Monday, January 12, 2015

The Greatest Gifts

Christmas has just passed for this year, and one of my greatest joys of the season is to be present on Christmas morning as my grandchildren tear into their long awaited gifts, full of excitement. Wrapping paper is flying, having been torn to shreds to expose the precious prized possessions it had once hidden. Then, as each gift has been revealed and a brief time of obligated display of appreciation given, it’s on to the revelation of the next gift until the once voluminous supply under the tree has been exhausted. It’s certainly a time of excitement as the event moves on to the next stage which is our grandchildren playing with and otherwise making use of their new things. As the excitement diminishes favorite treasures emerge and other items are set aside. After all there is just so much time with so many new things to experience that, there is naturally an unplanned prioritizing that takes place.

As I reflect after many such Christmases dating back to when my own family was young I have noticed that it is some of these items which are first set aside that later emerge as the most cherished life time treasures. As the children have experience with their new possessions they soon learn to appreciate some more than others.  It is fascinating to me that things that at first are not attractive at first blush become increasingly appealing as time passes and things that are initially very appealing fade in value.

As I continue my reflection on Christmases past, I consider the gifts that God has given to his children when we receive Christ as our Savior and Lord. As babes in Christ we desire the best God has to offer and much as a child during the Christmas season, we make our list of things we most desire from our heavenly Father. And very much like a child at Christmas, we are initially attracted to certain things on which we place high value, and in effect we set other gifts aside.  Usually it is only through a life time of experience do we see the relevance of what proves to be the most essential gifts of God’s grace so freely offered to us. Unlike the child at Christmas who knows a particular gift is there, but has merely set it aside for future consideration, we are often completely unaware of the existence of some of the most precious gifts God has bestowed upon us.

However, it is these gifts so often overlooked by us that are the most essential to our daily walk. Paul’s letters to the believers in Corinth are an interesting study in this. These Christians desired the very visible spectacular gifts that come with great emotion. But Paul warned that God’s gifts are not given merely to build up the individual. Rather, Paul tells the Corinthians, desire the gifts that foster edification in others. In illustration of this, he redirects his readers from the most popular spiritual gifts to a detailed discussion about the gift of love. In his letter to the believers in Galatia, Paul doesn't even mention the popular gifts at all, but encourages believers to evidence the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. This fruit of the Spirit is nothing less than the gifts the Spirit brings to enable us to live our lives effectively. It is a very unfortunate matter that we so often ignore that God has given us these gifts of His grace in our pursuit of other things. Too often do we petition God to give us what we think will make us more successful in our daily walk, when He has already given us these things which we have set aside.

Accordingly, we suffer defeat in our daily walk when we overlook these gifts. Anger, resentment and bitterness overtake us when we fail to trust God for and to walk in His love. Dejection, anguish and depression follow when we fail to walk in God’s joy. Fears overwhelm when we don’t claim His peace. 

And so it continues even into the confines within the walls of our churches, where we see tension and unrest between believers. Why is this so when God has given us the keys for victory rather than defeat? James wrote the equivalent of that very question in James 4:1 which says “From where come wars and fightings among you? come they not from here, even of your lusts that war in your members?” But note here the reason for our failings given. James says it is our lust which is our inner selfish desires which run in contrast to the gifts of grace God gives to us. We will not desire, nor make use of the gifts God gives us for victory as long as our lives center around ourselves rather than our loving Savior. Once again we see the basic truth given in Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”. It is God’s voice that calls to us, “Be still”. It is by surrendering our hearts, our longings and desires to the One who sent His Son to take our sins at Calvary that we can know the stillness He speaks of. And in this stillness we can perceive the gifts of grace He has given to us so that we can experience His presence and His victory.

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