Jesus is the pearl of my life!
Jesus is the pearl of my life!

The Kingdom of Heaven

by Rev. Susan McKeithen

With our recent move to PA, we had to go through all our belongings, and we looked through old photos and were reminded of places we’d been. Our first career job after marrying was in Hong Kong. The verse in Matthew 13:45 popped out of the Bible pages to me this week.

“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.”

I remembered the pearl market in Hong Kong where the whole street was dedicated to selling pearls. Stand after stand, store after store, sold only pearls. Let me tell you a little about pearls. Most freshwater pearls come from China. The perfect pearl is to be round and smooth. The highest quality of natural pearls are considered precious stones and have been thought of as beautiful for centuries. A pearl is even used as a metaphor for something rare and valuable.

Natural pearls are formed by a rare process in a mollusk. When looking at an oyster, mussel, or clam, there is no way to know if there is a pearl inside. You have to open each mollusk to see what is inside. Most pearls are made by oysters. The pearl is formed by a biological process in the oyster as it protects itself from foreign substances. Natural pearls are extremely rare. Only 1 in 10,000 wild oysters contain a pearl.

Let me repeat Matthew 13:45, “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.”

Let’s think on “the kingdom of heaven” for a bit. Jesus preached about the kingdom of heaven, and we find his teachings on the subject in the Gospel of Matthew. It is a process whereby God begins to rule and act as Lord and King in the world of humans. We read in the Psalms about God being the King of all the earth. Psalm 47:2 and 8 state, “For God is the King of all the earth…God reigns over the nations.”

In contrast, 2 Corinthians 4:4 talks about Satan as the god of this world who blinds unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the book of Revelation, we see Jesus is “the King of kings and Lord of lords” who defeats Satan and his hold on people who are considered dead spiritually in their sin because of believing Satan’s lies.

Let’s talk about seeking, looking for, and searching for God. Matthew 6:33 talks about the search for God. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” We heard in Matthew 13:45 that the merchant was looking and searching for a fine pearl. I’d like to share with you my search for God.

When I was 18, I told my parents I didn’t want to go to church anymore. I did not find meaning there. I did not see people loving and serving God there. I saw religion but no evident difference from people who went to church, from those who didn’t go to church. Church was not making a difference in my life.

My Dad told me that I needed to find God and to go to other churches to search for Him. That started my search. In remembering my search for God 47 years ago, I identify with the merchant looking for fine pearls.

I had been brought up Catholic, but didn’t make a connection with God there. I visited the Presbyterian church in my search for God but did not find Him there. I visited a Jewish synagogue and didn’t find God for myself there.

Then, I visited a Baptist church. There I heard the Good news of Jesus Christ, and in a call to accept Jesus, I raised my hand to accept Jesus as my Savior. But after the service, they asked all those who raised their hands to come to another room. I got scared and didn’t go to the other room. I exited to the parking lot, and no one ever followed up with me. That decision to accept Christ never took root. I didn’t understand what I had done by raising my hand.

Then, life got busy as I prepared to transfer to a different university to study music, and my search for God ended. But God’s search for me didn’t stop. Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save which was lost.”

I was spiritually a lost person waiting to be found.

1 John 4:9-10 says, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

I didn’t know or love Him, but He loved me, and He came seeking me and drawing me to Himself. The Bible says in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them...”

God had a plan there at that next University. Very soon after arriving at Peabody Conservatory of Music, I was invited to a student-led Bible study and Christian fellowship.

I turned down the invitation to attend, but a piano major named Lori invited me four weeks in a row. She didn’t give up on me. By the fourth invitation, I said yes, I’d attend. That Friday night, in a borrowed space of a huge, United Methodist Cathedral in downtown Baltimore, my eyes were opened to the Gospel, and my heart again was drawn to Christ, and I believed. After much follow-up from the student group, I understood the great value of the salvation I was offered through Jesus Christ. The kingdom of heaven that was likened to the merchant looking for fine pearls, came to my life.

And I gave everything I had to obtain it, even giving God my music career. I had been accepted by the best classical guitar pedagogue in the country, the first woman he ever accepted as a student, but I gave my plans over to God, because Christ was so much more valuable. I found out later that few find Him, just like the merchant looking to find fine pearls.

Matthew 7:13-14 says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

I am grateful that I found Jesus and that He searched for me until I was found by Him. If there is someone listening to this devotional that has not found God for themselves yet, continue your search until you find Him. The kingdom of heaven is intended for us, in the here and now. I said earlier, that the kingdom of heaven is the process whereby God begins to govern and act as Lord and King in the world of humans. These 47-year experience of having Jesus as my Lord and King is the most valuable possession I own. And I highly recommend Him! Jesus is the pearl of my life.

— Rev. Susan McKeithen serves as Executive Assistant to the President at Nazarene Bible College.

Published: 04/05/2024

Current News