Discovering all that God has given us
Many Christians have built a beautiful cloak of ‘godliness’.
Others have honestly received the gift of salvation – forgiveness of their sin and the recognition of the lordship of Jesus Christ. They speak with stirring words about how Christ rescued them from the brink of death. They weep at the precious thought of being with him for eternity. They encourage others to accept this free gift of salvation with which they can enter the heavenly kingdom when they die. They have received the gift of salvation. Yet they are living with a package that has not yet been opened to the gift inside. They live their lives holding on to that gift without discovering the depth of what God has also provided deep inside.
It’s like Gayle giving me a wonderfully wrapped Christmas gift. I receive it with awe and wonder. I recite glowing words of how beautiful it looks and how she has really outdone herself this year. And then I place it on the fireplace mantel and tell all our guests who come over, “Look at the beautiful gift Gayle gave me for Christmas this year! Isn’t it absolutely amazing? I just love her so much for her thoughtfulness.”
Well, I’m quite sure that Gayle would be pretty quick to say, “Gareth, just cut the crap and open it!”
When we said “Yes” to Jesus’ offer of salvation, he gave us several gifts. One, he forgave us our sins. He cleansed us from our unrighteousness, making us acceptable in his sight. Two, he made us heirs to his kingdom
– children of God. Three, he gave us gifts with which to serve him and others. Four, he gave us his Holy Spirit – his presence living within us.
The first two gifts just are. We are forgiven – even when we act like we’re not or when we have trouble understanding grace. We are God’s children
– even when we act like we don’t know him.
The third gift is tough. We are often confused about talents and gifts and just how it all plays out in our daily lives. Talents are part of our DNA. They are ‘gifts’ that the Creator gave us at the time of our creating. As his children, we should use our talents to the glory of God. Gifts are God-given for use in the building of his kingdom. I know a woman who is a great teacher. She loves to be in front of a class and has honed her skills well. But she is very quick to say that teaching is not her spiritual gift. It’s a God-given talent. When I pushed her, she explained to me that she has the gift of prophecy. There are times, when for no reason, she knows that the Holy Spirit is giving her a message for the church. That’s her gift.
Finally, the gift of the Holy Spirit is a treasure that I am just beginning to understand. The Spirit is our guide in learning about all that God has given us. He helps us to dig past the surface into the depths of God. Yes, God has given us salvation. Hallelujah! But there is a whole lot more that God has given to us in our ‘package’ of salvation which waits to be discovered. He wants to show us and will show us all these things as we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us into the journey of discovering all that God has prepared for those he loves.
Worship of God invokes the Spirit’s activity in our lives to help us press into his depths. Worship draws our attention from ourselves to God enabling us to begin to see things from his perspective, encouraging us to open up to his correction and inviting us to follow his leadership in our lives. Worship helps us to be open for God’s revelation of himself to us. Living lives of worship equips us with tools to dig deeply into understanding who God is and all that he has prepared for those he loves.
Ultimately, worship tunes our heart, our eyes and our ears to feel, see and hear God.
And when God reveals more of himself to us, we are changed to be more like him. He helps us to respond to life situations with his wisdom. He becomes more and more our focus for living.
I struggle to open myself to God each day. In reality, some days it’s tough and the issues of life get in the way. But here are a few things I do to help me focus on God:
1. Ask God for wisdom every day.
This forces me to articulate my dependence on God and tell him that I need him. I invite God to speak into my everyday situations. I regularly pray in faith: “Lord, you have told us that if we lack wisdom we should pray for it, because you give generously and graciously” (see James 1:5).
2. Look for ways to give God the opportunity to reveal himself.
Sometimes days go by where I haven’t seen a trace of God. Then I stop and realize that I haven’t even called him or looked for him. Seeing God is active, not passive. Wouldn’t it be nice if God just popped an email to me to tell me more about him. Or like Saul, that he would literally stop me and tell me where he wants me to go. But while occasionally God comes to me in a miraculous and stunning way, most times I see God in day-to-day things.
3. Take time to talk to other believers. WOW – no matter where they are on their journey, their faith changes me.
I ask them how they see God and how God interacts with them. I resist trying to duplicate their experience. Knowing that God speaks into people’s lives is fantastic. Because God is not a pre-programmed machine, he will speak differently to each of his children.
By far the most difficult challenge is to trust. Growing up in a Mennonite home has got me entrenched in a stoic belief that I have to do it on my own. Each of us has our own past that challenges our ideas of faith. Some days trust comes so easy. Other days, I have to walk forward, in faith, trusting that God is there in the silence. I believe God wants me to discover more about him.
4. Every so often look back.
Modern Christians are missing much of God’s blessing by doing away with the Passover. In the Jewish tradition, the Passover was a time of telling the story of God’s faithfulness. Family, children and friends gathered together and reminded each other that God was faithful, even in their most difficult times. As I remember the many ways God has been faithful, I know that he will continue to be faithful.
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