PERSEVERANCE (Advent – Day 4)

SCRIPTURES

Deuteronomy 4:29

But if you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Psalm 63:1

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

Matthew 7:7-8

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

THOUGHTS

Have you ever longed for something so desperately you wouldn’t sleep until you found it? Yeah, me neither. But I do love a good treasure hunt. There’s a real-life Indiana Jones-esque treasure hunt happening in Santa Fe, NM. I can’t make this up. Forest Fenn, in 2010 after turning 80, filled a chest full of gold and other items valued at $3 million. He then proceeded to the mountains somewhere north of Santa Fe and hid the chest. As I write this, the treasure chest remains in the mountains. I’m considering a trip to New Mexico next year. Can you say “retirement”?

When it comes to seeking treasure, people will spend ridiculous amounts of time and money in the hopes of finding an elusive prize. And, the treasure’s value matters, right? The greater the prize, the more likely we are to seek it.

So, what about Jesus? God’s son is our greatest treasure. In him, all the promises of God are fulfilled. Without this treasure, nothing matters. Do we believe this? I mean really believe it? “God with us” is our greatest treasure, but the degree to which we seek him reveals the level to which we treasure him.

This idea frames the journey of the Magi. These “wise men” have an important place in the Christmas story. They give us a framework for seeking Jesus.

Let’s start here. Seeking Jesus is an open invitation. I’m not into questioning God, but I wish he included more backstory with the wise men. We know the wise men travel a considerable distance to see Jesus. We know a star prompts their pilgrimage to Bethlehem. But Scripture gives few details about the men.

When it comes to seeking Jesus, backstories and titles don’t matter. God doesn’t call people based on past experience, social status, or anything else. God’s call to seek Him is everyone’s call. Poor or rich. Black or white. Young or old. Preacher or prostitute.

In fact, if there’s a message here, it’s for the marginalized and outcast. The Magi are Gentiles. Most likely, they know very little about God and even less about Jesus. They weren’t pastors or church leaders. They didn’t even grow up in church.

Seeking Jesus is an open invitation to everyone. The only real criterion is openness. A closed heart always misses God’s signs and invitations to seek Him.

There’s another important point in the journey of these wise men. We must be willing to acknowledge ignorance and risk foolishness to find Jesus. So, the wise men set out to find the Messiah. Their first stop? Jerusalem. Remember, these are Gentiles. Jerusalem is a city for the Jews. These are outsiders.

Take note of the first words from the wise men. “Where is he?” No small talk or “shooting the bull” from the Magi. They have a mission. But to find Jesus, they must acknowledge their ignorance. They don’t have all the answers. Their lack of knowledge, however, will not prevent them from finding the Messiah. No doubt some Jews in Jerusalem gave them the “I smell crap” face. You know the one.

Worship the King? What are you talking about? Who are you? Are you even a Jew? The only king I know is Caesar.

I believe the wise men’s question is one of the most powerful in Scripture. “Where is he?” It’s the first question in the New Testament.

This question flows the heart of God, who relentlessly pursues us. In fact, the first question in the Old Testament is, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Even after Adam and Eve sin, God doesn’t abandon them. God pursues us. Is this not central to Advent? God isn’t content with being “up there,” distant from his creation. He becomes one of us.

“Where is he?” I must find him. I will not rest until I see Jesus. I will risk my reputation, ask hundreds if I must, but I will not stop until someone answers my question. “Where is he?” Where are the Christians with the attitude of these wise men? Where are the men and women who will risk everything – reputation, social status, etc. – to find Jesus?

We must be relentless in our pursuit. We must thirst for Emmanuel’s presence, for Incarnation. We must see our hearts on the brink of dehydration and Jesus as the only source of water. Find Jesus at all costs. Our lives depend on it.

The wise men expend a lot of time and energy seeking Jesus. It would have been easy for them to give up in Jerusalem, especially after seeing the Jews – God’s chosen people – so apathetic about the arrival of their Messiah.

We need this Advent lesson: the path to True Life is paved with perseverance. We live in a culture infected with impatience. We persist in few things. We have no framework for persistence or “stick-to-itiveness.

These wise men, these outsiders, with no backstory or special talents, show us how to seek God.

May we adopt their heart and mind and stop at nothing to find True Life.

Grace and peace, friends.

REFLECT

How can you develop a greater urgency to seek Jesus in your life?

PRAYER

Father, thank you for being a God who draws near. Thank you for pursuing me. I don’t deserve your love or your grace. Give me the heart of the Magi, who stopped at nothing to find True Life. I love you. Amen.

Paint a better picture of God!

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