God Gives Gifts 5

Matthew 7:9-11

Our children are old enough that when it comes time for Christmas and birthdays we simply ask them what they want so that we can buy it for them. There are times, in fact, when they go with us so they can guide our selection. It may remove all the surprise and some of the thrill of giving gifts, but it allows us to give them what they want without error.

As part of “The Sermon on the Mount” Jesus talks about giving gifts. What does he say about our ability to give what is correct and good? What examples does he use? What does this show us about God?

It doesn’t take a genius to give a nice gift to someone. If a person asks you for bread, you give them bread. If they want chicken for dinner, you give them chicken. If your child wants a new MP3 player you DO NOT give them a transistor radio instead.

Jesus points out the obvious. We, as humans and mortals, are smart enough and caring enough to give those we care for those things they desire. The only exception to this is that we would not give a gift that may cause harm to the one we love.

If we are able to give good gifts, then we should be able to realize that God – who is able to love more than we can love, who is wiser than we are – will give truly good gifts.

What’s the catch? Well, Jesus uses the words “good gifts.” The gifts we receive from God may not be exactly what we want because God knows what is best for us. We must trust that God is able to give good gifts to us. We must see that what we receive from God is good.

Second, Jesus concludes this teaching with the words “those who ask him.” If we desire good gifts from God we should be so bold as to ask God for them. Our motivation, however, should be that we trust God in His goodness and we desire those things that are beneficial to the kingdom of God and not just those things we desire with a selfish attitude.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What good gift will you ask God for?

God Gives Gifts 4

1 Chronicles 4:10

There are different personalities when it comes to the many ministries that are available to believers. Some like to serve. They are the “worker bees” who like to get things done with their hands. Some like to teach. Others like to care for the sick and lonely. Still others like to offer encouragement and words of comfort.

Then there are those who like to manage. They are the ones who do not shy away from positions of authority and the responsibility of organizing events. The man named Jabez seems to have been one of those.

Today’s passage is the well-known “Prayer of Jabez.” What four things does Jabez ask for? How does God respond?

Bruce Wilkinson’s book on the Prayer of Jabez provides immense detail, information and analysis of this simple passage, but in a nutshell we have an obscure story in the Bible about a man who asks God for good gifts and apparently receives them.

What we must realize about this is that, first, Jabez’s motivation seems to be one that is not selfish. It seems that his desire for a blessing and responsibility is intended for the good of God’s kingdom. He asks for responsibility. He wants God to enlarge his territory – that is, he wants more work to be under his control.

This man is bold enough to ask the Lord for a blessing – good gifts – but this blessing is apparently intended to help Jabez do more for the Lord. In his request Jabez acknowledges the sovereignty of God. He knows that God must be with him so that he can be successful in his efforts.

As mentioned in the story of Hannah and Samuel, many people feel uncomfortable asking God for gifts and blessings. But if our desire is to be blessed with ability and resources so that we might better serve the Lord, if we ask for more ministry, more lives to touch, as long as we also desire the Lord to be with us, we are likely to receive the blessings – and responsibilities – we ask for.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What blessing do you need so you can do more for God?

God Gives Gifts 3

Psalm 139:5-6

In the delivery room when each of our children was born I was there to give support and comfort to my wife. She did all the work of labor, but I tried as best I could to be a help. Feeling that I had been fairly useless through the whole experience, she told me that I indeed was a help because I held her hand through the deliveries.

Holding another’s hand is one way to offer support and comfort. Our fears and worries may be eased when we are made aware of the presence of another.

What does the psalmist say of God’s presence? How has God shown His presence? What does the psalmist acknowledge of God’s greatness?

We can speak often about the presence of God. We can claim that we believe that God is present in all things, that He watches over us. But God’s presence needs to be real to us as believers.

The grace and mercy of God must be more than a lofty idea or a vague concept. We must believe completely in God’s presence and His mercy.

The psalmist claims that God is in front of him and behind him. God is everywhere. He also adds that God has laid his hand on the psalmist.

God’s presence is real. Through that presence and through that touch of the Lord we can be assured that God desires good things for us.

God lays His hand on us through the many blessings we may experience in life. All the good things that we have, all the comforts and pleasures we experience are a reminder that God is with us to give us these blessings.

We cannot comprehend the vast scope of God’s wisdom and His thoughts. Such knowledge and awareness is too great for us. But we can see a small glimpse of the goodness of God when we know in our hearts that He has laid His hand on us. He is there to protect us, to watch over us, to teach us, and to fill our lives with wonderful gifts of love.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be reminded of God’s many gifts in your life?

God Gives Gifts 2

1 Samuel 2:7-9

While I was preparing for a funeral with a family recently one of the members commented on how difficult it was to face a loss. He observed that as a pastor I must take part in funerals frequently, and then he turned to me and asked, “How do you do it?”

I gave him my honest answer. I know that God is in control of all things. I trust in God. We will face loss and grief now and then, but ultimately the Lord is in control and He surrounds us with His love.

Hannah, thought to be barren and unable to have children, has given birth to her son Samuel. As promised, she has given the child over to the temple, specifically the high priest Eli, so that he might serve God.

In a prayer offered to God Hannah puts her situation in perspective. What are all the things God does for people?

It is said that happiness comes in our lives, not when we have all that we want, but when we appreciate all that we have. We may possess many great and wonderful things. Our lives may be full of riches, expensive items, clothes, furniture, cars, and on and on.

Our lives may also feel empty. We may feel that we have very little in way of material possessions. We may lack the type of home or clothing or comforts that others have.

What we must do is realize that all things come from God. He is the One who is able to lift us up or bring us low. He is in control of all the earth.

Although we may not always recognize the vast riches we have we should see that our lives are filled with great gifts from God. Hannah desired a son, not simply for selfish contentment, but so that she might feel that she was complete. God gave her that son, and she was then able to give her son back to God as one of his priests.

We may ask God for many things. We may ask for the contentment we are missing. But like Hannah, we must know that all things come from God and therefore belong to God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can help you remember that all you have really belongs to God?

God Gives Gifts 1

1 Samuel 1:10-20

In 1 Samuel we see the beginning of the life of the prophet and priest Samuel. His mother is Hannah, a woman who has been barren – unable to have children – for many years. Another wife to her husband has been blessed by God and has given birth to several children, a fact which torments Hannah.

What is Hannah’s state of mind? What does she ask for? What does she promise? What blessing does Eli give?

Some may interpret this story as an indication that we can receive whatever we ask for from God, but I do not believe it is as simple as that. We can find ourselves in the same position that Hannah was in. We may feel that we need this thing or that to make us feel complete and whole. In our desperate state we may turn to the Lord and ask that He give us those things that we need.

Some may feel uncomfortable asking God for such gifts, but the Lord understands what we need. He knows the thoughts of our minds and the desires of our heart. If what we desire is something that will be good for us and something we can use to help serve and glorify the Lord then it is likely that we will be granted that which we seek.

Hannah did not ask for great wealth or things that satisfy selfish desires. Rather she wanted something simple and reasonable, a child which would make her feel complete, a child who could serve the Lord.

When he first saw her Eli did not understand the motivation and desire of Hannah. But she pointed out what it was she was praying for and the priest offered a blessing that God would grant her desire.

Others may not understand what it is that troubles our souls. But the Lord knows our desires and our motivation. I believe that if what we want is for the good of life and the good of God’s kingdom we are free to ask for those things. I believe God desires that we have lives that are full and rich with blessings, and I believe we are welcome to ask for what we need.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What do you need in your life? Is it something that can help to serve God?