but glad and even joyful to give everything we have for the kingdom? Do we regard the present benefits and future rewards of knowing Christ to be so tremendous that we have no hesitation in giving of ourselves and our possessions?
Do we freely release our time, talents, and treasures? Is our attitude generous and open-ended? Or do we grumble, complain, and give only grudgingly?
Do we tally up the cost, and then quietly decide that somehow we could out-give God? Do we analyze the risk, and then pay lip-service to trusting and obeying? Do we act as if God asks more of us than he intends to give us in return?
Jim Elliot—1927-1956—was a man with a zeal for God’s Word. He felt compelled to go to South America, and attempt to evangelize the Woadani people, native Amerindians of the Amazonian Region of Ecuador.
The effort—known as Operation Auca—was dangerous and riddled with risks. Elliot approached the task with a timeless truth strapped around his heart. His journal entry of October 28, 1949 contains a handful of powerful words: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
On January 8, 1956 at a spot along the Curaray River, a band of ten warriors attacked—Jim Elliot and his partners in ministry were slaughtered. His life and death gave much significance to his potent words.
I have a plaque hanging in a prominent place that continually reminds me that walking by faith means keeping my eyes fixated on what really matters. It’s a picture of a first-century fishing boat common on the Sea of Galilee that has this phrase inscribed above it: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
That's a streamlined version of the sentence written by Elliot—it echoes the perspective Paul of Tarsus proclaimed from a jail cell: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”
For Paul of Tarsus and Jim Elliot, the risk was worth the reward. The hidden treasure of knowing Christ was worth surrendering their lives to him—the hidden treasure of knowing Christ was worth being obedient regardless of the cost or consequences.
Is that the message of our lives? Do we embody the knowledge that the reward far exceeds the risk?
- Wanted Man
Wanted Man a.k.a. Ken R. Abell, seeks to be a blessing to others. He's a rake, a rambler, and a teller of tales who understands that there is strength in a story well told and well lived. To learn more, inquire or schedule him, visit this web site.
- Prayer: Oh, What A Beautiful Morning
One upon a time, a fisherman who had no time or interest in anything related to God, was at sea. He was working hard reeling in the nets when a huge storm came up that threatened to sink the small boat. . .
- Alienation, Isolation and Paranoia
Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues is all about alienation, isolation, and paranoia, which in my observations is an ever-present tension in the church. As believers in Jesus Christ we are supposed to be instruments of peace and redemption. . .
- Time, Money and Spiritual Matters
Once upon a time during spring training, a high school baseball player was in his coach's office. It was his senior year, and they were talking about his future. "What are your plans?"
- Bricks and Faith
The late newsman David Brinkley was exactly correct when he said: "A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her." Life is hard; getting hit by bricks is all part of it. . .