You and I both know that this list could go on and on. If we really tried to list all the good things God has given to us, I think we’d fail. We just couldn’t think of all the things He does for us. We’d inevitably leave something off of our “Reasons to Give Thanks” list. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to remember what all that God has done for us.
Think about it. Especially if you’re feeling down today, take just a second and remember something great that God has given you, even if it’s just a memory now. [Seriously, go ahead and do that now. 🙂 ]
Did it make you smile? Did you feel a warmth that you haven’t felt in a long time? Memories can do that for us. See, there’s one of the things I forgot to put on my list: memories. But the real point of this little exercise is to help us remember that we have so much. I know that the holidays can be hard for us, especially when we miss people who used to share these days with us. We all have a portion of grief, and prayers are being prayed that God will comfort the grieving. My hope, however, is that we not forget to see how blessed we all still are in spite of the things that we no longer have.
God has still blessed us with life and time and friends. We still have the comfort of His promises as recounted in His Word. There is time for us to gather together each week as a church family to worship and be encouraged in our faith. God gives us so much, and He gives to us so that we will give to others.
If you’re like me, you have been comforted or loved or encouraged or strengthened by a kind word or the gentle touch from a friend. Or maybe it came from a stranger, but if we really think about it’s true origin, we know that those saving graces really came from God. He’s just such a great God that He refuses to take all the glory for Himself. He often stays out of the limelight and does His work from the shadows, because He wants us to be part of His great mission of mercy and love. He wants us to realize that we are recipients of incredible gifts, and one of those gifts is the ability to be givers ourselves.
We have family, and friends, and neighbors, and even enemies who need to have some hope, and peace, and joy come into their lives. God loves them just like He loves you and me. And God wants to give them what they need, just like He sustains us. We simply need to recognize that God doesn’t help us by miraculously manifesting Himself at our doorstep; instead, God helps us through the love and attention of other people. We know this is true, because we’ve all experienced it. The day comes, however, when the Spirit of God calls us to a maturity that finds as much joy in giving as it finds in receiving gifts. God uses people, and He wants to use us to spread hope, and joy, and peace. God wants us to become gift givers ourselves.
Here are some ideas of how you and I can make a real difference this season:
Make a list of people you know who could benefit from your generosity. Maybe you can give them some time, or some kind words, or even something tangible that would lighten some burden they carry. There will be more names on your list than people you can reasonably help. So pray for them, and then let God lead you to one or two or three of them, and then do for them what you would want God to do for you.
But don’t stop with the people you know and love. We have to risk our sense of comfort and control if we’re going to go farther, but we also need to look for the people God places in our paths so that we can offer them God’s comfort. You and I will not have to look up random names in the phone book. We won’t have to go door-to-door. We just need to be aware that we are frequently around people whose lives would be blessed by the simple gifts we have to give. Maybe it’s someone in line with you at the grocery store. Maybe it’s someone you see sitting in the mall. It could even be an old friend on Facebook or a stranger at the gas station. Only God knows the plans He has for you, but He most certainly does have plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11).
I believe that those plans include using us to accomplish His great works (Ephesians 2:10). So why not cheer someone with a smile, a handshake, or an encouraging word? Why not put $10 towards someone else’s bill at the grocery store. Why not pay for someone else’s gas when you fill up your tank? I know times are tough, but that’s the whole point of sacrifice. And these are just a few ideas. As you think and pray about how God is preparing you to be a great gift giver, I’m sure you’ll come up with ideas of your own. So go ahead and take the risk. Go ahead and do something in the name of Christ. God is with you, and He has shown us what it truly means to be a giver of gifts.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17, ESV)
“And [we] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus….” (Romans 3:24)
“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace….” (1 Peter 4:10)