The art world was stunned when on 12 November 2010 a discarded Chinese vase was sold at a small London auctioneers for a world record £43m.
The 18th century vase, made for the Emperor Qianlong, was found by a brother and sister who were clearing out their late uncle’s bungalow. The potential value of the vase was only realised when it was unpacked for sale, alongside old cookers and fridges.
The brother and sister who found the vase were unaware of its value and preciousness. The auctioneer said, ‘They had no idea what they had. They were hopeful, but they didn’t dare believe until the hammer went down’.
Failing to value properly the best things in life applies to most of us. Are Christians also guilty of failing to properly evaluate and appreciate fully the most precious thing in our lives?
From God’s perspective, the most precious thing a Christian possesses is faith. Believers are said to have obtained a like precious faith with the apostles (2 Peter 1:1). This faith is declared to be more precious than gold (1 Peter 1:7).
There are three reasons why God considers faith this precious. Firstly, it is precious because it stands upon the elect and chief cornerstone of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:6). Our faith, based solely upon the person and work of Jesus Christ, is the only firm foundation on which a right standing with God can rest.
No other foundation could support the monstrous load of humanity’s sin, nor bear the weight of God’s wrath, without buckling and breaking. Unless we are grounded on the immovable Rock of Ages, we will fall with a sickening crash when the storms and floods of temptation and trials beat upon our spiritual frame.
Secondly, our faith is precious because it was underwritten and redeemed at the cost of the shedding of Jesus Christ’s precious blood (1 Peter 1:18).
It is relatively easy to understand why somebody might want to pay a fortune for something as rare and beautiful as that Chinese vase. But it is beyond comprehension that God should empty heaven’s ‘bank of grace’ to purchase for himself such unworthy, base and disfigured sinners like us.
We can grasp this, however – that the unfathomable riches we have inherited through the sole merit of Christ’s sacrificial death are sufficient for every spiritual need we will ever have.
Such a faith takes us out of our poverty, darkness and sinfulness and propels us into the sphere of Christ’s riches, light and righteousness. That is why our faith in Christ is so precious.
Thirdly, our faith is precious because it appropriates the exceedingly great promises that God has freely granted to us (2 Peter 1:4). Under the old covenant and the law, God spoke through commandments – legislating all that we should do for him. Under the new covenant and the gospel, however, God speaks through promises – announcing all that he will do for us.
Each and every divine promise in the Bible is for our benefit, and are all ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’ in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). Every gift, blessing and good thing that God has promised in his Word has been purchased by Christ’s blood, and is to be received and embraced by faith. True faith believes that our great promise-giver is also the promise-keeper.
Although we may not always appreciate just how precious our faith in Christ is, Satan never fails to realise its true worth, and this is why he seeks to destroy it. In the upper room Jesus warned Peter that Satan had petitioned for Peter to be given over to severe testing.
The goal of Satan’s testing was the failing of Peter’s faith (Luke 22:31-32). One thing that Satan surely fears is a Christian who stops trusting in himself and other people, and puts his faith only in Christ’s presence, power and promises. The devil hates such faith because it unambiguously gives all the glory to God.
So, in this New Year, let us value our faith in Christ as our most precious possession. Let us keep on looking to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, and let us seek to deepen our faith by meditating on the promises of God’s Word. For, ‘faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of God’ (Romans 10:17).