Monday, November 16, 2015

Searching for Joy: Being a Treasure Hunter

            Have you ever asked yourself why joy is missing in your life? Have you considered it might be missing because you’ve hung up your treasure map and stopped searching for it? Join me today as we continue our look at joy this week in the New Testament.

            Since we’re nearing the Christmas season, I thought this passage in Matthew an appropriate one to begin this week’s look at joy.

            “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.” (Matthew 2:10)

            Joy. Cheerfulness. As in delight and gladness. And not just a run-of-the-mill cheerfulness. They had exceeding joy. And they weren’t silent about it.
            But just who is “they”?
            “They” are the wise men from the East who arrived in Jerusalem specifically to find the King of the Jews and pay homage to Him. They’d been following a star.
            Strangers from a foreign land. First Century astronomers and prophet-readers who recognized the sign of the times, (they seem to have been looking for it), found it, promptly packed their bags and precious gifts to deliver, gathered their entourage and set off on a likely two-year cross-desert trek to worship The King.
            When they saw the star again, and it pointed out the location of this young King, they erupted with joy! And then they did what they had traveled so far to do: they bowed down and worshipped Him. They were overjoyed they had found what they had been searching for so diligently.

            Several take-away points stand out to me as I read this section of Scripture, as it pertains specifically to joy.
            First, these wise men seemed to be looking for this special event. At the very least, they had probably studied the ancient writings and prophetic verses enough to know that the star was important. They were sensitive and alert to the signs of the times.
            Second, they seemed to be expecting a great thing to occur.
            They didn’t waste any time in following the star and going in search of the King.
            They rejoiced with unbridled joy when they found that King. 
            The final outcome, as the Wise Men learned, is that finding Christ brings exceeding joy!

            Yet, for some reason, even after we’ve found Him, we “lose” our joy. Heartache, world-weariness and pain can suck it out of our hearts like an industrial-strength vacuum.
            Maybe, in order to recover our joy, we need to carefully search the Sacred writings, and go on a serious hunt to find and reclaim it. To be led by the Spirit to a point where our joy can be refilled. Where we can reclaim it.

            In Matthew 13:44, we find a man who has located a treasure in a field. Eureka! What luck! He’s found once-in-a-lifetime treasure! Once he finds it, he hides it well on the property, (or tucks it back where he found it), and with delight over his find, gathers all that he owns and sells it, and then buys the property from the unsuspecting landowner. That all sounds a little unfair to our modern ears, but listen to what Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers has to say about the parable Jesus told.

            “Probably no parable in the whole series came more home to the imagination of [Jesus’] disciples than this. Every village had its story of men who had become suddenly rich by finding some hidden hoard that had been hastily concealed in time of war or tumult. Then, as now, there were men who lived in the expectation of finding such treasures, and every traveller who was seen searching in the ruins of an ancient town was supposed to be hunting after them. As far back as the days of Solomon such a search had become a parable for the eager pursuit of wisdom (Proverbs 2:4). Now they were told to find that which answered to it in their own experience. The conduct of the man who finds the treasure in concealing the fact of his discovery from the owner of the field, hardly corresponds with our notions of integrity, but parables—as in the case of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1) and the Unjust Judge (Luke 18:2)—do not concern themselves with these questions, and it’s enough if they bring out the salient points—in this case, the eagerness of the man to obtain the treasure, and the sacrifice he is ready to make for it. Jewish casuistry, in such matters, applied the maximum caveat emptor, to the seller rather than the buyer, and the minds of the disciples would hardly be shocked at what would seem to them a natural stroke of sharpness.”

            So, like the wise men, this treasure finder was actually a treasure hunter. He searched and found. Evidently he searched diligently. Mabye plotted out a field, surveyed the area and looked. Hard. Dropped down on his hands and knees in some parts of the land and scraped. Got permanent dirt under his broken, split fingernails. And repeated that day after day after day. This was no lucky find; it was a purposeful hunt and locate. Like a modern day treasure hunt for sunken treasure.

            Like the wise men, this treasure-hunting man is searching, and the possession that made all of them rich and joyful was God Himself. The wise men sought the King and experienced great joy when they found Him. The treasure hunter found God (which the treasure represents) and experiences great joy in His find. He’s so joyful, he’s willing to sell all of his material goods to buy, claim and possess it.

            Is your life missing or lacking joy?
            Maybe we don’t have joy—the delightful treasure that can only come from knowing and having Jesus—because we really don’t want that treasure of joy enough; we aren’t searching or hunting for it enough. We talk the talk, but we’re not walking the passionate, searching walk. We lament not having joy, but we don’t lift a finger (or our eyeballs to the pages of Scripture) to go in search of it. Worse yet, even though Jesus promised us that we would find and have it if we have Him, down in the deepest recesses of our souls and hearts, we don’t really believe we’ll ever attain it.
            Like the people who tell us that God doesn’t really want us to be happy, we’ve become ambivalent and satisfied with the sorry, despondent status quo of our souls; never expecting it to get better. And then, since it seems so elusive, we decide that we weren’t really meant to have it anyway and must have misunderstood what Jesus meant. We must have been all wrong about His promises. So now we don’t expect to possess that delightedness Jesus talks about. And we reason it away by thinking it gets doled out to others, just not to us. And since that’s just the way it is, why expend the energy to look diligently for it?

            My challenge to you this week is to go on a treasure hunt. Start looking for joy, and expect to find it. Ask God to point you in the right direction; to provide you a locator “star.”
            And then let me know what delighted you!

Until next week (and more joy!),

Thanks for joining me!



photo credit: <a href="">Carte au Trésor</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>