My parents received a phone call from their friends who had just returned from Greece: they had purchased a gift for me and were eager to bring it over. I was a toddler at the time and waited in anticipation for their arrival. As the story goes, I was so excited to receive their gift that when they gave me a t-shirt, I threw it down and ran off in utter disappointment!
I’m sure we all have responded in a similar manner when we were younger or have seen children who, in their lack of appreciation, have expressed sheer disappointment over a gift. This is something that for the most part we outgrow, at least in our outer expression of gratitude. But when it comes to gifts given to us by our Heavenly Father, it is quite possible for us to throw tantrums, especially when the “gifts” don’t come in the nicely wrapped packages that we were hoping for or expecting.
We know that every good and perfect gift comes from the Father (James 1:17). He has given us the gift of His Son (John 3:16), the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), the gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8), the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23), gifts in order to serve Him (Romans 12:6), and gifts in order to serve others (1 Peter 4:10). These are enough to cause us to praise and thank Him forever and ever!
Recently, on October 31st, we celebrated the anniversary of the Reformation: when Martin Luther, a young monk, was encouraged to look at the cross. Although he desperately wanted to love and please God, he believed that his salvation was a result of his good works. He lived in fear of the wrath of God despite his time spent in prayer, fasting, going without sleep, and more, all in attempts to gain his salvation. But in reading the book of Romans and specifically learning that the just shall live by faith, he realized that his righteousness was a gift from God through Jesus Christ. Indeed, Christ is the greatest gift we could receive along with the salvation that He alone can offer.
Yet there’s another kind of gift, one that may cause a reaction like a toddler who just received a t-shirt instead of a toy, the kind that we may not consider a gift at all: trials. James tells us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (1:2-4).” One person put it this way: consider trials and challenges a GIFT. Why? Because through them not only do we mature and grow in our faith, but we are given the gift of knowing the Lord more deeply and experiencing His grace and faithfulness more fully. When we view life through the eyes and heart of God, we can see that not every gift is nice and neat and tied with a shiny bow. Indeed, some gifts are messy and unwanted, just a simple “Greece t-shirt” in the hands of a selfish, greedy toddler: rejected and tossed aside out of utter disappointment.
As we are bombarded with “gift buying guides,” mailers, and emails in anticipation of celebrating the greatest Gift ever given, let us ask the Lord to grant us a heart of gratitude and wonder for ALL the gifts He has given and continues to give, namely the gift of His Son and the salvation that He freely offers. Let us also ask Him to strip us of our worldly mentality and categorization of what a good gift should look like so that we don’t mistakingly toss it aside and reject that which He means for our good and growth. Might we see beyond the wrappings so that we can discern how a challenge, trial, or disappointment could actually be a gift that allows us to know His heart more, grow in Him, and as a result, be changed. He truly is the giver of all good gifts, even the ones that, in our limited understanding, we don’t initially recognize as good.
As always, we invite you to the Women’s Bible Study where we can grow in Him together. Please note that the last study of this session is Tuesday, November 13th (10 am and 7pm). We will resume the Gospel of Luke study, “He Cares,” in January. Please plan on attending the Women’s Ministry Christmas event, “A Joy Inexpressible,” on Friday, December 7 at 7pm, for a special time together!
God bless you,
(on behalf of Karen Pulley and the Women’s Ministry)