Good Givers & the Good Gift
When I was a small boy, I eagerly looked forward to those ‘special days’, my birthday and Christmas, that would hopefully bring gifts. Though we were quite poor when I was growing up, my parents always found a way to present me with something they knew I really wanted, like a special toy or coloring book. I found ways, some subtle, some outright pleas, to let them know what I really wanted. When the special days came around, I was overjoyed when the gifts I received were just what I had asked for. Once again, my Dad and Mom knew what would make me happy.
I don’t ever remember getting a gift that I hated, something that was utterly different from what I had asked for. I may have been less than totally grateful then, although I hope not; but I now realize that my parents, poor as we were, would do whatever they could to give me something good, something enjoyable. I also know it was because they loved me so much that my childhood was a good one, even though we were poor.
As much as we human parents love to give good gifts to our children, God delights even more in providing good gifts for His children. Just as my Dad and Mom did, our Father in heaven desires, even longs, to give us good things. To clarify, I am not talking about asking God for riches or fame. To the world, those are “good things”, but, especially for the Christian, seeking wealth is a serious flaw in character; and getting riches and fame can often be totally destructive for the receiver. Sometimes, the best answer to a prayer asking God for such things would be a resounding “No”!
It is all too easy to confuse having our needs met (Matthew 6:31- and Philippians 4:19, KJV) with getting monetary wealth. There is a huge difference, and the Christian needs to recognize the difference and stay focused on what is really important. In fact, the most valuable ‘thing’ that any person can have is good health. Without that, all the money in the world has little value.
There were times as a child that I would get hurt, usually minor injuries, and there were times when I was in dangerous situations; but fortunately the outcomes were good. Through it all, I don’t remember ever asking for that which harmed me, nor did I seek that which placed me in danger. However, I knew that whatever harm or danger came to me, my Dad and Mom never caused it or placed me in its path. On the contrary, they always encouraged me to carefully consider what I was doing and to think long before acting, in order to prevent harm or being in dangerous situations.
I never knowingly asked them for anything I knew would bring harm, nor did I ask them to provide me with the means to undertake dangerous pastimes.
If we are true Christians who believe that God expresses His will in His Word, then we need to understand what His will IS concerning ‘receiving from Him’. For a start, God is the greatest giver of all; out of a heart of love, He gave His Son for all mankind:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him (the Son) should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
The single most important and most valuable gift of all time is THE SON; everlasting life is the result/benefit of believing on Him and, by faith, receiving that gift. Just as I had to have faith in my parents ability and desire to provide me with a gift I wanted and needed, so a person who hears the gospel and recognizes his lost condition and need for a Saviour, must receive the gift from God by faith. God set the example for true giving: He gave His very best, most valuable possession.
We are told in James 1:17 that “every good and perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
Faith is Required
During my early childhood, if I wanted a specific gift, I had no way to buy it; I had to rely on the benevolence and love of my parents to get it for me. Now to clarify, I did not receive everything I wanted or asked for. My parents were certainly not wealthy enough to indulge my every wish, and they were wise enough to withhold anything they knew was harmful. As a result, over the course of my childhood, I learned that my parents wanted only what was good for me, and that, if I asked for something they could afford that wasn’t harmful, I was likely to get it.
In short, I developed faith in my parents to provide me with good gifts.
As my own children were growing up, my wife and I delighted in being able to give them gifts we knew would make them happy. I think we were more excited to give than they were to receive, but admittedly, it did help that they were really good kids who expressed their gratitude; and that gratitude made the joy of giving last much longer, and often led to a repeat of the giving, much to their delight!
When praying to God and asking Him for anything, the believer must approach God with the same faith that a young child has when asking his parents for anything. The believer must be firmly convinced that God delights in providing those things that have been promised and made available from Him.
If one of my children asked me for something they really wanted, and if it was in my power to do so, I would be more than happy to give it; however, if, after asking for it, they then said, “Well, no matter how badly I want this, Dad is never going to give it to me,” I would be less inclined to give it. Further, if they expressed that they didn’t think I COULD give it, I would be entirely disinclined to do it. Why? Because they would be expressing their lack of faith in either my desire or ability to give what they asked for.
Imagine how God must feel when, after asking for something from Him, His children then openly express their lack of faith in His desire or ability to meet the request.
The Greatest Gift, Greatest Giver
As an adult, thanks be to God, I can usually buy any physical item I need without relying on anyone to make it happen. However, to receive the most important gift ever, the gift of Jesus Christ and the salvation He and He alone can provide, one must realize that – no matter how hard one might try – that gift cannot be purchased, nor can it ever be earned by any work of man.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The gift of eternal life through Jesus’ sacrifice must be received by faith, with an eternally grateful heart. All glory for the gift, and the benefit of the gift, must go to God.
Jesus said, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Matthew 7:11).
The greatest gift to us from our Father in heaven is salvation through faith in His Son. But, there are countless other gifts that can only come from God which He desires for us all to receive from Him.
Everything we receive from God is a gift. The bottom line is that, apart from faith in God and His Word, there is no way to receive any of the gifts God wishes to bestow on us. He certainly desires that we all prosper and have perfect health. I know that many Christians become obsessed with financial ‘prosperity’ and seem to think of it as a bad thing. But, true prosperity is so much more than financial success, or having an abundance of money; without sound physical health, all the money in the world means little.
Through the years I’ve wondered why so many Christians are sick and seemingly unable to receive healing from God, yet they have no problem believing for their salvation. I believe it is because our salvation is an “unseen gift”, resulting in a reborn, yet unseen, human spirit which usually leaves the very visible flesh and blood body unchanged. The redemption of the body has not yet materialized; and these human, flesh and blood bodies we live in are always present with us, along with all the infirmities that are so abundant.
It can become almost impossible to remove our sight from the present body of flesh and, by faith, place our sight on God and His Word.
Had God not intended for believers to experience the healing that Jesus accomplished on the cross, and live in physical health, he would not have had the prophet Isaiah state, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Nor would the apostle Peter have referred to that verse in Isaiah when he said, speaking of Jesus, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (I Peter 2:24).
The Apostle Luke tells us, “Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them” (Luke 4:40). Since Jesus always did the will of the Father, it should be easily understood that His will is for healing and health for us.
I am firmly convinced that God wants every one of His children to be totally healthy and whole. The apostle John stated, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John: 2). This is as clear an expression of God’s will for us as can be found in the Bible.
The 11th chapter of Hebrews is one of the greatest expositions on Biblical faith found in the Word of God. The writer, whom I believe to be Paul, explains that ‘by faith’ God created everything that can be seen. God is the author of faith and everything it does. He used faith to make the bodily Jesus of Nazareth a human reality. Since there is not one higher in authority, power, wisdom and ability, His faith is in His own Word to accomplish all that He speaks. He requires that every believer ask in faith and receive by faith. Unless that occurs, little is likely to be given or received.
The exercise of the faith that Jesus gave to those who believe on Him is what truly pleases God.
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Even wisdom is promised to anyone who is lacking, and God has promised to give wisdom liberally, if one asks in faith. Receiving any gift from God requires that faith be used in the exact way stated by James:
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8).
Receiving God’s wisdom and ‘rightly dividing His Word’ (2 Timothy 2:15) will make receiving from God much easier by ensuring that we are asking wisely for those things which God delights in giving to us. Receiving anything already promised to us by our loving Father is something that truly pleases God, because He knows that we can only receive it when we have utilized the faith that He made available through His Son, Jesus Christ.
So, then the question is often asked, and more than one person has said to me, “If health/healing is truly the will of God, then why are so many Christians still sick; why has God not healed them?” My answer to that is simple: receiving healing requires the same process as receiving salvation.
The work that Jesus accomplished was a demonstration of God’s grace, His unmerited favor, to all mankind; but, that grace must be received through an act of faith. As difficult as receiving salvation seems to be for some, receiving healing is even more difficult, possibly because the ability to “see” the human sickness in one’s body can make it almost impossible to use one’s faith to receive healing which cannot be seen until received by faith.
Is it easy? No, of course not; in fact, it is a real fight: Our enemy, Satan, hates our faith; and anyone who dares to use it to receive anything from God. Consider the woman who was healed of an issue of blood when she, by act of her faith, reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. In the account of her faith in action, we read:
“And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him (Jesus), and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole” (Matthew 9:20-21).
The next verse says it all: “But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour” (Matthew 9:22).
She fought her way to a place where she could see and touch Jesus, knowing that, if she were successful, she would be healed of her disease.
Paul told Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).
Exercising faith in God will cause Satan to attack us like never before, but, the Word also promises this: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Exercising our God-given faith, and then resisting Satan when he tries to stop our faith, pleases God, and He receives glory when we use His Word to make Satan flee.
Receiving from God – Part Two (To follow)