INI + AMEN.
(1. Oops!: When the going gets tough, our heavenly treasure seems less secure.)
How does it feel when life isn’t going your way? It’s sort of a silly question, right? But how does it feel? Now, I don’t mean things like waking up on the wrong side of the bed, or you stub your toe, or you burned your dinner, or any small thing like that. I’m talking about really bad stuff. How would it feel if your farm went belly up? What about if you got diagnosed with cancer? Someone you loved died? You got laid off? I’m talking earth-shattering things. When our joy gets turned into sorrow, when something that should be a joy doesn’t go as planned, and then it’s a burden. Again, it’s a bit of a silly question because we all know the answer! We’d feel pretty bad. We might give up. When things go tragically wrong for us, we might get depressed, we might get angry. We’ll turn around and make people around us miserable, because misery loves company.
Now, that’s how we feel when it comes to ourselves and how we relate to those around us, but, when the worst happens, how do you think your relationship is with God? Now, we try and console ourselves with “God did this for a reason.” When it comes to little hardships, little difficulties, that may be comforting. But what about something that’s a punch to the gut when you get the news, or you see the status update on Facebook, or you read or hear the news report? When the only prayer you can get out is a question: “Really, God?” “Why, God?” “Again, God?” Or you’re like Job: there is no prayer, just sitting and mourning in silence. Isn’t it that in those moments we begin to doubt about our standing with God? “Surely I’ve done something to deserve this,” we think. We think that our heavenly treasure is less secure. As if the bad tells us that more bad is in store for us down the road, certainly in this life, but maybe even in the life to come!
(2. Ugh!: When life goes well, our heavenly treasure seems more secure.)
But what about the flip side of that coin? This is where our text is today from Mark’s Gospel. There’s this rich young man. Everything had gone right for him. He was rich. Every business enterprise he took up he did well in. “He had many possessions.” Because of this he figured that God was pleased with him. Why else would he have received so many blessings? He must be a good person. He must’ve cherished and “guarded” God’s Word enough for Yahweh to be pleased with him. That’s what “kept” means in our text: to guard and cherish. From his youth up he must’ve not “murdered, committed adultery, stolen, born false witness, defrauded;” he must’ve “honored his father and mother” all the time—no back talk, ever. Because if he had done any of those things God would’ve punished him and he wouldn’t have “had many possessions.”
This is unbelief worked in all of us by our old Adam when we are comfortable, and even more than comfortable, when we have all things in abundance. When we live our lives and all things are heading in the right direction, when we don’t lack anything, we think God is happy with us. He must be! Otherwise He wouldn’t have blessed us with so much stuff! It’s not that we receive all that we have “only out of His fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.” Nah! God likes me because I’m a good little Christian; I’ve done all the right things, and so He’s happy with me.
(3. Aha!: OUR ONLY SAVING TREASURE IS CHRIST’S LOVE FOR US.)
Our flesh wants us to go down these two roads. When tragedy or hard times strike, we despair of God’s goodness. We think that we’ve done something wrong, and that we must do something to get back into God’s good graces. Or when everything is going our way, our flesh deludes us into thinking that we’re the best. That we’re on the up and up with God. That He’s pleased with us. That we’ve done everything right. But with that second road Jesus, our Lord and God, will zero in on what’s made us comfortable, what we’ve really put our trust in to think that we’re on God’s good side. Jesus said to that man, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” “Go, give up your popularity.” “Go, give up all your hard work.” “Go, give up your family.” “Forsake all and follow me.”
“Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” We too must despair. Despair of our thinking that our standing before God is based on the good and bad things that happen. That’s all wrong. Christ looks at us like He did that rich man. He loves us. And in that we see our true possession, our true inheritance, our heavenly treasure. It’s not by works. It’s not guessed by what happens. It’s all based on Christ. Christ shows that man, and He shows us that
OUR ONLY SAVING TREASURE IS CHRIST’S LOVE FOR US.
(4. Whee!: That means our heavenly is secure no matter what.)
Since Christ’s love is our saving treasure, that means nothing can change the status of our heavenly treasure. It’s secure no matter what! In bad times and good, there is only one heavenly treasure for us. Christ’s death and resurrection prove that. He in bad times and good, in every situation He knew where to place His trust, and He did! He always trusted in His heavenly Father. “Thy will be done,” He says in Gethsemane. “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit,” He says on Calvary. What He did, He did for you, securing for you not a temporary, or changing, or renegotiable redemption. But His death and resurrection won for you an eternal redemption, which shall not perish or fade away. The good times don’t confirm it, and the bad times don’t deny it. The bad times don’t make is less sure, and the good times don’t make it more sure. It is yours, now and forever. That’s what Christ did through His death and resurrection because He loves you.
Because Christ has won for us our eternal redemption, and gives it to us in the here and now through His Word and through His holy Supper of His body and blood.
(5. Yeah!:) We don’t have to go about sad or worried.
His love replaces our worry. We then can receive all things as gift. Even the hard times are gift for they shall give way to eternal joys. The good times are gift! We don’t have to feel sorry about what God has given us, nor do we have to horde it for ourselves. We can shower them on others, because God has showered and will shower more on us! “He who has given up His only Son for us, how will He not then graciously give us all things,” as Paul says. In the good times “[we] build on this foundation, That Jesus and His blood alone are [our] salvation, [Our] true eternal good. Without Him all that pleases Is valueless on earth; The gifts [we] have from Jesus Alone have priceless worth.” And in the tragic, bad times we can say with confidence, “No danger, thirst, or hunger, No pain or poverty, No earthly tyrant’s anger Shall ever vanquish me. Though earth should break asunder, My fortress You shall be; No fire or sword or thunder Shall sever You from me.” Because He loves you, and that’s some treasure in heaven that will never perish even as you will never perish forever.