Pursuits

Coming off an election that cost nearly $14 billion, I was thinking of the general message underlying the ads and platforms. Many candidates promised variations on the rights promised in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And while these are good things, are they the most important things for us to pursue? Do they truly bring us far more life?

It is easy to focus on our own life, our own liberty, and our own happiness. Our natural human tendency is to pursue things that increase our individual freedoms and personal benefit. But compare that focus to the overarching message of the life we are called to pursue in Christ:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13, NIV)

Freely you have received; freely give. (Matthew 10:8, NIV)

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. (Acts 4:32, NIV)

 So when you give to the needy… (Matthew 6:2, NIV)

Our Creator and Savior wants us to be happy, but that happiness is not found in self-serving pursuits. Pursuing and fulfilling God’s purpose for us is what truly makes us happy. The verses above remind us that His desire, His purpose for us, is to love Him and love others through our choices and actions. By doing this, we bring God glory and make Him visible to people who do not have a personal relationship with Him, attend church, or read the Bible. We do this, in part, by pursuing personal growth so that we become more like Him. As we are filled with His character qualities (love, joy, peace, and more), those we interact with can see Him reflected in our words and actions. But we see even greater results and are even happier when we intentionally reveal God through our giving, sharing, living, and words.

God blesses us, so that all the ends of the earth may fear Him. (Psalm 67:7, NASB)

generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25, NIV)

God has blessed us richly! Many of us put extra effort into reflecting on and acknowledging those blessings at this time of year. But God does not intend for us to hoard our blessings. Sharing our blessings with others honors God and brings far more life! The parable of the talents (money) in Matthew 25 illustrates this. The master gave some of his servants money to hold for him while he went away. When the master returned, the servants who pursued opportunities to increase their holdings were praised by their master:

His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21 & 33, NIV)

Whatever “talents” God has entrusted to us, He wants us to invest in building His kingdom. Our “talents” could be money, leadership or organizational skills, influence, compassion, health, time, education, wisdom, or simply a willingness to do good wherever we see a need. We may pursue investments that benefit those for whom we feel special concern, whether that be those who are poor, abandoned, ill, mistreated, abused, neglected, or overlooked. We also have freedom to use our talents to pursue personal gain. But we will find far more life by using what God has given us to bless others, especially when we are sharing His love, grace, and truth with them.

The Apostle Paul writes it this way:

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. (I Corinthians 3:11-15, NIV)

Accepting Jesus’ death and resurrection as payment for our sins and entering into an eternal relationship with God is the foundation of far more life. That foundation is secure, no matter what we do with the rest of our lives. But we choose what we add to that foundation: will we pursue personal life, liberty and happiness? Or will we pursue God’s purposes and plans?

Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well. (Matthew 6:33, NCV)

Pursuing God is the guaranteed path to irrevocable life, inalienable liberty, and eternal happiness — far more life!

Sisters,
What do you desire most in this life?
Think of times when you have hoarded your blessings and times you have shared them: which made you happier?
What “talents” has God entrusted to you? How are you investing them in His kingdom?
How have you found far more life pursuing God’s purposes?
Thank Him for richly blessing you and offering you far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Gold!

 …Now for a short time different kinds of troubles may make you sad. These troubles come to prove that your faith is pure. This purity of faith is worth more than gold. Gold can be proved to be pure by fire, but gold can be destroyed. But the purity of your faith will bring you praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ comes again. (I Peter 1:6-7, ICB)

Throughout history, gold has been viewed as valuable. It contains an array of unique and beautiful colors. It absorbs light, which makes it appear to shine. It is rare enough to be special, but still possible to find. It is hard to locate and extract from the earth in large quantities. It does not corrode. It is malleable and can be formed into different shapes. When melted, it can be poured into forms and stamped for practical uses, like money, or admired in jewelry and decor. It does not react with other elements, allowing it to retain its beauty over time. The purer a piece of gold is, the more valuable it is.

God compares our faith to gold. Faith is beautiful. It shines. It is relatively rare. It is hard to find on the earth in large quantities. It does not corrode. It is malleable. Faith is practical but also admirable. It retains its beauty over time. The purer faith is, the more valuable it is.

Gold can be proved to be pure by fire. Raw gold has other elements mixed in with it. It is purified by being heated by fire or electricity, then introducing a chemical that pulls out the impurities (non-gold components).

These troubles come to prove that your faith is pure. God compares the process of refining our faith to refining gold. Trials are the heat that is applied to our faith. They bring ungodly beliefs, thoughts, and actions to the surface so they can be removed from our lives. The result in God’s children is far more life — a purer faith that is a better reflection of God.

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart. (Proverbs 17:3, NIV)

This purity of faith is worth more than gold. This seems like a strange comparison, comparing seemingly-intangible faith with tangible gold. But our faith results in actions. It shapes our decisions. It permeates every aspect of our lives. That makes it tangible. Our faith is real to God, too. It is valuable to Him. He will use one of earth’s most valuable elements — gold — to make the streets in Heaven (Revelation 21:21). Those streets will be beautiful, but our faith is infinitely more beautiful and valuable in God’s economy!

Gold can be destroyed. Humans do not know how to destroy gold. We can dilute its purity, but it still exists. We can dissolve it with chemicals, but that only causes it to disperse further. Perhaps God can destroy gold by some power or force that is not available to us. The Greek word that was translated “destroyed”, apollymenou, can mean “to no longer serve the use for which they were designed”, so perhaps that is a better interpretation. Using either meaning — destroy or make unusable — these verses contrast gold’s destructibility with our faith. There is no trial that can destroy genuine faith. Nothing can cause it to stop serving its purpose in our lives. In fact, our faith leads to eternal life:

For you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:9, NIV)

Here are other Bible verses that use gold to illustrate a spiritual lesson:

The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. (Psalm 119:72, NIV)

Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. (Proverbs 8:10-11, NIV)

God’s guidelines for life are more precious than gold! They offer value for both this life and the next one.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. (Acts 3:6-7, NIV)

The lame man did not recognize Peter possessed something more valuable than gold. Peter looked beyond the man’s obvious need and met his deepest need. God’s work in our lives is also precious and priceless!

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. (I Corinthians 3:11-13, NIV)

The writer uses physical building materials as an analogy for the components of our lives. Some, like gold, are valuable investments of our time and energy that God will reward when we reach Heaven. Others are not deemed valuable by God and will not gain us anything in Heaven. Far more life builds with gold!

Sisters,
What aspect of gold is most appealing to you? How do you see that aspect in your faith?
How have trials refined your faith? What impurities have they exposed and removed?
What is your reaction to the claim that faith is valuable? Do you value it more than gold?
Are there areas of your life where your faith seems unusable? Ask God to help you see how faith can add value in those areas.
Where are you using gold to build your life? What is not gold that could be?
Thank God for the richness of faith and far more life that accompanies it!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso