People have always gone to great lengths to pursue a treasure. Think of the man in Jesus’ parable who sold all he owned just to buy one beautiful, valuable pearl. Or think about all the movies in which a young man gives up everything to win over the woman of his dreams. Or think of the athlete who sacrifices all of his time and energy just to win the gold medal.
But what happens once you have found the treasure or won the prize? You hold it close to your heart. You enjoy it. You display it. You recall often how you came by this treasure, and you never pass up a chance to talk about it. As Jesus said, you let your light shine (Matthew 5:16).
This is just what Paul did. He told the believers in Corinth: “We hold this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7). He had found his treasure—Jesus Christ himself— and he was holding it close to his heart. He wanted to talk about it nonstop. He displayed it to every-one who would listen. So let’s take a look and see how Paul described the treasure to the Corinthians and how he displayed the treasure during the ups and downs of his ministry.
Transformed by the Light. Paul found his treasure on the road to Damascus, when Jesus revealed himself to him and called him into his service (Acts 9). Describing that encounter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote: “God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
For Paul, it was like a light shining in the darkness of his heart. It was a light showing him that Jesus really was the Messiah and that he died on the cross to save us from our sins. It was the revelation that Jesus promised eternal life to all who believed and who held fast to his teachings.
So when Paul heard that some “false apostles” were teaching the Corinthians a false gospel and luring them away from Jesus, he became worried and upset. He warned them about these false teachers, telling them that the “god of this age” had blinded their minds, keeping them from seeing the glory of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4). He then urged the Corinthians themselves to “be reconciled to God,” lest they lose sight of this awesome treasure altogether (5:20).
Live in the Light! If Paul were with us today, he would tell us the same thing he told the Corinthians: Live in the light. Walk in the light. Stay away from the thoughts and actions that lead to darkness. He would remind us that baptism has made all of us “children of the light,”but that we need to let that light continue to shine in our hearts (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6).
Brothers and sisters, there is no middle ground. We have a great treasure in our heart, but we also have powerful enemies—sin and the devil—who are always seeking to plunder us and leave us in darkness (Luke 11:21-22). That’s why Paul taught us: “Those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit with the things of the spirit. The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6). If we want to live in the light of Christ, we have to follow the leadings of his Spirit. He is our treasure. He is our counselor, our comforter, and our friend.
So let us all, to the best of our ability, strive to live in Christ. Let us hide nothing from the Lord. Let’s not take this treasure lightly. And when-ever we fall, let’s be quick to come back to the Lord through the gift of Reconciliation. This was the heart of Paul’s message to the Corinthians, and it is crucial for us as well.
An All-Surpassing Power. Of course, it’s one thing to strive to walk in the light, but we are only human— merely earthen vessels. And so we need to let the power of God—the treasure in us—help us and inspire us to walk in the light. Yes, we have to try with all our might to walk in the light. But at the same time, we need to look to the grace of the Holy Spirit, or the darkness will overcome us.
Living out our faith is not just a matter of human effort and good intentions. It also requires the power of God. In fact, Paul told the Corinthians that this all-surpassing power was the reason why he was able to remain faithful to his calling despite severe hardships and incredible sufferings.
He may have felt “hard pressed” at times, but because of Christ in him, he never felt “crushed.” He may have run into situations in which he and his companions were “perplexed,” but because of the grace of the Holy Spirit, they never gave in to “despair.” He was even “persecuted” at times, but he knew that in Christ he would never be “abandoned.” He may have been “struck down” both physically and emotionally, but because he stayed in touch with the Lord, he knew he would never be “destroyed” (2Corinthians4:8-9). These four contrasts make it clear that challenges await anyone who chooses to follow the Lord. But they also prove that the “surpassing power” of Christ in us—the treasure in our hearts—will always be there to support us, to help us press on, and not to lose hope.
Whose Voice? It would have been easy for Paul to call it quits. Perhaps there were times when he asked himself: “Who needs this kind of life? Why should I risk my life for these people who are turning on me?” Yet Paul couldn’t quit. The love of Christ kept urging him on. He knew that “one died for all....so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). And that good news kept him focused on finishing the race and keeping the faith (2Timothy4:7). Was this a statement of self-determination? Of course! But it was also a statement of deep faith in God’s power and love and grace.
When we feel sad, crushed, or lonely, we need to know that God will never abandon us. His power, which surpasses all other powers, is constantly at work in our lives. His power is proof that God loves us, that he knows what we are going through, and that he suffers with us. He will never let us be crushed, abandoned, or destroyed. Remember that Jesus promised: “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).
We all know what temptation feels like. We all know what it is like to be lured into doing something that we know is not completely good or right. Well, just as temptation can take hold of our minds and lead us down the wrong path, the Holy Spirit works in the same way—only with a much better result. Instead of tempting us, the Spirit prompts us in a godly, wholesome way. He moves us to act kindly toward another person. He helps us to say “no” to temptation. He gives us a desire to stop our work for a moment and pray for wisdom or peace.
Value the Treasure. Every day, the Holy Spirit is urging us on, speaking words of hope, comfort, encouragement, and direction to our hearts. Oftentimes, the only problem is that we are too busy to listen. Or we feel too overwhelmed by the demands of life. Or we are just too confident in our human capabilities.
This is why we need to learn to stop during our day and listen for the Spirit’s voice. If we do, we will hear great and wonderful things. We may wonder at times whether we are merely imagining the senses we get. We may wonder, too, if we aren’t just being lucky, or if a good situation isn’t just a matter of coincidence and not the result of our having prayed. But remember how Peter told Jesus: “You are the Messiah,” and Jesus assured him that this insight didn’t come from his own mind but from God (Matthew 16:16-17). If Peter could receive words from heaven, why can’t we? After all, we have the same power at work in us that Peter did!
So let’s all make it a point to look to God at different times during the day. Let’s learn how to sense what comes into our minds when we are before the Lord. He wants us to live in his glorious light, and he has given us a great and marvelous treasure to help us do just that.