Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
I think God delights in surprising us with small gifts from His hand. Like a father who brings home some small gift for his children, so our Heavenly Father does the same. When I was growing up, my father would periodically go on a business trip. When he came home, he would often have some small gifts for us boys. It actually got to the point where we would meet him at the door with the question, what did you bring us? This past couple of weeks, God has been “meeting me at the door” with some small gifts that I did not expect.
Several weeks ago, after the official announcement of my retirement went out, Suanne and I received a Facebook message from a young lady who had been a classmate of our son Adam. She expressed her gratitude to us and told us that it was her experience here at Bethel at awakened her faith.
In preparation for our trip to England, I pulled my well-worn copy of Meeting God in Quiet Places off of the shelf. This wonderful devotional was written by F. LaGard Smith. It centers on his discoveries about God through his walks in the English countryside. Out of curiosity, I searched the internet to see if he had written any other such books. What I discovered was that he was a prolific writer who is not afraid to tackle difficult issues. He is now retired but was a law professor at Pepperdine University. Several titles of his books intrigued me, so I purchased a couple. After reading the preface and first chapter of one of those books, I realized that I had come across a gift. There was an e-mail address for the author at the end of the preface so I sent him a thank you for his book. To my surprise he personally responded within the day!
This past Sunday, a young man walked up to me who I recognized but could not quite place. He refreshed my memory by reminding me that many years ago I had met with him every Friday for a year. I had performed his wedding. He had moved to Wisconsin where he established his family. He is now back in the area. Then he said, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the influence you had on my spiritual life. I was truly humbled.
At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7, Jesus tells us that our Heavenly Father is delighted to give us good gifts.
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:7-11
Whenever I have read these verses, I automatically think about the big decisions of life. Somehow, I have gotten it into my mind that to ask, seek, and knock is reserved for “important things” in life. I wonder if God is waiting for me to ask, what have your brought me today? I wonder how many small gifts I have missed because I wasn’t paying attention.
C.S. Lewis wrote a book titled, Surprised by Joy. In that masterful volume, he talks about how joy seems illusive to us. The more that we chase after joy (or happiness) the more it alludes us. It always seems to be just outside of our grasp. Then, when we do not expect it, God surprises us with His joy. He allows us to enjoy some small pleasure or experience a positive encounter with someone and joy wells us from within us. We feel its embracing arms for the moment. But if we try to capture it, it evaporates.
Jesus promised to give us the gift of joy. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11) But if we look closely we discover that joy is not the goal. Joy is the byproduct of striving for the goal. The goal is to abide in Christ. The more that we strive to get close to Him, the more we will experience His joy.
The gifts that our Heavenly Father wants to give to us come as we keep our eyes focused on serving Him. Like a father surprising obedient children with some small gift, our Father delights in sending small gifts to those who genuinely follow Him. Jesus gives us a glimpse of this in the parable of the talents. Too often we focus on the servant who failed to be faithful and we miss God’s commendation for those who were. "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' Matthew 25:21
As Suanne and I have been sorting through our things, getting ready to move, we have come across many small gifts that people have given to us over the years; tangible reminders of people who have intersected with our lives. Those small gifts have reminded me of the many small gifts God has given to me over the years. They may not be tangible in a worldly sense, but they are far more precious and valuable.
What small gifts has God been offering to you?