Saturday, November 17, 2012
Give Thanks for the Giver!
With the Thanksgiving holiday begins the official Christmas shopping season, as stores vie for our attention and our dollars while we seek the perfect presents for our loved ones. No matter how much we try, some gifts fall short, and instead of the joyful surprise and appreciation we had hoped for, we hear a polite “Gee, you shouldn’t have,” or “It’s the thought that counts.”
Often we try to give our loved ones, especially our children, what we know they need instead of what they think they want. Classic books, educational software, warm mittens and socks get left behind under the piles of wrapping, while the child disappears into his room with the worldly video game given by a well-meaning family friend or relative. For an older son or daughter, a membership to a towing and roadside protection emergency service has a lot less appeal than a gift card to the mall, until that fateful night when their car breaks down on a dark, lonely road.
Hopefully as the child grows up he would realize that Mom and Dad gave gifts motivated by their deep love and caring, wanting to nurture him and to guide him along the right path. Better yet, he would be thankful not only for the gifts, but for the giver, realizing that he was blessed with loving parents who wanted to encourage their child to follow God’s perfect plan for his life.
It may be a lot to hope for such maturity in our children, especially if we ourselves are less than thankful for the gifts God gives us. Even when things are going well, we tend to gloss over God’s many blessings upon us. But God knows what we need even before we ask Him (Matthew 6:8). God is always faithful to provide for the physical needs of His children (Psalm 37:3, 25; Matthew 6:25-33).and showers them with good and perfect gifts (James 1:17). Even for those who do not recognize or love Him, He is the source of all blessing (Matthew 5:45).
In the Thanksgiving season, and whenever we take the time to reflect on God’s provision, it is easy to give thanks for what we perceive as blessings -– religious freedom, prosperity, good health, loving relationships, quality time with our family.
But do we faithfully thank God for those blessings that are harder to recognize? When we go through trials of sickness, financial loss, death of a loved one, rejection, divorce, do we give thanks? Our first reaction may be like that of Job -- to question God or to be angry with Him, even though we lack wisdom and He knows all (Job 38:1-4).
Yet Paul tells us to give thanks in EVERY thing, for this is the perfect will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Paul is our role model not only of being thankful, but even joyful, in the midst of tribulation including persecution, punishment, imprisonment, deprivation, and physical infirmity (Philippians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; 2 Corinthians 11:23-30)
How is it possible to be thankful in trials? Clearly not in our flesh, but only through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. He teaches us that God is sovereign and all-powerful; that He loves His children infinitely (1 John 4:9); that it gives Him great pleasure to give His children good gifts (Matthew 7:11); and that He works all things together for good for those who love Him, who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
This side of glory, we cannot always understand or see the amazing ways that God is using tribulation in our life to accomplish His perfect will for us. We do know that trials can strengthen our faith in and dependence on God, can build our character by conforming us more and more to the image of His Son, and can give us the compassion and experience needed to help others going through similar circumstances (Romans 8:16-18; Philippians 3: 10-14).
As the infinitely good Father, God always gives us what we need, even if it is not what we think we want. We would not allow our children to gorge themselves on candy until they got sick, or to play with fire or broken glass, even though they might cry and even say hateful things in a vain attempt to change our mind. They lack the wisdom, experience, and perspective to know what is best for them, and we love them too much to allow them to get hurt.
Similarly, God will not answer prayers motivated by selfishness or lust or that are not in accordance with His will, for to do so would be harmful to our spiritual growth (James 4:3). Instead, as we find joy in our relationship with Him, He grants us the desires of our heart, for those desires become conformed to his perfect will for our lives (Psalm 37:4).
If we trust and love God, we can be thankful in all circumstances. The phrase “He really shouldn’t have,” truly applies with Him, because it is beyond our comprehension that the Creator of all things would willingly subject Himself to the suffering needed to pay for our sins in full (Colossians 1:12-29; 1 John 3:16).
With Him, the thought really does count, because He thought enough of us to give His only Son as the perfect sacrifice for our sins (Romans 8:32), so that all who repent and trust in His death, burial, and resurrection have eternal life (John 3:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; Romans 1:1-6; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). How amazing that as Jesus faced the agony of crucifixion and the even more painful separation from His Holy Father as He took on our sins, He thought of us and prayed for us in the Garden of Gethsemane! (John 17)
At Thanksgiving and always, let us give thanks not only for all our blessings and in all our circumstances, but especially for the ultimate Giver Who is our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer (Psalm 103:3-5; 104:1-15). He loves us enough to give His only Son to save us, to clothe us in His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), and to give us eternal and abundant life in His presence (John 10:10).
As if that were not abundantly more than we could ever dream of (Ephesians 3:20), He adopted us as His children (Romans 8:14-17), made us joint heirs with Christ (Galatians 4:6-7), and appointed us as His ambassadors on earth (2 Corinthians 5:20) and joint rulers with Him in eternity!
It is not about what He gives us, but about Who He is. Thank you, God, that You are all we need!
© 2012 Laurie Collett