The Giver, not the Gift
It’s the Giver, not so much the gift.
From the pages of Scripture, God calls us to, “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) What is God’s will for your live? To live a life of joy, prayer, and thankfulness.
The object of our thankfulness reveals much. The author of Hebrews exhorts, “Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” (Hebrews 12:28) Considering Jesus, we ought to be thankful for things eternal. We ought to be thankful for the Church, Heaven, God Himself, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant. (Hebrews 12:22-24)
It’s the Giver, not the gift.
We like the gift.
Last summer I inherited a cherry, ’89 Ford F-150. My wife’s grandfather bought it new and drove it around his little West Virginia town where he served as the town barber for fifty years. He drove it on fly-fishing excursions and after he passed several years ago, unbeknownst to me, my father-in-law had it restored, had a new engine installed, and drove it down to me. I was overcome with gratitude. I become a boss when I slide behind the wheel. Everywhere I go, it turns heads, catches eyes.
I should be thankful for this wonderful, uh, blessing. We thank God for our food before consuming a meal, and we should. We thank God for health, our families, our jobs, and we should.
But I hesitate to even use the word blessing, so twisted and perverted has it become.
To be clear, in sovereignty, all things come from God. I have a ’89 Ford F-150 because God decided that I should. I had my dinner tonight at the provision of God. My health, my job, my family: all come from God.
And we should be thankful for these things, these gifts, but…
The Gift is Transient, Fading
Twenty-three years ago, my father bought me an ’89 Harley Davidson Sportster 1200. It was a sweet ride, two-tone blue and grey. I quickly lowered the rear and installed a set of wicked drag pipes to ensure everyone knew I was coming and that it was appropriate to look at me.
On it, I became a rebel, a free spirit, an outlaw biker though the extent of my scoffing of the law probably involved driving a little more aggressive than I should have. I mean, I didn’t actually want to get in trouble, but my leather jacket and illegal, non-DOT-approved skull cap certainly generated an appropriate appearance. But, I loved my scooter, this gift from my father.
Today, it is no more. It exists only as a well-worn memory.
The gift always fades; it diminishes.
John assures us of the transient nature of all things. “And the world is passing away along with its desires.” (1 John 2:17) Isaiah affirms that, “The grass withers, the flowers fade.” (Isaiah 40:8) James confirms that our very lives are as a vapor, here today, gone tomorrow. (James 4:14)
In the end, all things will perish. One day in the not-too-distant future, Christ will return, bodily and in power, and He will set all things right. There will be a Resurrection and a Judgement, and all things will perish in the fire, the heavens and the earth. And there will be a new heaven and a new earth as Jesus sets all things right, for good. (Hebrews 12:25-27)
Nothing will last.
My cherry pickup will one day be a pile of rust. I may never have another meal after this one. I may rise to death tomorrow or the Lord may see fit to remove my family. Yes, we should be thankful for all these things, but we should understand a bitter truth learned by Job so long ago. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. (Job 1:21)
I Merit no Gift
Back to the blessings. I sometimes cringe when I hear people refer to the gifts given to us as blessings.
Yes, the Lord blesses us when He gives to us, but the failure occurs when we attach these blessings to merit.
Tyler Perry stood before T.D. Jakes’ congregation at The Potter’s House to inform them of his intent to donate $1 million. He was a giver, he informed the audience, and had been his whole life. “You see, when you have favor with…come on somebody,” as Perry pointed heavenward…as if man could earn or merit the favor of God.
Be not mistaken. God calls the believer to bear fruit, to live a life of holiness, purity, and obedience to Him. Yet, these works, done in the will of God, conformed to Christ, empowered of the Holy Spirit, though pleasing to God, merit no favor or special consideration.
I wonder, on what basis a man like Tyler Perry thinks his favor with God is based.
Is that why he has so much wealth, why God has chosen to bless him?
I wonder about the Christians in Africa slaughtered at the hand of Al Shabab. Where is their favor? Why didn’t they earn it? What did they do wrong? What about the martyrs, the countless number who’ve perished, often violently, at the hand of man purely because their faith? Did they merit no favor? Even the Apostles, the foundation of the Church—why did God’s favor not keep them from a martyrs’ death…well, maybe John merited favor as the sole Apostle not martyred on behalf of Christ.
God blesses, but He does so as He sees fit and not based upon any thing that we may have earned. This type of thinking inevitably leads to stratification based upon possession and inevitably a works-based salvation, both anathema to the word of God.
The True Gift
My two-year old son loves me, at least at first, because of what I give to him just like I loved my parents for what they gave to me, like a motorcycle. At some point though, a change occurs, a transition happens.
Though I am still thankful for all that my parents gave to me, I’m ever more thankful just that they are my parents. I pray that my son would feel the same at some point.
The true gift is the Giver, an unperishable, unshakeable, immoveable gift. I love the other gifts and cherish His blessings and thank Him for them daily, but with an understanding of an eternal truth.
It’s the Giver, not the gift.
My heavenly Father is the greatest reason I must be thankful this day. The Giver is the greatest gift I could ever have. My adoption as a son, my status as a sinner justified by His grace alone, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the anticipation of one day hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)
Let us be thankful this day for what matters most.
Author - Founder
Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).
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