He had it all, at least on the surface. A good business, a fine family, status in the community. He had everything it would appear, but not quite enough. Some men craved after gold or silver or jewels, not this man. Those things were all so cold and inanimate, forged and moulded deep inside an unfeeling earth.
Instead, he sought after pearls. Those beautiful gems which began their existence as a simple irritant, a piece of grit or sand buried deep in the mantle of an oyster. And then a miracle, slowly ever so slowly the oyster began to secrete nacre, the very substance that made up its shell. One layer was added to the grit, and then another and another until finally, a lowly piece of sand had become one of the world’s most beautiful gems.
Pearls, they were almost a gift from God, well almost, they still had to be paid for. And then one day he found it, the most incredible pearl he had ever laid his eyes on. Everything about it was perfect, the size, the shape, the colour, everything was perfect.
He had to have it, it had to be his. And so he sold everything that he had so that he could purchase this one exquisite pearl.
Was he happy? We don’t know, but this little story was told by Jesus in Matthew 13:45-46 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!
The fact that Jesus used a pearl as an illustration for the kingdom of God might be lost on us in 2018 but it was an illustration that would have struck home with the men and women who made up Christ’s world.
We are in week last of our “Stories told by Jesus” series. And this summer we’ve followed Jesus as he’s told stories of fields and gems, sheep and brothers, wheat and bread.
And we are ending where we started, in Matthew 13:44-46. In our first message, we looked at the man who accidentally found a treasure in the field he was working in. This week we are looking at a man who was very deliberate in his quest for treasure.
There was no doubt about what the man was looking for, Jesus said he was on the lookout for choice pearls.
2000 years ago pearls were valued not only for their monetary worth but also for their aesthetic qualities. Pearls were sought after for their beauty and because of that many of the people who bought and collected pearls did so just to have them, not as an investment, not as something to be bought and sold. Instead, they were seen as something to be held and admired.
And the beauty and worth of Pearls is very subjective, there is no uniform grading system like there is for diamonds and other gems.
And so, for a few moments this morning I want to look at this merchant who was so intent on having a pearl, like no other pearl that he had ever seen, that he was willing to give everything he had in order to obtain it.
1) He Was Dissatisfied With What Was
Often times we think of dissatisfaction as a negative, we see someone who grumbles about everything they have, about everything that happens to them and we think, this person is dissatisfied with life.
But think about it, every discovery, every advancement, every achievement that humanity has made has been because someone was dissatisfied with the status quo.
Because Thomas Edison was dissatisfied with reading by candle light we have electric lights.
Because Alexander was tired of Mrs. Bell yelling at him to come home, we have telephones. Because John Wesley was dissatisfied with the Anglican church’s attitudes toward the poor we have the Wesleyan church. If it weren’t for dissatisfaction we’d still be living under trees, dressing in fig leaves and eating cold food.
It must have been dissatisfaction that drove people to try cooking their meat. “What, sushi again?”
The hero of our story was not a shopkeeper, the Greek word would indicate that he was a wholesaler, a trader on a large scale. It was probably dissatisfaction that took him from selling fruit door to door, to owning his own stall, to trading in goods from all over the world and now he was seeking the perfect pearl. Perhaps he was seeking the largest pearl in the world, a record that now stands at 34 kilos.
And that is the Puerto Princesa pearl, found in the Philipines, which is a
Or perhaps he was looking for a pearl that was simply perfect. We don’t know how he defined the perfect pearl, but we do know that he was dissatisfied with whatever other pearls he had.
Each one of us has to push on in our lives. It’s not enough to merely exist. If we are going to please God we need to continue to grow and stretch in our personal walk with him, in our spiritual life and life in general.
You say “But preacher, remember Paul said in Philippians 4:11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. “
And that’s true, but it was also Paul who in 1 Corinthians, 2 Timothy, and Hebrews 12 called our Christian life a race. And if you are going to race effectively then you won’t be content to come in last. If that was the idea that Paul was trying to convey then he would have called our Christian walk a stroll through the park.
But it’s not just a personal thing, our church needs to be dissatisfied with where they are at any given time. It’s not enough to be able to say, “look at us we’ve grown from thirty to a three hundred.” “look at our band” “look at our church”.
I think, no let me rephrase that, I know that we need to understand the validity of Amos 6:1 NIV Woe to you who are complacent in Zion. . .
To a certain degree, we need to be dissatisfied with Cornerstone. Dissatisfied with the number of people who come to know Jesus Christ as a result of our ministry, dissatisfied with the number of lives we touch, dissatisfied with what we are doing for God today. And we need to seek to do more.
And that is partly why we’ve invited the Maximizing Impact team to come to Cornerstone this fall.
Because it is easy to become complacent in Zion.
When we get complacent with our ministry, when we become complacent we won’t simply stop growing we will stop impacting our community for Christ. When we look around and say “This is all we need”, then we’ll never need more.
2) He Dreamed of What Could Be not only was the merchant dissatisfied with what he, had he dreamed of what he could have.
It has been said that if we never build castles in the air that we will never build anything on the ground.
Edison had to dream of electric lights before he could invent electric lights, in fact, Edison had a goal to invent one major invention every six months and one minor one ever ten days. When he died he held 1092 U.S. patents and over 2000 foreign patents.
Alexander Graham Bell had to dream of the telephone before he could invent the telephone, Gretzky had to dream of the goal that would break Gordie Howe’s record before he actually shot the puck and scored the goal. And somewhere out there, there is a kid dreaming of breaking Gretzky’s record.
How many times had Bannister broken the four-minute mile in his dreams before he actually did it? How many nights did that merchant sit pouring over his collection of pearls dreaming of that one perfect pearl that would be worth as much as all his treasures combined? Could he see that pearl? Could he almost reach out and touch it?
And don’t confuse dreamincould’ve and should’ve” game is neither healthy nor productive.
Do we dream of what Cornerstone can be? Do we dream of how God can use us to impact our world? How big are your dreams for our church? Cornerstone will become what our dreams allow it to become! God gave Moses a dream of the promised land, God gave David a dream of a temple, God gave Paul a dream of reaching the Gentiles. What dream has God given you?
“But preacher we pay you to dream”, I agree, I think one of the most important parts of my job is to dream. And I do it, I see where we can be, what we can do. But you have to dream as well, you need to catch the vision of tomorrow, not just the memories of yesterday. Thomas Jefferson said, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”
I’ve said it before, the past makes a great classroom but a rotten living room.
As you think of where you can go, and what you can do. As we dream together of the impact Cornerstone can make, I challenge you with the last words of D.L. Moody to his sons, “If God be your partner then plan big.”
3) He Was Dedicated to His Dream the merchant wasn’t content to simply dream about the pearls, he went looking for them. The Greek word means to seek with desire, not simply glancing about but diligently seeking to find something. It was his life, his world.
Just as the athlete lives for the race or the game this man lived to find pearls. He worked for a living, but work wasn’t his life it simply made it possible to follow his dreams, to find his pearls.
Every one of us needs to find that dream, and if we are Christians then it had better be God’s dream for our life or it will be a dead end dream. And once we have that dream then we will need to pursue it with every bit of energy that we can muster.
If we are going to see our dreams fulfilled then we need to set them as a priority.
And if we are serious about seeing our dreams become a reality we will be able to see it in what we are willing to pay, in time, in effort and in resources.
If Cornerstone is going to be the church that God wants it to be then it will need to be a priority in our lives. Now I know that Cornerstone will not and should not be the number one priority in everyone’s life, that needs to be God. And the number two priority in our lives will really need to be family. But somewhere at the top of the list of the priorities of our life will have to be the local church.
That may seem hard for you to grasp, but remember that God anointed the local church as his vehicle of change in this world and he expects his people to support the church.
We need to be committed to the dream of seeing Cornerstone be as much as God would have it to be. And I believe that God has great things in store for this church and these people. Bigger things then most of us could possibly conceive.
Edison worked for 13 months on the filament for his electric light and had over 14,000 failures behind him before he was successful. How many times do we try before we quit? Do we have the dedication necessary to do great things for God?
4) He Was Determined to Make His Dream A Reality not only was the merchant dedicated to that dream but he was willing to do whatever had to be done to see that dream fulfilled. In his case it meant financial sacrifice, the scriptures tell us that he sold everything that he owned in order to buy that pearl. Nothing worth anything comes for nothing.
Did You hear that? Nothing Worth Anything Comes For Nothing.
Everything in your life worth anything at all will cost you something. Your marriage, your children, your job, your dreams, your church, your faith. Each of those things will require a sacrifice on your behalf. Some of those things cost money, a financial sacrifice, others require a sacrifice of time and commitment.
But just as the merchant was willing to give his all, we need to determine just what we are going to give our all for. Jesus tells us that the thing worth dying for is the kingdom of God in our life, salvation and doing the will of God.
The story is told of Frederick Charrington who was born into the Charrington Brewery Family in 1850. When Charrington was 19 he has a life-altering encounter with God.
About a year after he had become a Christ follower he was walking along the street outside of a pub when he saw a woman, along with her children, trying to convince a man who had obviously been drinking to leave the establishment and to give her money for food for their children.
Suddenly the man turned and knocked the woman to the ground. Charrington rushed over to help and as he did he saw the name of his families company over the door of the pub. And Charrington said afterwards that with that one blow the man didn’t just knock out his wife but knocked him clear out of business. Frederick Charrington walked away from a fortune of over 1 million pounds and committed the rest of his life to caring for the poor whose lives had been affected by alcohol.
What do we give to God? Roger Bannister was up every morning running when his friends were sleeping, he put hours and days and weeks and months of work into his goal of breaking the four-minute mile.
What have we sacrificed for God?
We see men and women literally surrendering the pleasures of this life to excel at sports, or business, or the arts. What would happen to the cause of Christ if we were willing to do that for the kingdom of God?
Where would we be spiritually If reading our bibles, belonging to a life group and making Sunday morning worship were priorities in our lives?
I’ve heard some of the guys the early Tuesday morning guys life group comment on how valuable is to them, but it’s not easy being here at 6 a.m.
As Cornerstone moves ahead it will require more sacrifices on each of our behalfs.
If this church is going to be what God wants it to be it will cost something. It will cost the status quo, you may like the church just the way it is, but as we grow we will change, just as a child changes as they grow.
It will cost our time, time to teach, time to serve, time for the praise team to practice.
It will cost feelings because some people don’t like growing churches, especially if the church they attend isn’t growing and they will say things like “at Cornerstone, they compromise the message” or “they are only concerned about numbers” or “they are only providing entertainment”
It will cost our pride as during our change and growth we sometimes take paths that you don’t agree with or don’t like.
And those times will arise, but unless those areas are in direct contradiction to the word of God, we expect you to be big enough to not grumble and complain and pout. We will always try to listen to different points of view but we won’t be able to make everyone happy all the time.
And yes it will cost money. This month we upgraded our children’s sign-in procedures to help do a better job of protecting our kids. That cost money. We reconfigured some of our rooms to better teach your children, that cost money.
When we help send our teens to rallies, it cost money.
As we continue to develop our partnership with the work in Sierra Leone, it will cost time, effort and money.
As the church continues to grow, eventually we will outgrow this building and the time will come to expand and build again, and guess what? That will cost money.
I love the cartoon where the man is coming out of church and says to the pastor “Well preacher I’m really glad that you don’t know where the money’s coming from, for a moment I was afraid that you wanted us to give it.”
God provides for his work through the giving of his people. And often he provides for us so we can provide for the needs of the church.
What Cornerstone can do is limited only by our dreams and our determination and dedication to those dreams
5) I struggled with the last point; I thought I had it figured out that in the end He Was Delighted. But if he was delighted he was only delighted for a short while and then he would have been looking again for that pearl that was just a little bit nicer than the one he had. That is our humanity. And in each area of our life, satisfaction leads to complacency that will ultimately lead to stagnation.
In our spiritual life, we need to be walking closer and closer to God. There is no such thing as arriving until we arrive in heaven. Remember 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
So what is the answer, well the man was delighted but he never lost his dream of the perfect pearl.
At Cornerstone if we continue to seek God’s will, if we continue to do what God wants us to do, and we continue to do it to the very best of our ability we will continue to grow. We have said before that we will never bow down to the idol of church growth, that we will never chase our tails trying this program and that program.
But we will seek to present the gospel in a positive way, that we will seek to provide the very best worship environment that we are capable of, and that we will love another with the love of Christ. And if we do that we will grow. When our goals are met, then we need to dream some more and set some more goals. And those dreams and those goals need to come from God and God alone.
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