Everything Is a Gift
I watched a film recently that began with the quote: “Everything is a gift from the universe.” Non-believers can grasp at straws when it comes to acknowledging higher powers, but as Christians, we know God through a relationship with Jesus Christ. So when that quote was lingering in my mind long after the movie was over, I got to thinking about God as the ultimate gift-giver and how different those gifts look when we know what they are and where they came from.
We commonly think of gifts when it comes to birthdays and special occasions. If we were to make a list, it might include the car in the driveway with the giant red bow on it, the diamond tennis bracelet, or even a greeting card full of cash. Who doesn’t like a tangible display of affection, especially if it was a little expensive? I can tell you one person who doesn’t … a small Southern woman I happen to know and love.
My mother was the first one who got me out of thinking like a material girl every time a gift-giving holiday came around. For her birthday, she would write a short wish list. One item on her list was volunteering to make dinner. Another was giving her a hug every morning before we left for school. It was the simple things that she treasured and it taught us the things with the greatest value are often without a price tag.
When you think along those lines, the idea of God being the giver of gifts isn’t too far-fetched. And it goes beyond the big-ticket items of life like getting married or having children. If you count the small things, you are surrounded by presents every day.
One day, from morning until night, I’d like you to count your blessings. Carry around a little notepad and write them all down. For example, today, I woke up gently without an alarm in my warm, fluffy Queen-sized bed. That’s one. My breakfast of almond crepes with lemon curd turned out perfectly tasty. That’s one. A wise, wonderful friend came over for coffee later on in the morning. That’s three blessings in the first hour and I hadn’t even left the house yet.
You see where I’m going with this? If you note every moment of happiness placed in your life, you’ll see that you unwittingly unwrap hundreds of gifts throughout your day.
King Solomon understood rejoicing in the little things. Sure, he had a vast kingdom with more toys to play with than anyone could enjoy in two lifetimes; however, he was quick to note that it was all “vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). If anything, he found joy in much of what anyone can indulge.
“So I think we should get as much out of life as we possibly can. There is nothing better than to enjoy our food and drink and to have a good time.” (Ecclesiastes 8:15a, CEV)
“Be happy and enjoy eating and drinking! God decided long ago that this is what you should do. Dress up, comb your hair, and look your best. Life is short, and you love your wife, so enjoy being with her. This is what you are supposed to do as you struggle through life on this earth.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9, CEV)
Part of the fall of man is a predisposition to focus on the negative, and let’s be real, there’s plenty of that to go around. One bad minute can ruin your whole day. But what would it look like if we collected all the good and see how it outweighs the bad? Just the little things. If you need inspiration, think of the character, Maria, from The Sound of Music. When trying to cheer up the frightened von Trapp children during a storm, she sings about her favorite things that include raindrops on roses and warm woolen mittens. It’s cheesy as musicals are supposed to be, but the point of the song is finding joy in simplicity.
Everything is a gift from God, and knowing that He loves us this much leads us to nothing less than gratitude and deep devotion.
Why Being Thankful Is a Powerful Way to Live Free
By Debbie McDaniel, crosswalk.com
The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.” Psalms 28:7
We have so much to be grateful for in this life, every single day. But reality is that sometimes constant life demands, battles, and worries give more room to defeat than to a heart of thanks. Or we forget, in the midst of busyness and pressures, just to pause and give thanks for all that God has done and continues to do in our lives.
Sometimes it really is a sacrifice to offer praise and thanks. We may not feel like it. We’re struggling. We’re weary. Or maybe, we feel like He let us down. We think God seems distant, like he’s far away, or doesn’t really care about what’s troubling us. Painful life blows and losses might have recently sent us spiraling.
But here’s what can make a lasting difference. We have a choice, every day, to give him thanks. And with a heart of thanksgiving, we realize that no matter what we face, God doesn’t just work to change our situations and help us through our problems. He does more. He changes our hearts. His power, through hearts of gratitude and focused minds on Him, releases the grip our struggles have over us. We’re strengthened by His peace, refueled by His joy.
No matter what our current situation, or the struggles we may be facing, here’s what choosing to be thankful does:
- It gets our eyes off ourselves, and helps us to focus back on God.
- It reminds us we’re not in control, but that we serve a Mighty God who is. It keeps us in a place of humility and dependency on Him, as we recognize how much we need Him.
- It helps us to recognize we have so much to be thankful for, even all the little things, which often we may forget to thank Him for. It takes our attention off our problems and helps us instead to reflect on the goodness of His many blessings.
- It reminds us that God is the Giver of all good gifts. We were never intended to be fully self-sufficient in this life. A grateful heart reminds us that ultimately God is our Provider, that all blessings and gifts are graciously given to us by His hand.
Here are just a few more truths to remember about thankfulness:
- A heart of gratitude leaves no room for complaining. For it is impossible to be truly thankful and filled with negativity and ungratefulness at the same time.
- It makes the enemy flee. The forces of darkness can’t stand to be around hearts that give thanks and honor to God. Our praise and thanksgiving will make them flee.
- It opens the door for continued blessings. It invites His presence. God loves to give good gifts to His children. He delights in our thankfulness and pours out His Spirit and favor over those who give honor and gratitude to Him.
“The king ordered Ashpenaz … to bring in some of the sons of Israel … He ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.” – Daniel 1:3-4 NASB
From our perspective, Babylon might look like a massive, united, national machine. But history reminds us that nothing was stable for the people in that region. Tribes continually competed for dominance. Change could take place swiftly. We see that after the death of Nebuchadnezzar as control shifted to Belshazzar and then Darius and Cyrus, and a new tribe became dominant.
Aware of this reality, men like Nebuchadnezzar never took control for granted. We see this concern in their attitude toward Daniel and other Jews.
The Babylonian rulers wanted these men to be assimilated into their culture and to be loyal. As a result, many young Jews were trained with the goal of getting them to act and think not like Jews but Babylonians and Chaldeans.
We see this concern in the reaction to the image of gold set up by Nebuchadnezzar, as everyone was told to “fall down and worship” the king (Daniel 3:5). When Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego would not bow down, Nebuchadnezzar reacted with rage. Yet ultimately, these men were allowed to retain their faith.
The challenge for us is to realize that we, too, can feel forced to assimilate and be pressured to think like everyone else. We feel compelled to lay aside our beliefs and faith in God. Like Daniel and his young friends, we need to have the boldness to stand for what we believe and retain our relationship with God.
Preaching! Man’s privilege and God’s power!
By: Charles Spurgeon
“For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.” Mark 6:20.
Suggested Further Reading: James 1:19-25.
If you would hear the word to profit, you must hear it obediently. You must hear it as James and John did, when the master said “Follow me,” and they left their nets and their boats and they followed him. You must do the word as well as hear it, yielding up your hearts to its sway, being willing to walk in the road which it maps, to follow the path which it lays before you. Hearing it obediently, you must also hear it personally for yourselves, not for others, but for yourselves alone. You must be as Zaccheus, who was in the sycamore tree, and the Master said, “Zaccheus, make haste and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.” The word will never bless you till it comes home directly to yourself. You must be as Mary, who when the Master spoke to her she did not know his voice, till he said unto her, “Mary”, and she said, “Rabboni.” There must be an individual hearing of the truth, and a reception of it for yourself in your own heart. Then, too, you must hear the truth penitently. You must be as that Mary, who when she listened to the word, must needs go and wash the feet of Jesus with her tears, and wipe them with the hairs of her head. There must be tears for your many sins, a true confession of your guilt before God. But above all you must hear it believingly. The word must not be unto you as mere sound, but as matter of fact. You must be as Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened; or as the trembling gaoler, who believed on the Lord Jesus with all his house and was baptized immediately. You must be as the thief, who could pray, “Lord, remember me,” and who could believe the precious promise given, “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”
For meditation: To want to hear the preaching of God’s Word and to enjoy hearing it are good things as far as they go, but by themselves they do not go far enough (Ezekiel 33:30-32).