It’s that time of year that we are thinking about giving and receiving gifts. And today I want to share my heart on the topic as well as share some spiritual insight.
When I was a child, we had very little by way of gifts as my parents couldn’t afford much with 15 children. I don’t know how but they always managed to give us one or two gifts a piece. They would get us one toy and an item of clothing which we cherished because most of what we had were hand me downs.
But I really wasn’t longing for material gifts; Instinctively I longed for the gifts that come from the healthy kind of love a child would expect from her parents, like affection, healthy interaction, guidance, acceptance, and encouragement to become the best I could be. I had a deep longing to feel safe and cherished.
As I grew into my adolescence, I discovered that needless material possessions, dysfunctional relationships and substance abuse could temporarily substitute for those things that I lacked and truly longed for. It wasn’t my intent but I set out on a self-destructive path which caused me to establish unhealthy patterns and relationships. When I did receive a material gift with a personal touch, it gave me a great sense of belonging and worth. For example, at 13, on a rare occasion, while my oldest brother was home to visit, he took me shopping and bought me a new outfit. I felt so loved! But it wasn’t the actual gift that moved me, it was the fact that he took time out, saw a need in me and made me feel so special!
As I grew into my 20’s, the Lord opened my eyes to Him and having tried to live life my way which was causing great pain and broken relationships, I surrendered to Him, not knowing all that it involved, jumped in and simply believed He loved me and that my life would be better. I was in for a wonderful surprise in how my life improved!
As God began to pour into me and bless me with all the good gifts, he has for us, I had an overwhelming desire to pour His blessings back out. And over the years, I’ve been fortunate to have opportunities to give so much to others. And others have been so generous to me in the giving of gifts.
I’ve always had lots of fun choosing the “perfect” thing for each person I was giving to. It’s so much fun for me to see their delighted response to what they receive. According to Acts 20:35 “it is more blessed to give than receive.” I have found it to be true in my life. But then I had to learn that receiving gifts with humility and thanks is just as important because the giver receives a blessing as well as the recipient. I also discovered that I didn’t have to spend much $ to give the most meaningful gifts!
So, as times passes, my perspective on giving gifts has changed. And, more often, I’m giving with the desire to move others closer to the heart of God. Because that is the gift that will be the most meaningful and have eternal benefits.
As an example of giving with meaning, when a dear friend’s husband suddenly died of a heart attack while the two of them were entering the church one Sunday morning, I made a mix of worship songs for her because she loved music that praises the Lord. It didn’t cost very much but it helped her focus on Jesus, during a time of great struggle.
As I consider how we give and receive gifts, it got me wondering how God gives gifts and for what purpose. And what we can learn from His ways. As I researched and prayed, the Holy Spirit showed me just how much He does give and the wonderful ways it works in our lives.
So, here are some of the many gifts God gives us:
Protection: Before I even knew Jesus, He kept me safe in my disfunction and very bad life decisions. So many times, I could have died or fallen so deep into my sin that I would not have found my way out on my own. I remember one time while hitch hiking to the laundry mat from my apt. I was picked up by a guy who dropped me off where I asked him to but as I was getting out of the car, he hit me over the head with a heavy object. It hurt so bad but didn’t knock me unconscious. As I got out of the car rubbing my head, he was racing down the road with the passenger door still open. I can only imagine what his intentions were! I believe the Holy Spirit was there protecting me. I am so thankful!
Provision: Before I knew Jesus, He was providing for me and meeting my material needs, for many years.
Revelation: He reveals himself to each of us uniquely, speaking to us and meeting us where we are in our lives. Being from a very large family, I’m especially thankful that He treats me special, as if I were His only child! Can you relate to this?
Forgiveness: He forgave all my offenses from my past, present and future and I chose to repent and turn from them. But even when I went back to some sinful habits, He never abandoned me. He is always available to help me sort out my mess when I come to Him.
Guidance: I’ve prayed for direction so many times when I didn’t know which way to turn or what choice was best and He guided me!
Favor & Salvation: When Jesus saved me, I felt as if I was unworthy of any love or acceptance but He adopted me and taught me the meaning of unconditional love and acceptance. His gift of salvation is irrevocable if we truly repent and surrender our hearts to Him.
We read in Romans 8:32 that “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” God loves us so much! He wants to shower us with gifts and blessing in this life and the one to come!
His Word: It gives me hope and helps me understand my connection to Him and what He expects of me
Prayer: This is one of the main ways we connect with our Lord. It is a gift He gives so we can communicate our hearts to Him.
Our Role: Being used of God to fulfill His eternal plan at this time in history. God’s timing is perfect and we were chosen for such a time as this! How incredible is it that God allows us to be part of His plan?
His Holy Spirit: In Acts 2:38 we read, “And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” This is Jesus in me! One of the gifts I am most thankful for! He is my constant companion.
So, what gifts can we give to the Lord; what does He desire?
God wants us to trust in His Son as Savior and Lord.
He wants us to “become conformed to the image of His Son.
He delights in our praises to Him.
He desires for us to spend time with Him.
He calls us to love one another and serve Him with humility.
The gifts God desires from us have the distinct purpose of making us righteous, in good relationship to Him and loving one another. If you notice, it’s all about relationship with Him and the body of Christ. It’s never about performing works for the sake of that alone.
God is loving and gracious, always wants what is best for us. Let’s praise Him together during this most beautiful time of year.
In Christ’s love,