The ‘treasure island’ I want us to see is not that of Robert Louis Stevenson. And what we can learn by what we see will be immensely more valuable than a literary classic!
Treasure Island: Terms
What is an island? It’s a piece of land surrounded by an ocean. What is life? It’s an ocean of trials, challenges, and difficulties. And we have one of two choices in the ocean of life:
- Be adrift and controlled by the troubles
- Find the islands of hope and peace God intended for us to know
I’ve used a broad brush. But is life full of challenges? Absolutely! And it’s a true treasure to know we don’t have to be controlled by the events of life. But it’s more than that. We can actually have joy when the trials and troubles come. Doing that will require a couple of things.
Treasure Island: Knowledge
One of the most astounding truths of Scripture is one we learned as toddlers. It is so simple we overlook the profound nature of the statement. Three simple words must be at the front of our thoughts about all of life:
God is good.
Those three words are taken directly from Psalm 136:1. There we read, Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His mercy endures forever. Failing to remember this simple truth prevents us from triumphing over life’s troubles. So why is this so crucial?
Our perspective on life’s troubles is usually egocentric. We think in terms of:
- Negative consequences to me
- How to get out of the current situation
- Little thought that the current trouble may be bigger than its impact on me
We spend so much time on those first two thoughts that we rarely (ever?) entertain the third. Yet that third one is a noticeable thread in the tapestry of Scripture. And it exists right alongside the fact that God is good.
Treasure Island: Perspective
We gain new perspective if we are tenacious about the fact that God is good and that our troubles may have a purpose bigger than ourselves. Think of it like this. Waves on the ocean are the same day in and day out. But we see them differently if we are adrift in them than if we are viewing them from the safety of the shore. And this perspective is a genuine gift to disciples of Jesus Christ. Here’s how we know…
Paul wrote some things to the Philippian church that many would count as odd. And to the unbelieving world they would be true. But to believers with the gift of perspective they should be the norm. Paul said in Philippians 1:
For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…
Did you notice the word granted? That’s a gift! The God Who is good, the One Who can do nothing less than that which is good, grants something to those who believe. And what is the gift (the grant)? It is to suffer for His sake. How can I count suffering a good thing if all I can think about is how to end the suffering? But is this idea unique to Paul’s writings? No, it isn’t. The same idea is contained here:
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
You may recognize that as James 1:2-3. Our trials can be God’s tools to make us better. And I could cite the life of Job. He suffered without knowing that it was for God’s glory that he did so. But he came through with flying colors. And we read the account of his trials and sufferings in order to cope with our own.
And I can’t leave the subject without mentioning the night Paul and Silas spent in a Philippian jail (Acts 16). They did suffer. But the greater purpose, and the reason they could sing midnight praises in a dungeon cell, was the salvation of others and the eventual establishment of a new church in Philippi. In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul mentioned the work of this church. His suffering had borne fruit and this church was a joy to him because of it. That’s a thought that belongs on God’s treasure island!
Treasure Island: Today
At the moment it seems trials and troubles are all around me. I spoke with a pastor today. He confided his discouragement and shared some of the details. Another friend has been diagnosed with a very serious illness. And still another friend had to have open heart surgery this week. I know these people and their trials well enough to know each has a Godly perspective on their lives and difficulties. Three lives, three kinds of difficulty, and any of these troubles might be, or could be, yours. But there’s more…
The discouraged pastor needed to know he wasn’t alone. I shared some of my own discouragement. He knows my work and how things get done. And the past several weeks seem to have been filled with difficulty and challenges for me. Vital work needs staffing and funding. And solutions have been few. I’m trying to grow through it. This post is not the first to contain thoughts along this line.
But today the point is to be transparent about those struggles. The thoughts posted here are often a disclosure of my own applications of Biblical truth. And my hope is that sharing will help others; maybe you. Our struggles are real. But another facet of ‘treasure island’ is the prayers of our friends. That was what I did for the other two friends today. Maybe I could ask that of you where staffing and funding are concerned…
So do you see an island in the middle of your storms? The ‘winds and waves’ are not calamities. They are our opportunities to grow, embrace change, and/or glorify our Father. He is glorified when we become more like Him (changing/growing). And He is glorified when others see that we handle our challenges very differently than they do. So we are never exempt from the storms. But we do have an island of peace and perspective when they come! That treasure island is an incredibly valuable gift for those with eyes to see it.