Buried treasure. X marks the spot. Pirate’s chests and coded maps. This is the stuff kids dream about! But if you’ve been reading the headlines (here and here), you know long lost caches of gold coins are occasionally more than a childhood fantasy. Last year a couple in California was strolling along their property when they noticed some half-buried rusty cans. They started digging. Turns out these weren’t your average rusty Campbell’s soup containers. The eight cans contained over 1,400 US gold coins dating from 1847 to 1894. The mere face value of the coins is $28,000, but due to their age they could sell for up to $10 million. That’s right. This couple had $10 million lying in the dirt in their back yard.
Now unless you live in northern California and have been stepping over a certain pile of half-buried canisters every time you walk the dog, I wouldn’t recommend rushing off to buy your metal detector just yet. Instead, let’s imagine a slightly different scenario. You have just bought your own property in former gold rush country. You’re not that familiar with the land, so you hire a surveyor to mark your property boundaries and tell you what you have. As it turns out, you hired the Honest Abe of surveyors. His written report tells you that you have 1.74 acres of land and oh, by the way, there are eight cans of antique golden coins buried beside the third cactus on the left. Honest Abe says they’re probably worth another $10 million, and since he has an allergy to high quantities of gold coins he didn’t touch them. They’re sit sitting there waiting for you. Grab your shovel.
Except you don’t. You’re too busy to dig up the treasure. It’s tax season so you’ve got to fill out your 1040. And it’s almost March Madness, and you have a bracket to fill out – so much to do! Or maybe you don’t believe your surveyor. There’s not really a $10 million cache of gold on my property, you think to yourself. That’s too good to be true! And so the gold sits there, unclaimed and unused.
All right, so what’s the point of all this? Even though I’m pretty sure none of you have buried treasure hidden on your property (although if you do, remember I told you first), every single Christian has been given better promises than even mountains of gold-coin filled cans. We have promises like these:
“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”(John 14:13-14)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Listen to what John Calvin says about the gift of prayer: “To know God as the master and bestower of all good things, who invites us to request them of him, and still not go to him and not ask of him – this would be of as little profit as for a man to neglect a treasure, buried and hidden in the earth, after it had been pointed out to him” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.xx.1)
Now I know there’s a danger here. By the way I told my imaginary story I could leave you feeling condemned for not praying due to busyness or unbelief. That’s not my intention at all. Prayer is never the grounds for our acceptance for God. If you’re a Christian and barely prayed at all last week, you are no less acceptable before God than the guy who fasted and prayed for 24 hours straight. We have access to God always and only through the death and resurrection of Jesus. (And incidentally, there’s nowhere in Scripture says a 24-hour prayer vigil is intrinsically more pleasing to God than a 30 second “Help me!”) So banish all condemnation from your mind!
Instead, let this thought encourage you: there’s more waiting for you in God. More joy. More power of the Spirit. More wisdom. More opportunities to share the gospel fruitfully. More comfort in trials, strength in weakness, peace in chaos. You have not even come close to exhausting the riches contained in just one of these promises. There’s more. So ask for it!
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4:19-20)
Photo by David, Bergin, Emmett, and Elliot.