"Guard the Good Treasure Within You"

September 12, 1999 message
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland  USA
based upon  2 Timothy 1:3-14 (v. 13-14)

"Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us." (2 Tim. 1:14 NRSV)... What a "treasure" we have been given! Tell me, can teachers really teach if they do not think about what has been entrusted to them as a "treasure," something of unique value? And those who are called to serve as mentor of a young person, can such a relationship thrive without seeing the "treasure," the precious gem that is there?

As a parent, I often fumble when it comes to seeing the treasure. The middle school years are especially trying in this regard. Our children go through massive changes during this time. The body grows upward, outward, and inward with a speed never again matched. It’s like tectonic plates shifting beneath the earth. Is it any wonder there are quakes on the surface?

It’s not only the anatomy that alters on a mighty scale at this stage. The mind and spirit undergo similar shifts. Once upon a time this child could only see things in concrete ways. Every year at camp, for instance, older youth want to sing songs like "One Tin Soldier," which states:
                "go ahead and hate your neighbor,
                        go ahead and cheat a friend,
                                do it in the name of heaven,
                                         you can justify it in the end."
That’s a literary form called sarcasm. It doesn’t mean that you should go ahead and do those things, but that’s how preteen youngsters hear those words, and that’s why such a song is not appropriate for younger children.

In adolescence, the mind grows at a tremendous rate. It comes to understand even such things as sarcasm, though growing emotions may be able to handle it. This age is like no other in a person’s life. I marvel at those gifted teachers who are able to really capture the imagination of middle schoolers. Like many others who have been involved with youth over the years, I speak of having "done my time" in junior high ministry, thank you. It’s not easy work, especially with an abundance of hormones floating every which way. The best teachers and mentors are those who keep in focus that these young ones are "treasures."

As a parent, I often fumble in this regard. I see my children at some of their worst times, when their guard is down. Home is supposed to be a safe place, after all. I would rather they be at their best out in the world, and they usually are. It’s just not easy to be a parent through it all, is it? That’s one reason I am so thankful for a mentor to be part of their growing process. Not only is it a matter of spreading the web of supports undergirding the development of my child, it also is the means by which I am empowered to again see a glimpse of that "good treasure."

It’s important that we see our young ones are "treasures," isn’t it? After all, they are deposited in our hands for but a season, as a trust. They are not possessions, even though they are "treasures" far more valuable than gold or any precious metal. In fact, that’s a truth every teacher needs to keep in focus, no matter what age persons they teach. That’s true even for those who teach adults, who are growing in different ways than adolescents. Can teachers really teach if they do not think about each student as a "treasure," someone of unique value?

"Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us." (2 Tim. 1:14 NRSV)... What a "treasure" we have been given! Can teachers really teach if they do not think about what has been entrusted to them as a "treasure," something of unique value? And those who are called to serve as mentor of a young person, can such a relationship thrive without seeing the "treasure," the precious gem that is there?

Of course, there is more to this "good treasure" of which Paul wrote. In his second letter to the young man he was mentoring, Paul was not thinking of people when he wrote of "treasure." As important as it is to "treasure" those whose growth is entrusted into our hands, it is just as vital (or more so) that we also see the "treasure" that God has given us in the faith.

There is an adage often heard on the lips of parents. "I just want my child to be happy." It’s not a bad goal, is it - especially after the turmoil of the "earthquake years?" None of us would desire for our children to grow up to lead miserable lives, would we? We don’t want them to be unhappy. But is that enough? What about another corollary to that adage? "I just want my child to have faith." Are we burdened as much by this goal as by the other? The fact that we are here in a place where faith is taken seriously indicates that we at least lean in that direction.

Let me rephrase my earlier questions. Can a teacher really teach without seeing the content of what they are teaching as a "treasure?" Can a mentor be of help through those years of rapid change without "treasuring" that which is at the heart being a brother or sister in Christ ? As I see it, in a Christian context, the best teaching opportunities, the greatest mentoring relationships take place when these two treasures meet, when we balance them together - when we are able to see the tremendous value of the persons we are called to nurture, AND the absolutely awesome worth of the faith of our forbearers which we are called to "pass on."

In this day and age it’s all too easy to be embarrassed by the faith with which we have been entrusted. We don’t talk about it a lot with our co-workers, do we? We don’t want to be pushy people, we say. Sometimes, however, our putting it on the back burner in the everyday world is due less to our desire not to be obnoxious, and due more to our embarrassment over it. We are ashamed to bring it up, either because we don’t consider ourselves all that faith-full, or because we find it uncomfortable to outwardly connect up what we believe with our work-a-day lives. That’s something we reserve for "church."

The only problem is - our embarrassment outside this community of faith filters into our life together inside this fellowship, rather the other way around. Whether outside or inside the church, "God did not give us a spirit of cowardice," the apostle Paul wrote young Timothy, "but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline." (1:7) With this in mind, are we "passing on" to these "treasures" (those whom we teach or mentor) the "treasure" of our faith? ..."Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us."

To guard the good treasure does not mean we grab a rifle and prevent anyone from getting close or, God forbid, touching it. If that is what we believe, then we’d better not raise teenagers in the faith. After all, it’s part of the process of growing up (a process, I might add, that God created in us) to question what we receive from our elders. That’s the only way we come to make this faith our own. Faith needs to be approachable, touchable. We need to be able to bang it around a bit to see if it’s really true. This can’t be done at arms’ length.

Faith is a treasure we put to work. It’s not on display in a museum. That’s how some people view the church by the way - as a museum of antiquated ideas and practices... The truth is - we’re not dealing in antiques. This faith is a treasure that is like a deposit made in a bank. It doesn’t just sit there. It’s used to power our economy. Remember the parable Jesus told about the talents, where the man who buried his master’s money was chastised for hiding and not using what he was entrusted with? Faith is a treasure we put to work.

This treasure isn’t merely a list of beliefs that, if we say (on a regular basis) that we believe them, this act makes us a holy people. No! Instead, this treasure is a living relationship with a living God. A teacher or a mentor guards the good treasure by having living relationships - a living relationship with God, as well as a living relationship with those "treasures" whom God entrusts into their hands.

Mind you, there is also a need to be careful, to protect, to defend this treasure with which we have been entrusted. In this day and age, do we need to be reminded about making sure our relationships with one another are right? We guard against the possibility of abuse. Does it help to think of those we teach or mentor as God’s treasure, persons the Almighty has entrusted into our hands, persons whom God is watching over? What do you think? This thought applies as well to the treasure of faith which has been passed on to us. We want our relationship with God to be right, also. We desire it to be "sincere," like Paul said of Timothy’s faith, just like his grandmother Lois’ faith, just like his mother Eunice’s faith - an authentic faith.

A sincere, authentic faith is one that lives out grace and love. A sincere faith is one that faces today knowing that, even though things can get rough, Christ has already defeated our worst enemy - whatever name we give it: sin, death, Satan. A sincere faith faces tomorrow knowing that there is one, that the cross led to an empty tomb, and that this resurrection is not just a past event but also a future promise. A sincere faith lives knowing that we have been saved with a purpose, and that God’s designs are still being quilted into the fabric of human history and one day this tapestry will be complete.

"I know the one in whom I have placed my trust," Paul wrote, "and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him." (v.12) Because this is a living relationship, we are not the only ones at work here, we’re not the only ones guarding the treasure, whether it be the awesome deposit of faith we’ve been given, or those persons whom God has drawn us to and whom we come to see as precious. God "guards" the faith and the faithful.

In fact, the only way we can truly "guard the good treasure entrusted to" us is, as Paul wrote, "with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us." That’s God’s very presence in and among us. God is with us in every classroom. God is with us in our relationships. God is an active part of this "passing on" of the faith from one person to the next, from one generation to the next. With this Spirit of God in mind and heart, let encourage you one final time."Guard the good treasure entrusted to you."

1999Peter L. Haynes

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