After opening more than ½ dozen Christmas gifts from that many family members, my 5 year old wanted to know “When are we going to get some more?” and my 4 year old asked “Where’s my train?” And I was stunned at their rude audacity, ungrateful sons of mine acting like they ain’t been taught nothing good about giving and receiving! Even though we teach them throughout the year and did so right before they could open gifts, we witnessed their ingratitude about some gifts they received and their insatiability. They didn’t always say thank you and the two youngest were looking for more, though they hadn’t even played with what they got. Seeing my 4 and 5 year olds forget their manners, which really is a reflection of their hearts, showed me just how important our continual teaching about giving is. And the lesson is for adults, too.
Children are still learning to withhold their expression of inappropriate dissatisfaction, and many of those children become adults who have yet to learn this. But some of us adults cover up for others our ingratitude, but God still sees our hearts. I want you to ask the Lord to search your heart to show you where change needs to take place regarding your giving. Some of us already know we have a tendency to be selfish but have yet to take steps to give as God gave. We know that Jesus tells us to follow His example and when we do, we are obeying the two greatest commandments—to love God and to love others as ourselves. Because Soul Delights aims to help you have a healthy body and soul—mind, will and emotions—I am sharing what I shared with the children before allowing them to open their gifts. As the message came to me, I was also convicted about what I need to do, not just during Christmas but for every day of my life.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life: (John 3:16).
John 3:16 is the Christmas season verse because it speaks of God the Father’s great love for humankind demonstrated by sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sin. God sent a part of Himself—God in the flesh—to be the perfect sacrifice that was required to atone for our sin. He gave the world Jesus. John 3:16 is the reason for the Christmas season and every season of our lives. This verse teaches us the importance of giving, a lesson that we all need to continually embrace.
Give to others—God gave the world the best that heaven had. God the Son came to earth—Jesus, God in the flesh—so that those who put their faith in Him might have eternal life. Though too many of us look to what satisfies us right on earth, we forget (or don’t know) that the afterlife is eternity and we need to focus on the blessing of being able to be with God for eternity. We may have already confessed our belief in Jesus, but our actions fail to show our belief. Often we fail to give the gospel of Jesus Christ to others so they too might have eternal life with Jesus. Even before giving folks the gospel, we need to give them our time, talent and treasure as sacrifices that display our love for them. These possessions, precious commodities to us, are our best, and we are required to give our best.
Give up for others—Sometimes it’s hard to give our best to others because we have yet to give up something for others. Some of us need to give up an attitude that says, “They don’t deserve this.” We may need to give up the feeling of “I don’t want to do this.” And then there are those of us who need to give up our rigid schedule so we can give to others. I find that my bad attitude, selfish desire or uncompromising time usually prevails when I don’t keep in the forefront of my mind Jesus’ sacrifice of being born to die. When I fail to have Jesus’ sacrifice in the forefront of my mind, constantly there to remind me of just how greatly He gave and that nothing I have to give even compares, my attitude warms, my feeling diminishes and my schedule changes. I give up so I can give to.
Give in to God—Sometimes we have a bad attitude or desire or an unwillingness to change our schedule to hold our ground against someone who may have hurt us, used us or otherwise did us wrong. We have vowed to never give them (or, sometimes, anyone else) another chance to do what they did to us. The person may be out of our lives, but we still cling to what we believe will shield us from pain. Now our not giving to others because we won’t give up for others has solely become a fight against God. Our vow now determines our interactions instead of the Holy Spirit determining our interactions. We are now fighting against what God wants and holding fast to our desires. Fighting against others is tough, but there is no match when we fight against God. It’s inevitable that we give in. We must surrender to God’s will, knowing that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). He can mend our broken hearts and free our captive minds so we don’t obsess about what might happen to us (Isaiah 61:1-3). When we give in, we can give up and we can give to.
As we wind down 2013 and look for abundance in 2014, let us give to others after we give up for others and give in to Jesus. He is the reason for the seasons, every one in our lives.
Take a Risk Challenge: This week identify what you need to give up and how you need to give in so that you can give to others. This process is a radical act of love toward others and yourself. Happy New Year and may 2014 be filled with radical acts of love.