Your Own Backyard

By: Jim O'Brien 

Hi Friend,

What is it about man that makes him think the grass is always greener someplace else? We often undervalue what we have, the things closest to us, and overvalue what's distant. It's surprising when grandma's discarded closet scraps are sold under the auctioneer's gavel as priceless heirlooms.

In the early days of Jesus' ministry, Philip invited his friend Nathanael to meet Jesus of Nazareth. "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked." (John 1:46) Imagine, he was ready to reject the savior of the world because he knew nothing good could come from a small town just down the road.

In the 1800's an African farmer became intrigued that people were getting rich by mining diamonds. He sold his farm and set out in search of the precious gem. He never found the illusive prize, but eventually lost everything and drowned in despair.

But the story doesn't end there. The man who bought his farm was crossing a creek one day when he was attracted by the reflection of a large crystal rock. He picked the stone out of the water and took it to the house where it found a home on the fireplace mantle. A few weeks later a friend was visiting and noticed the rock. Holding it in his hand he was astounded. "Do you know what this is?" he asked his host. He was holding one of the largest diamonds ever found. The host was surprised. "The creek bed is covered with them," he said.

The farm the first farmer had sold to go search for diamonds became Kimberly Diamond Farm, the most profitable diamond ranch in Africa. He had owned, free and clear, the largest reservoir of diamonds on the whole continent of Africa. But he had sold it for pennies in order to go search for diamonds.

It's a story that resonates deep within most of us. The universal connection is such that it became a sermon in the late 1800's by lawyer/minister Russell Herman Conwell. He received so many requests for the sermon that he traveled around the world delivering the same speech over 5,000 times. The honorariums from speaking eventually amounted to enough to found Temple University.

It is the curse of man to not value the priceless treasure in his hand while chasing an illusion in distant lands. Americans have lived in a predominantly Christian country where churches exist in every community. Yet America has undervalued Christianity, the pearl of great price while tolerating violent religions.

When God formed Israel as a nation, He gave them a system of justice that has never been equaled. And He told them that the laws would not be difficult or onerous. Nor would they have to search the continent to find them-or Him. "Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, 'Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?' Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, 'Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?' No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it." (Deut. 30:11-14)

That is an astounding promise-and it is a promise from the Giver of Life. How refreshing! It's that close.

The problem for most of us is we haven't looked. Like Nathanael, we automatically discount what's right under our nose. It's always somewhere else. We want to do a great work in another town or neighborhood. The grass is greener there. There are diamonds to be mined in another part of the world. It sounds impressive to go to a distant land. Truth is-there is work to do where I am.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien

Pastor, Church of God Cincinnati

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