Pearl by Pearl
Updated: Mar 26, 2020
Originally published in the May 2010 issue of the Manna magazine.
Many years ago, I shared with two close friends my desire to enroll in what I then called religious studies, interestingly, at a secular college. Both gentlemen were successful businessmen. Both, at best, were "social" Christians. Both scoffed my intent and suggested, very heartily, that such a pursuit on my part would be disastrous to any potentially upward career path I may have been on.
It fascinates me, looking back on it. I actually heeded their advice, for a while. At some point in time, I sought the Lord for direction - and enrolled in Bible college.
The Lord has dramatically redirected my path. I don't begrudge those earlier days. In fact, I'm grateful for them. They represent the training ground that, when coupled with disciplined Christian study, helps me best fulfill God's purposes for my life.
This brings to mind the parable of the Pearl of Great Price. At first blush, the story seems to be about a merchant who gives up everything he has in order to obtain the most perfect pearl ever found At last, he is successful! Many believe the pearl to be Christ. And, once he has Christ, his worldly possessions become meaningless.
But we can't "buy" Christ, or salvation. Scripture tells us very clearly that God gave His Son and that salvation is a gift.
At closer inspection, it is Christ who gave up everything for His Church. He left His heavenly home to come for us. II Corinthians 8:9 tells us, "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich."
William MacDonald in his Believer's Bible Commentary explains, "just a a pearl is formed inside an oyster through suffering caused by irritation, so the Church was formed through the piercing and wounding of the body of the Savior." J Vernon McGee paints a vivid picture, "Christ came to this earth as a merchantman. He saw man in sin, and He took man's and bore it in His own body. Our sin was an intrusion upon Him - it was foreign matter..."
Just as the oyster coats the granular irritation that becomes a pearl, Christ "covers us with His own white robe of righteousness...Christ sees us, now as we are now but as we shall be someday...Christ sold all that He had in order that He might gain the Church (McGee)."
Success is measured differently by different people. Each of us brings a different perspective to the manner of defining success.
If we limit our consideration to a worldly perspective and leave Christ out of the equation, there can be no true success - and the discussion is meaningless.
If we limit our perspective to a Christian perspective and, having Christ, the assurance of salvation - well, yes, we can claim success - on some level. But what if we do nothing with the gift from that point forward? We haven't been given the gift of salvation to keep it to ourselves. It's been given, at great cost, for us to share.
From a secular perspective, it may seem that I gave up everything to follow His direction. From a Kingdom perspective, He has given me more than the world could ever offer. Perhaps understanding that distinction is the only way to define success. With that understanding comes a peace and contentment in seeking and serving only Him. Only when we comprehend exactly what He would have us do with our individual gift of life and salvation are we able to move forward as part of the Body of Christ - His String of Pearls - so that He can accomplish His plans through us.