We Don’t Know What We Have

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21)

It’s one of those stories that gets told over and over again. The struggling artist using a recycled canvas discovers a previously unknown Picasso beneath the wrap. A grieving son, tasked with the somber responsibility of cleaning out his late parents’ house, uncovers a cache of priceless antiques collecting dust in the attic. The homeless woman rummaging in the dumpster for a scrap of food finds a winning lottery ticket.

There are many versions of this story that keep me perusing thrift stores and tag sales. Who knows what treasures I might find? A few years ago, my wife and I got to watch this story came true for a friend of ours. She was casually looking for books at a secondhand store, hoping to find something her grandchildren might enjoy. From one of the cluttered shelves, she picked up the rarest of rare Harry Potter books—a British, first edition, first printing of the first book in the series, in good condition. Though our friend didn’t know it at the time, that book is worth tens of thousands of dollars. With her senior discount, she paid $1.30 for it.

I often think about that book’s journey. More than twenty years ago, someone must have bought it at a shop in London to read on the train or give as a gift. Back then, Harry was an unknown wizard, and the book was just another cheap hardcover that could be purchased for several pounds. Over the course of a couple decades, perhaps the book changed hands a few times. Maybe Harry got acquainted with Mr. Tumnus and Frodo Baggins after the book was placed between The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings in some fantasy lover’s collection. At some point, however, the book made its way across the pond to America. This rare edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ended up on a bargain rack in rural Georgia.

No one who owned the book during its twenty years of travel knew what they had. And so, the book was likely tossed into backpacks and left unguarded on bedside tables—just a well-loved novel for children. Oh, but had they known what it really was, how it could have changed their lives!

As I said, it’s one of those stories that gets told over and over again. But it’s not really about some valuable book. It’s a parable of the gospel. Too many Christians live with the most precious gift but act as if it were merely a trifle. They live as though the gospel were only an event in the past—Jesus’ death on a cross and His resurrection to new life. Granted, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are indeed the most important days in history, but they are also the center hinge on which everything else turns. Or perhaps some believers connect the gospel to that day they bowed their head and accepted the salvation Jesus offers. Either way, they’ve moved on. The gospel, as far as they can tell, makes little difference in their life today. They don’t know what they have.

Because of the gospel, we have been welcomed into the royal family. Because of the gospel, we can escape the muck and mire of sin. Because of the gospel, the power of evil has been defeated. Because of the gospel, broken relationships don’t have to stay that way. Because of the gospel, God is making all things new. Because of the gospel, we of all people have real hope.

No matter what life throws our way, we have the assurance that God is weaving together the greatest ending to our story. The final, everlasting chapter will be “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). And in the here and now, we have that new life already bursting within us. Just listen to these words Jesus prayed: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). This “eternal life” begins the moment we come to know Christ. It means that everything broken in this world is being made whole, including you and me. And it means we now have the victory Jesus secured. I realize that our everyday lives don’t always feel triumphant. But that’s because, all too often, we don’t know what we have.

The Ascent: A Devotional Adventure through the Book of Psalms releases August 2, but you can preorder it today.

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