I once found a treasure map. It was at the Indiana Sand Dunes where our family was enjoying a family day. I must have only been about five, but I vividly remember watching that map roll across our path.
We have the discovery on an old home video. It turns out that when watching this episode through a more mature paradigm, the map was more of a creative forgery than it was a discovery.
My dad actually drew the treasure map, having buried the treasure (assorted trinkets he knew his daughters would love) before our family outing. He crumpled and dirtied the map, carefully tattering the edges, to add the appearance of authenticity.
It worked alright. The old VHS includes the high-pitched squeals of three treasure-hungry sisters thrilled over the discovery of this ancient map.
Unfortunately, the treasure was never found. Apparently the pirate who buried the loot found that his map wasn’t as accurate as it was loving. And apparently the rolling sand dunes didn’t provide too many landmarks to validate the map. I may be off on the details; I was only five. At any rate, it’s a sad ending to the story, so I don’t like to think about it.
Moving on, I’ve determined that if I ever did happen to find a treasure, I would be less concerned with the condition of the trunk in which it was buried than I would be the condition of the treasure inside the trunk.
If the gold inside was genuine, I wouldn’t care if the trunk’s hinges were rusty and its wood was rotting. I wouldn’t mind if the corners were dented or the paint was faded.
I think if I did find a treasure chest, I would mostly be interested in the treasure itself—not the container.
Wait, I do have a treasure!
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
What a treasure God has given us! You and I may be but earthen vessels, but that doesn’t change the fact that we still have a treasure—”the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Strangely, however, I’m prone to focus more on the container than on the treasure.
Rather than marveling at God’s graciousness, I complain about the inadequacies of the container.
You see, it’s harder to look past the container—the trunk or the vessel—that holds the treasure when you are the container. At least that’s my excuse for why I care more about my comfort than about God’s glory.
But when I really stop to think about it, my focus is very off. For two reasons:
- The treasure I have is so great that I won’t be able to fully discover it all in my entire lifetime—even if its discovery completely consumed my focus. A heart set in the hungry pursuit of God will be magnificently filled while still hungering for more. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
- A broken container holding a valuable treasure can, by contrast, actually enhance the value of the treasure rather than distracting from it. My weakness magnifies Christ’s strength. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Because of these two truths, Paul could press on in ministry—even when he keenly felt the limits of his physical body. Just after rejoicing in the treasure entrusted to his earthen vessel, Paul explained:
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
Paul saw the bigger picture. Troubles? Yes. Perplexing difficulties? Yes. Persecution? Yes. Discouragement? Yes. What else would you expect from a frail vessel? But there was more, far more in play. The life of Jesus was manifest in Paul’s body.
It is our weakness that best displays Christ’s strength. Physical exhaustion, mental fatigue, and emotional depletion can magnify the excellency of the power of God when His power is given freedom to revive and restore.
And so, since I, too, have this treasure, rather than spending my life painting the broken trunk, I think I’d rather invest my heart in discovering and my life in displaying the magnitude of the Treasure.