The Pearl of Great Price | John Wimber
written by John Wimber
The Pearl of Great Price
John Wimber on what it means to find the ‘pearl’….
I first met the principle of Christian sacrifice at Gunner Payne’s Bible study, before I became a Christian. I can still remember the night when I first heard the parable of the pearl. My wife, Carol, and Gunner were talking on and on about some issue, and I was sitting there, bored, not really paying attention. Then Gunner read the passage about the Pearl in the Gospel of Matthew and explained how it referred to our need to be willing to sacrifice everything in our lives for the kingdom: “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matt. 13:45-46).
That got my attention.
“Hold on a second!” I interrupted. “Are you saying that to become a Christian somebody might have to give up everything he has?” “Well, what do you think the text means?” Gunner replied. “I’m not sure,” I said. “It sounds like it might mean that. But….” It took me a moment to collect my thoughts. “Well, I know a guy who is a musician. He doesn’t know how to do anything but play music. I mean,this guy can’t even tie his own shoelaces. Are you saying he might have to give up his career in order to become a Christian? How else could he make a living?”
“Your friend will have to work that one out for himself,” Gunner said, knowing of course that we were really talking about me. “But in my opinion, he has to be ready to give up his career, because it’s a possibility.”
After I had this encounter with the Lord about the Pearl and realized I didn’t care much about what God wanted from me, sure enough over the next few weeks God began to help me liquidate my assets.
I prayed, “Okay, Lord, you can have my career,” and it was as though two giant hands came out of heaven and opened my fingers, and a voice said, “Thank you.”
I said goodbye to my music friends and decided to get a regular job. Suddenly I was plunged into the real world, where alarm clocks go off, where people get up and go to work in broad daylight. I had never done this. In a matter of weeks I was working in a factory, clocking in,and learning how to relate to normal people. One day I was assigned to clean some oil drums behind the factory. It was hot, filthy, smelly work. It was the most menial tasks they had, and the reason they had me doing it was that it was about the only thing I could do. I was down inside one of the oil drums when I heard a car drive up.
A familiar voice said, “Where’s John Wimber’s office?” Reluctantly I came out. There stood one of my old partners from the music business. In his hand was a contract I had signed and it was worth a lot of money. In order for him to fulfill it, I had to relinquish my part of it.
He just stood there staring at me. I was a mess. I had grease all over me—my hands, my clothes, my face, and my hair. Finally he said,“What are you doing here?” I looked at him, and then looked at myself, then I looked at him again, then at myself. I could see myself as I must have looked through his eyes. Right at that moment, I didn’t particularly feel as if I had the Pearl. I could not think of a single thing to say. After a long silence I answered him lamely, “God did this to me.” His eyes narrowed with a look of resolve, as if to say, “He’s never going to do that to me.” I felt ashamed.
Obviously what I was doing with my life seemed to be utter foolishness to him. At that moment I could not think of a single persuasive explanation for why God—this God of love, this God that is so great in the Bible, this God that is so nice to so many people—was apparently being so mean to me.
Why had He chosen to treat me this way? As I watched my friend drive away, I realized that sometimes there is no way to explain obedience and sacrifice to God to those who do not see the Pearl. My friend could not see any value at all in the humiliation of my flesh, in God taking me down from a lofty, worldly position and teaching me simple obedience.
Since that day I have found that all through our lives, in our service to God and his people, we will be put in situations where others look at us with disdain because our obedience and sacrifice to God doesn’t make any sense to them. But for those who have found the Pearl, it all makes perfect sense. We know that it is worth everything to follow him, to walk with him, to serve him, to lose our lives for him. It is worth selling everything we own to gain Christ, and be found in him.
John 14:21says, “Whosoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
Obedience deepens our intimacy with Jesus. If we want to know the Father, we must not only love Him, but also obey Him. Scripture is clear that it is important to know the Father through His Word, and if we want to be a part of what the Father is doing and to be able to see where He is moving then it is clear that we must obey His commands. It’s important to not only be biblically literate, but we must also be biblically obedient!
Obedience to Christ shows that we know that He is God, and we are not. It shows we understand that God knows the best for us in all things. When it comes to His direction in our lives, for example, what we need to be careful of is not what could possibly hurt us, or what He has in store for us to accomplish, rather it’s a process of learning to trust and obey what He shows us. True happiness comes from letting God not only be our Savior but also our Lord.
Obedience also releases the blessings of the kingdom. In Mark 10:28-31, Peter says, “We have left everything to follow you!” And Jesus responds by saying, “I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers and sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age,and in the age to come.”