For Christmas in 1965 my father gave me a compass that came in a silver case much like a pocket watch. A button on the stem caused the cover to open. It had a loop on it to attach a chain or string. My older brother put a brand new leather boot strap through it so I could wear it around my neck. It was quite a special gift.
It was so special in fact that I was not allowed to wear it. For its safe keeping my father decided to keep it in the upper drawer of his dresser. He felt that I could not appreciate it or take care of it, so he just hid it away for me. He protected it from me. So occasionally I would sneak into his bedroom, take it out of the drawer, and put the strap around my neck. I would open the case and think of adventures where I would need to use such a device.
My friends and I had a place we called, “The Hills” near our homes. It was a vacant lot where the city dumped “hills” of old asphalt removed from roads. The interior of these piles hid us from the outside world. We rode our one-speed bicycles over them as if we were on some great adventure through wild mountains. What better place to need a silver compass!
One morning when my father was gone I slipped into his bedroom and took the silver compass from his drawer, and off I headed with my friends on our great Saturday adventure. The silver compass bounced around my neck as we jostled over the hills.
As fate would have it, I was running, holding the silver compass in my hand to keep it from bouncing too much. Suddenly I tripped and fell. My hand snatched the compass from my neck. The silver loop that held the leather strap popped off and fell into the spaces between the chinks of asphalt never to be seen again.
A mixture of shock and shame came over me. I was shocked because I could not believe I had lost that one important part. Shame because I knew that I had disobeyed my father’s wishes. I could not take it back home and let him know that I had damaged the compass. Instead of owning up to my disobedience, I took the compass and the disconnected strap and hid it at my friend’s house. He had an old soap box derby car on blocks in his back yard. I placed the silver compass and leather cord inside it.
Sometime later I went back to retrieve the compass. I reached into the wooden car where my friends had seen me place the silver compass. To my horror, it was not in the car. I never found out what happened to my silver compass.
Some people who believe in salvation by grace have a subtle way of believing that they are responsible for maintaining it by their works. They believe that God gives them a precious gift; and as he places it in their hands, he says, “Now be careful with this. Don’t drop it and break it.” So they walk around very carefully observing where they step so they don’t trip, fall and break their fragile gift of salvation.
In the same way that I could not take care of the silver compass, I cannot take care of my salvation. I received it freely as a gracious gift from God. He did not turn it over to me to take care of it. In fact, Peter says quite the opposite. Whatever is on earth is subject to destruction, decay and ruin. Our inheritance “can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for [us],” (1 Peter 1:4). If it were up to me, I would lose it like my silver compass. If I could lose it, it would be as irretrievable as the silver compass. If the saints fall away, “it is impossible…to be brought back to repentance” (Hebrews 6:4-6) since it would require Christ having to die all over again.
Now we can greatly rejoice even if we suffer. Suffering sometimes causes us to think God has abandoned us. Some teach that it is a time of God’s anger and discipline due to unconfessed sin or a lack of faith. God’s word says it is a purifying element for our faith. Rather than diminishing our faith, as some believe who turn away when they face trials, our trials strengthen our faith. Peter says, “In this [suffering] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Your faith is greater and more valuable than even a golden compass could ever be. It will never spoil, fade or perish. With your imperishable inheritance you will never be lost.