Gifts of Grace

Christmas. The season of the year that is all about gifts and giving. Have you seen the extravagant commercial with the Lexus wrapped in a big red bow? Wouldn’t it be a fantastic experience to give that! (Or get that!). Such a gift would last perhaps ten years. A long time in today’s world.

Sitting here, I’m trying to remember the gifts that I’ve given and received over the years, I must admit that I’m able to recall only a few. I mean no offence to those with whom I’ve exchanged gifts with; perhaps it’s just that my memory is getting shorter.

But I’ll wager that, if you are honest, you have the same memory problem. The gifts that are the most to memorable however, are the ones that were made especially for me. You know the ones: they were crafted by spouses, children, grandbabies or friends. These gifts didn’t equal the cost of a Lexus in terms of dollars and cents but these were gifts that were tailor-made especially with us in mind. Some were crayon or watercolor masterpieces, handmade works of art that adorned the front of our refrigerator.

In the midst of this wonderful season, I’m thinking of another gift that was presented specifically with me in mind. I’m imagining a baby in an old stable with a big red bow wrapped around him. He is a gift like no other! In terms of value, he is priceless! This gift is one that is given to each of us individually; at the same time, as we receive this present we find that Jesus is also given to us to be shared together.

As we begin to unpack this Indescribable Gift through a relationship with him, it is interesting to discover that He comes bearing an unexpected surprise. It’s as if God introduces us to his unfathomable storehouse of gifts. From birth, everyone is gifted with a unique combination of natural talents and abilities. In addition, when we connect with God through a relationship with Jesus, God distributes even more presents, sometimes referred to as spiritual gifts or gifts of the Spirit.

God’s gifts of grace come in many forms. Each of you has received a gift in order to serve others. You should use it faithfully. If you speak, you should do it like one speaking God’s very words. If you serve, you should do it with the strength God provides. Then in all things God will be praised through Jesus Christ.  1Peter4:10-11

What is worth noting is that these gifts never reach their full value or potential when they are hoarded or cached. In fact, they atrophy in the same way that a muscle diminishes when it is not used.

These gifts reach their full significance and purpose when they are spent extravagantly…on others.

The slogan, “The gift that keeps on giving”, was originally coined in the 1920’s by the Victor Talking Machine Company to promote the newly invented phonograph machine. While the phrase has been used by The United Way, Sports Illustrated and other organizations, the concept originated with God. And while The Victor Talking Machine Company was acquired by RCA and the phonograph machine has morphed into IPods and MP3 players, the gift of His Son and the gifts he distributes, “keep on giving”.

At Montana on a Mission, we’ve discovered that as we have become involved in the various projects that spread God’s love, he sends us people who are gifted in uniquely different ways. We have been privileged to work with teachers, medical personnel, carpenters, pastors, and students. There have been biologists, marketing specialists, sewers, plumbers, gardeners and managers.

Perhaps none of these people while giving of their gifts expected to receive something in return. We have discovered that we are, in fact, given more than we offer. On my first short-term mission trip to the Philippines, I fully expected that I would give more than I would receive. After all, what could a village whose average family income is 3-5 dollars a day give to me? Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I ended up receiving more than I gave.

While giving her life to the poor in Calcutta, Mother Teresa said,

“The poor give us much more than we give them. They’re such strong people, living day to day with no food. And they never curse, never complain. We don’t have to give them pity or sympathy. We have so much to learn from them.”

What is it that we can “learn from them?” One of the qualities that the poor teach us is the lesson of contentment. This has been the experience many of those travelling on short-term mission trips have had. Over and over again, we have heard travelers express in amazement the happiness and contentment they have observed in the midst of grinding poverty.

Remember the last sentence in the quotation from Peter? When we use the gifts and abilities that we have been given to serve others, it is a win-win outcome. And when those gifts are given in Jesus’ name, “Then in all things God will be praised through Jesus Christ.”

1 reply
  1. Doug
    Doug says:

    Thanks Tom, I hadn’t read this earlier. I often said to myself, and others when I thought they needed it is that “the secret to happiness is learning to be content with what we have. I don’t think I’ve lived it very well though. We’re praying God will bless your trip to the Philippines.

    Love Doug and Joy

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