Our Heart’s Treasures
The second chamber of our leadership heart pertains to our treasures. This chamber pulsates in rhythm with the previous one, our thoughts. Jesus, in the process of sculpting the heart of His disciples, said: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). Our hearts follow our treasures.
What exactly are treasures of the heart? A treasure is what we highly value. It is what we define as having great worth. It is what we pursue by virtue of declaration of its value. For example, what is the value of a $100 bill? The actual paper is worth pennies at best. The ultimate worth of the bill is determined by the declaration of the United State Treasury Department. Apart from their declaration, the worth of a $100 dollar bill is not worth any more than the paper upon which it is printed.
Treasures are ultimately a matter of worship, what we declare to have great value. Our treasures fuel the passions of our ministry because they are things that we declare to be worthy of our devotion. Our ministry leadership is never anything more and never anything less than what we treasure.
Worship is all about worth. We say that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. That is the essential premise of yard sales. Items are placed in front yards and passing vehicles dramatically swerve off the road to purchase what the buyer sees as treasure. The seller no longer treasures the item but instead treasures a cleaner basement. It is an issue of what we determine to be of value or worth.
The treasures of the heart are the things that we believe to be of great value and worthy of obtaining or pursuing. Treasures are what or whom we are willing to expend our lives to obtain. Treasures fuel our motivations and passions. We live for them and in the end we die for them.
Our Savior defines the dynamics of treasures in Matthew 12:35:
The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.
This proposition is profoundly simple yet pervasively influential upon our leadership. The context of this verse informs us that bad treasure will produce bad fruit. Good treasure will produce good fruit. It is a defining cause and effect relationship.
This elevates to the forefront an appeal to give biblical, Spirit-led, and honest thought to the treasures we have as leaders. It is a call to address the concern of how we are processing our leadership. What are the great treasures within our leadership circumstances that we have deemed to have compelling worth? Are our treasures in harmony with what is most precious and valuable to our Lord? Have we come to face the stark reality that it is possible to carry out apparently godly ministry in a process infected with sinfully bad treasure?
I will never forget my study in Philippians and for the first time carefully exegeting Philippians 2:17:
Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.
Like a bolt of lightning, the Word of God struck my heart. Paul viewed himself as a drink offering in the tradition of Leviticus 23. During the ceremonial offering of burnt sacrifice of an animal, the ritual was completed by pouring wine upon the simmering coals and carcass. This resulted in a puff of steam-like vapor rising upward. In executing his ministry, Paul joyfully poured forth his life on the simmering sacrifice of the Philippians’ faith. The vapor of
his life-offering rose upward in worship to his beloved Christ. It was Paul treasuring the immeasurable and inexhaustible worth of Christ along with the souls of the church.
God has made us worshipping image bearers. We will worship and treasure. At issue is the question of who or what will we worship? In our fallenness we are inclined to find treasure in the creation rather than the crucified Christ and the lives of people. We seek comfort, hope, joy, capacity, and purpose in the illusive treasures of the wilderness of this life. What we assess to be of worth is what we place on the altar of our heart and treasure. What we place on that altar is what we expect to bring us joy and a sense of well-being in our leadership. For Paul, the treasures of his heart were the glory of God and the souls of men and women, the treasure of bringing glory to the risen Christ and blessing to the Philippian church. It was worship.
Treasures & Affections
Treasures of the heart are not only a matter of worth but also a matter of our affections. Worth and affection are two sides of the same coin. Worship does not end in a mere cognitive declaration of value. It goes further into the matter of affection. What we define as having worth also fires the affections of the heart.
As Paul understood his ministry to be a drink offering poured upon hot coals and rising as a puff of vapor, he concluded with the statement of affection: “I am glad and rejoice.” Those words of affection come from his love for the brethren in Philippi and for the Savior who entrusted him with such a high and holy ministry. Think of the idea of affections along with synonymous words such as endearment and devotion. It was the sweet and savory taste of the worthiness of Christ that warmed Paul’s soul and brought about an endearment for the Bride of Christ.
Throughout the epistle of Philippians there are several expressions of affection for Christ that motivated Paul’s ministry leadership.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. (ESV, Philippians 3:8)
That is a compelling statement of worth and affection. “More love to Thee O Christ, more love to Thee” is the song of a leader’s heart throbbing with the good and precious treasure of the High King of heaven.
What brings us joy in our leadership? What throbs in our hearts as we stand in the pulpit before His sheep with broken hearts? Why are we doing what we do in ministry? Has our gaze dropped to pursue personal honor and respect—bad treasures that in the end bring a harvest of discouragement, disillusionment, depression, burn out, hopelessness, anger, frustration and hopelessness?
A number of years ago my beloved mother entered the presence of her Savior. Watching her diminish in physical stamina was painful as she battled cancer. As the she entered what would be the final weeks of life the doctors were doing all they could to honor and preserve her life. Eventually the Lord took her into His presence. In over 38 years of ministry leadership I have come face to face with the realities of unbiblical thoughts and I’ve tasted the heartache of unbiblical understandings. In a time of brokenness God introduced me to my thoughts, my treasures and myself as He saw them and not as I thought them to be.
How we think and what we treasure during the disappointments and joys, trials and triumphs, sufferings and celebrations, failures and victories, criticisms and affirmations of ministry are important to God. We must be continually reminded that we are in spiritual war and ground zero is the heart of a leader. It is essential that we embrace the truth of God’s sanctifying purposes as dialysis for infectious sinful thoughts and treasures that circulate through our heart. God’s desire is to renew and purify our minds.
Our personal sanctification is never apart from our ministry, but rather it is a part of our ministry. We are to be immersed in the process of growing in holiness as much, if not more so, than any of those we lead. Yet we neglect this truth at great cost to us personally and to those we lead. Every circumstance and every personal interaction is a chisel in the hand of our loving Father, used to sculpt our heart to embrace His thoughts and His treasures.
In His precious providence, God relentlessly and lovingly embraces us and uses the chisel of His Word to renew and purify our thoughts and our treasures. Heed the admonition of Paul to his son in the faith Timothy:
Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1Timothy 4:15-16)
Paul’s directive to Timothy is to immerse himself in the Word and give careful consideration to his thoughts and treasures in order to grow in holiness, having the mind of Christ.
My brothers, God is your greatest source of power in the midst of the struggles you encounter in your ministry. The cross of Jesus assures us of hope. By the admonition of other brothers in Christ, I preach the gospel to myself. I ruminate and meditate on my position in Christ. Christ has met every condition needed for me to stand before my God as a beloved son who He has immersed in a lifelong process of biblical dialysis, growing and changing at the level of my heart.
While much of our training and preparation for ministry has an emphasis on leadership, God’s heart is set upon the leader. God’s work is personal and intimate. Indeed being skillful with our hands is important. Nevertheless, God has chosen to use frail men and in doing so He places His loving personal attention on a work of the heart and the spiritual processes of ministry. His heart seeks to bring every thought and treasure captive to the mind of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-6).
Through His Word, by His Spirit, and with Christ as the template, God works to dismantle every unbiblical thought that argues against His counsel so that in the end we will have the thoughts of Christ. God works to dismantle any and every treasure that is exalted above the glorious knowledge of Himself.
I savor the truth expressed by Milton Vincent in his excellent book the The Gospel Primer when he writes:
The gospel encourages me to rest in the righteous standing with God, a standing which Christ Himself has accomplished and always maintains for me. I never have to do a moment’s labor to gain or maintain my justified status before God! Freed from the burden of such a task, I now can put my energies into enjoying God, pursuing holiness, and ministering God’s amazing grace to others. (p. 20)
We need to give humble and biblical consideration to how we process our leadership by thinking about our thoughts and treasures. May the Spirit of God through the Word of God enable you to give serious thought to your thoughts and thought to your treasures. In so doing, you will embark on a process of allowing God to sculpt your mind into the template of the Savior.