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 every laid 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!”
This is week three of our summer series “The Kingdom of Heaven is like. . .” We started with the statement that the Kingdom of Heaven is like an Inukshuk. Just in case you were wondering about all of the inksuit around and in the church campus. And so we discovered that the Kingdom of Heaven shared characteristics with the Inukshuk. The Inukshuk was a memorial maker and the Kingdom of Heaven is here to remind us that Christ was here. The inukshuk provided landmarks in a barren land devoid of landmarks and the Kingdom of Heaven, manifested through the church provides moral landmarks, the Inukshuk pointed people in the right direction and as a church we are to point people to God and ultimately heaven. And the inukshuk would act as a warning to travellers about dangers they might encounter. And the church is to warn people about their behaviour and attitudes.
Jesus looked around at his surrounding and compared the Kingdom of heaven to everyday things that his listeners would understand. The fact that Jesus used a pearl as an illustration for the kingdom of God might be lost on us in 2010 but it was an illustration that would have struck home with the men and women who made up Christ’s world.
You see pearls were valued not only for their monetary worth but also for their aesthetic qualities. 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 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.
1) He Was Dissatisfied With What He Had
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 when you stop and think about it every discovery, every advancement, every achievement that man has made has been because he was dissatisfied with the status quo.
Because Thomas Edison was dissatisfied with reading by candle and we have electric lights, Alexander was tired of Mrs. Bell yelling at him to come home so we have telephones. Because John Wesley was dissatisfied with the Anglican Church’s response to slavery, poverty and child labour 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.
Was it that Roger Bannister was dissatisfied with just being another runner that lead him to break the four minute mile? Could it be that Wayne Gretzky was dissatisfied with being just another hockey player that led him to break every record and earn every title in the NHL with the exception of most valuable goalie?
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. By the way the largest pearl out there that we know of is from a giant clam and it called the Pearl of Allah., it weighs 6.8 kilos and is worth approximately $40,000,000.00 And in 1999 Osama Bin Ladin made an unsuccessful attempt to purchase it as a gift for Saddam Hussein. Or perhaps he was looking for a pearl that was simply perfect, this is a Melo Pearl, comes from a giant sea snail in the south china sea. We don’t know but we do know that he was dissatisfied with whatever other pearls he had.
Each one of us has to push on. 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.
But preacher 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. True but it was also Paul who in 1 Corinthians, 2 timothy, and Hebrews 12:1 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.
Throughout the New Testament we are exhorted to grow in our Christian faith. To not be content with the milk of the word but to strive for the meat of the word. We seek to become better in our work; we seek to become better in our hobbies and play, we need to become better in our spiritual life.
But it’s not just a personal thing our church needs to be dissatisfied with where we are at any given time. It’s not enough to be able to say, “Look at us we’ve grown from thirty to a two hundred and thirty.” “Look at our band” “Look at our church”. I think, I’ll rephrase that, I know that we need to understand the validity of Amos 6:1 What sorrow awaits you who lounge in luxury in Jerusalem, but listen to it in the NIV Amos 6:1 Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
Cornerstone Wesleyan Church needs to be on the cutting edge of ministry and that means we need to be dissatisfied. 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.
When we get complacent with our ministry, when we stop being innovative 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. When we decide that this building is all we’ll ever need for a building then we’ll never need more. We will never need the space we don’t have.
2) He Had A Dream 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 every 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. 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?
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 Wesleyan Church 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, and 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, when people ask me if I have a job description as lead pastor I tell them: Yes, to preach and 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 then the history of the past.” As we stand and look ahead to our future I challenge you with the last words of D.L. Moody to his sons, “If God be your partner then plan big.”
Because to quote John Maxwell, “You don’t wax a rent a car, you drive it hard and return it dirty.” Because as long as it’s just my dream it won’t amount to anything. It’s not until we all embrace it will we be willing to do whatever it takes to make the dream a reality. Which leads us to 3) He Was Dedicated To That 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. Unlike the man I spoke about last week who found his treasure in a serendipitous manner, this man was on a quest.
Just as the athlete lives for the race or the game, this man lived to find pearls. He worked to make 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. It would be a shame to finally get to the top of the ladder and find out it was up against the wrong wall. 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. If Cornerstone is going to be the church that God wants it to be then it will need to be a priority in our life. Now I know that Cornerstone Wesleyan Church 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 That 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. 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 and 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 thing worth dying for is the kingdom of God in our life, salvation and doing the will of God.
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 you 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? Roger Bannister said “The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.” What will you win?
As Cornerstone moves ahead it will require more sacrifices on each of our behalf. 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 to work in the nursery, time for the praise team to practice. It will cost our 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, and 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, like the need to move into a bigger home as your family inceases we will need to expand as the Cornerstone Family expands.
When you first get married a one bedroom apartment works fine but as children come you need more space. And for a while you make do and stack kids but eventually the time comes.
And the second service and eventually third service will be us stacking kids, but eventually the time will come that we will need to expand into a larger worship centre.
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 Wesleyan Church 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. . . For A While But if he was 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 (NKJV) But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we do what? If we sit in the light? If we stand in the light? If we sleep in the light? No! If we walk in the light, as we move as the light moves, if we continue to grow, and mature and be obedient.
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.