I just love a good game of hide and seek.
I think most everyone does. I remember playing as a kid with my brothers, each of us looking for the sneakiest spots in our house. We Woods are competitive people – even with a game like hide and seek – so I’d contort myself to fit in a bookcase cabinet or hold my breath to hide under a pile of laundry, all the while delighting in how hard it was going to be for Julian and Warren to find me.
But that’s the kind of funny thing about hide and seek. I first heard the author Mike Yaconelli point this out, and I think he’s right: while the goal is to hide and not be found, everyone actually wants to be found. I did. If I stayed hidden for too long, I’d start to worry that my spot was too good, that my brothers would never find me – or worse, that they had given up and were off playing video games without me.
It’s no fun to never be found.
So hear the good news, friends: the kingdom of heaven is like a game of hide and seek that went on for hours, but the seeker never gave up – and when the hider was found, everyone celebrated.
Well, that’s not exactly the word picture Jesus gives. (Remember last week, we talked about how Jesus explains the kingdom of heaven in word pictures, parables, that give us an idea of what we’re supposed to help God build?) The word pictures Jesus uses are:
- The kingdom of heaven is like a man who discovered buried treasure in a field… so he sold everything he had in order to buy that field and get the treasure.
- The kingdom of heaven is like a jeweler who sought after the rarest, best pearl… and when she found it, she sold all he had so he could afford it.
In God’s ideal world – the one Jesus ushered in, the one we’re working to build now, and the one God will finish later – that ideal “kingdom of heaven” is a place where the lost are found – even if it costs everything.
And sometimes it does. Sometimes it costs everything to be found.
It cost God everything. Jesus said that there’s no greater love than to die for your friends (John 15:13) – but did we even need Jesus to tell us that? To give your life for someone else, that’s literally the limit of what you can give. Like the merchant selling everything to buy the pearl, like the treasure-finder selling everything to buy the field, God gave an only Son and Jesus gave his whole life to buy… us. To not just pay the price for our sins, but to show the incredible, almost inconceivable love that God has for us, to prove just how all-encompassing God’s love is for us.
God has sold it all in order to have us.
But we have a habit of continuing to hide. God finds us, peeks into our hiding place – but we turn the other way. We stay covered like God can’t see us, like ostriches with their heads in the sand.
Why is that, I wonder?
Sometimes we feel unworthy of being found. It’s like we don’t know that God has given everything – everything – to destroy anything we might hide behind. We’re convinced that we can’t afford to pay for God’s acceptance – which, of course, we can’t. But God can.
Other times we’re waiting for someone else to find us, or something else. We want to be found by success, or romance, or beauty, or money, or status symbols, or Friday night, or Instagram-worthy adventures. We know God is out there, but we keep waiting for these other things like a love-sick teenager watching the phone for notifications.
Maybe, for most of us, we stay hidden from God for some combination of these two things: we feel unworthy and we want to be found by things that aren’t God.
Or maybe we just don’t want to do what it takes to come out of hiding.
Right after telling us that the kingdom of heaven is like finding treasure or a pearl, Jesus say this:
The kingdom of heaven is like a net full of fish…
…that’s eventually sorted out, keeping the good and throwing away the bad.
I don’t like this word picture. I actually seriously contemplated cutting today’s Scripture short, leaving this part out. It doesn’t seem to fit with the other two. The kingdom of heaven is like being the lost being found… and then it’s like fish being caught and the bad thrown into a weeping and gnashing of teeth situation? What does one even have to do with the other?
But then I kept thinking about how, with the treasure and the pearl, someone gave everything to have what was most important. Just like God gave everything for us.
And it occurred to me that in order to come out of hiding and into God’s light, we have to give the same thing: everything.
Later, in Matthew 19, a rich young man will ask Jesus what he has to give in order to inherit eternal life. And what does Jesus tell him? “Everything.”
That’s insane. It also makes my job as a preacher pretty difficult. Who would give everything? “Everything” means “everything,” after all: money, pride, control, laziness, caring about myself more than others, security, the habits I think I can’t live without, the people I think I can’t live without… everything. No wonder we stay hidden from God! If coming out of hiding means laying my whole precious life on God’s altar – why in the world would anyone do that?
We’d only do it if it was absolutely necessary.
Like life-and-death, “weeping and gnashing of teeth” necessary.
So, while I’d rather skip this word-picture about a net full of good and bad fish… we need it. We need it to remind us that giving everything to come out of hiding is worth it. We need it to remember that staying hidden only leads to death… and if we want to come out of hiding, “everything” is the only way out. “Everything” means we’re not trying to hide anything anymore. “Everything” means we’re letting God have the ultimate say-so in all aspects of our life. “Everything” means we don’t try to possess anything, which allows us to share freely with others in the way that sets us free and preps us to invest more in the kingdom of heaven than in ourselves.
If you’ve already tried telling yourself that God loves you and forgives you, and it hasn’t worked… If you’ve tried to resist all those other ways of being “found” that aren’t God, but you know you’re still hiding… maybe all you’re missing now is… everything.
Would you like to step out of your hiding place?
If so, I invite you to stand up – stand as though you’ve been hiding in some dark corner for too long. Maybe even stretch a little bit. Stand tall and unhidden and pray with me:
God who created me:
I know you’ve been looking for me.
I know you gave everything to find me, to have me.
I’m sorry I’ve been hiding.
But I’m so glad you didn’t give up on me.
I want to be found by you, claimed by you.
I don’t want to hold anything back.
So I give you everything:
I give you all I have and all I am.
I give you the life that you once gave me.
Help me, every day, to give a little more of myself to you.
Today, I choose to put my hand in yours… and be found.
Friends, that – that – is what the kingdom of heaven is like. It’s the pure joy of being truly found.
It’s God’s greatest joy.
And sharing that joy is a big part of how we build the kingdom of heaven.
In youth group, we played a teenage variation on hide-and-seek. It’s called “Sardines.” We’d gather in the Fellowship Hall and designate one person the hider. That person would scurry off to find a spot; the only restrictions were to not leave the building and to stay out of the Sanctuary (we learned the hard way that we needed that second rule). Instead of counting to 10, or even 100, our youth director would give the hider a full 5 minute head start. And then, when we got the green light, we’d run – scatter to all the corners of our 100-year-old church building to see who could find the hider.
But here’s the twist with Sardines: once you find the hider, the game isn’t over; you hide with them. As does the next person. And the next person. After a while, we become a ridiculous pile of giggling teenagers. The more of us there are, the easier it is for us to be found. As the game runs down and there’s just one person left, the anticipation builds – partly out of discomfort, but partly out of the natural human desire to be found, we can’t wait for that last person to stumble upon the 20 of us crammed into a dark corner of the first grade Sunday School room. And when they do, when we’re finally all found, we erupt into a spontaneous celebration, swapping the war stories of how we all figured out where to go.
If the kingdom of heaven is like hide and seek, then the kingdom of heaven is like that – a game like Sardines, where the great desire is for everyone to be found.
So as you give everything to God in an effort to come out of your own hiding place… remember to do it in a way that spreads the good news. Let your joy be contagious. Let your life be an inspiration. Let your possessions be shared with others. Let your journey with Christ be an open invitation for anyone and everyone to journey with you.
May you give everything to God… so that everyone might be found.