For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. Colossian 2:1-5
Have you ever made things harder for yourself? My mom would say that I have always done things the hard way. I can assure you that it wasn’t intentional. Things happen. And happen. And happen. Perhaps much of my problem is hat I get distracted easily. I am busy working on something, then something else comes along and grabs my attention, followed by something else, then something else. I guess it isn’t my fault, it is the things that keep grabbing my attention that is to blame.
But whether intentional or not, life is sometimes, even often, difficult. Paul is writing to a Gentile church. If he had just preached to the Jews he would have save himself a lot of grief, but he didn’t – and so he was hated by the Jews who wanted to keep one foot in the Old Covenant, while accepting the New Covenant truth they had seen in Jesus; and by the Jews who didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah, and those of the Roman government that saw him as committing crimes against Caesar. Paul went to the unclean Gentiles, and left the familiar traditions of the Talmud and Pentateuch. Not only did he struggle because of the ethnic questions, but here he was, a man convicted of crimes and writing from prison. He may have led their pastor, Epaphras, to Jesus, but the Colossians had never met Paul. He was a stranger writing from prison, telling them they were off base.
And yet Paul presses on. In spite of the issues at hand, he presses on to proclaim the truth, to see the Colossian’s faith grow. If you go back a couple verses we are reminded of what is so important that he is willing to struggle with in order to accomplish. In Colossians 1:28 Paul says that, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” The thing he is wrestling for on the Colossians is their spiritual maturity. He goes through all kinds of hassles not just to preach the Gospel and move on, but to see people in the long term grow up in Christ. He wants to see them, as Colossians 2:2 puts it, to be knit together in love, and to understand who they are in Christ. What effort do we make for our own faith? What effort do we make for the faith of those around us?
Have you ever heard of Oak Island? Oak Island is a 57-hectare (140-acre) island in Lunenburg County on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada. The tree-covered island is one of about 360 small islands in Mahone Bay and rises to a maximum of 11 metres (36 feet) above sea level. Located 200 metres (660 feet) from shore and connected to the mainland by a modern causeway, the island is privately owned. Oak Island has a pit on it, and people have been looking for treasure in it ever since 1795 when a boy by the name of Daniel McGinnis found a depression in the ground beside an oak tree. Above the depression was a block and tackle. Repeated excavations have reported layers of apparently human-made artifacts as deep as 31 metres (102’), but have always ended in collapsed excavations and flooding. 6 people have died over the years searching for treasure in what has been called the Oak Island Money Pit. Theories exist that the “treasure” at the bottom of the pit is either: 1) Pirate treasure (William Kidd or Black Beard), or 2) Incan or Mayan or 3) French – connected to either the French Revolution or during colonization or 4) British (American Revolution) or 5) Vikings or 6) Francis Bacon (original manuscripts of Shakespeare’s plays). Treasure, especially treasure that is just out of reach, has an almost irresistible element to it. Oak Island is called the most expensive treasure hunt in the world, in part because no treasure has been recovered – yet. People lived their whole lives focused on putting every resource they had – time, money, health – into the project.
Paul calls us to a great treasure, one that is eternal in nature. This treasure of spiritual maturity – just what is it worth? Jesus talked about a man who found a treasure in a field and sold all he had so he could purchase that treasure (Matthew 13:44). If you don’t understand the context of a parable they can be a bit confusing. The cool thing about that parable is that it is in the context of the end of the world, the judgement. Jesus is saying when you have found this treasure of the Gospel, which calls all of humanity to discipleship, to spiritual maturity, you should give all you have to pursue it. Listen to Paul again when he says, “to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” …all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. The church in Colossae was being heavily influenced by the mystery religions, which said they was a treasure in the secret knowledge they had. Paul says there is no secret treasure available to just those with the right knowledge. The treasure is Jesus, and He is available to all, accessible to all.
When you read the story of the Oak Island Money Pit, you understand that the name has two meanings. The first is that there could be a lot of money in that pit. The second meaning is that people have sunk a lot of money into that pit, with nothing to show for it. There were many investors, all who pulled out at some point. They invested heavily, but when things looked like they weren’t going to “pan” out, they left, limiting their losses. Have you seen people in the church do that? They invest themselves for a while, but instead of going “all in” they pull back when things don’t look like they are going to work. People followed Jesus up to a point. They loved the miracles, the talk of eternal life, the concepts of love. When the miracles dried up and the talk turned to suffering and death, many people left. The multitudes were there for what they could get out of it, for the wrong kind of treasure.
The treasure of Christ is connected to eternity and eternal life. It is not of this world, though it helps us understand this world. Francis Chan has this illustration about a rope.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Have you understood all these things?”
They said to him, “Yes.”
And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
What will you do with this treasure?