“UNWANTED GIFTS”                                           By Pastor YAU

Text: James 1:12-18                                                  June 15, 2008

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)    How will you respond? Have you received gifts you don’t know what to say to the givers? To thank him for something you don’t want or like to have? A writer said that when he was a small child, he wondered why he had to thank God for food he didn’t like to eat. In his immature mind, gratitude was a response to receiving things he wanted like a hamburger and French fries, not asparagus or broccoli. In human realm, this kind of thinking is logical: we respond with gratitude only when given things we love to have. Not everything we receive is good in our eyes and mind and we have a hard time to respond to that.

2)    How should we respond? The mindset of God is different from ours. As Christ reminded us that loving earthly parents will not give their children a stone rather than bread, a snake instead of a fish, our Heavenly Father will certainly give us much better gifts than our earthly parents will. (Matt. 7:9-11)Knowing that not every gift people may give is for our good, we need to realize that every thing our Heaven Father may give us IS for our good, even if we can’t see it at the moment, so we need to respond with gratitude.

 

THE IMPERFECT HUMAN GIFTS: While we all need to be thankful when people give us gifts, there are times we may not feel that way. Here are some of the obvious situations:

1)   Hard to find perfect gifts: Few people may have all the time, wisdom, energy and the wit to buy that perfect gift for that perfect someone at that perfect occasion, many of us just don’t and can’t do that job right. If you are like me, buying gifts is one of the hardest things of life. When I was traveling frequently years ago, I always bought some “perfect” gifts for my wife hoping to please her on my return but always ended up with that usual comment: “How can you still don’t know what I like after have married you for all these years?” The only thing she still likes to wear once in a while is the glass necklace from Venezuela. You have to have the ability to read people’s mind to know what it is that “perfect” gift.

2)   Hard to know their needs: Someone told me they had received six rice cookers as their wedding gift years back. We had received four tea sets at our wedding. When we were in Singapore, one year the church gave us half a dozen bath towels and a box of soap as Christmas gifts that prompted my wife to tease me: “You must smell so bad in this tropical whether so they give you these.” Often times we give gifts according to our understanding or imagination instead of really know what others want or need or like to have.

3)   Hard to know the impact:  Giving of gifts carry many of meaning and impact of life. Some gifts may impact the recipient in ways we may not realize. Nowadays many people like to give video games, movies and CDs. We have to be very careful to know the contents of that gift. Giving of books carry the same impact. Giving of cigar and wine is a common practice in business world but is taboo in Christian setting. Few years back, a lady in this church gave me a necklace with a key and a heart. Someone saw it and explained to me the meaning. Thank God the giver was a grandma.

4)   Hard to afford that gift: Some time we see a gift and believe that is the perfect one but we just can’t afford to buy it. We have to settle on something less because of our limited resource. Some may say it is the thought that counts, but we all know that it is more than just the thought but the gift. There are times we are unable to give what we know the best perfect gift.

 

THE PERFECT GIFTS OF GOD:

1)   That perfect gift, His Son:  No human gifts ancient or present may compare to that perfect gift God has given to human race. By giving us His own son, God demonstrated His greatest love to the world. “But God demonstrates His own love to us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)Giving of gifts is a way to express love. By giving us His Son, God has shown us His eternal and lasting love to mankind. No one may give us better gift or gifts to show his/her love than what God has given us.

2)   The gift that meets all needs: Different people at different time may have different needs of different gifts. Some gifts may meet needs at a certain time under certain circumstances. There is no gift that will meet all the needs of all people at all times under all kinds of circumstances. But the gift of God in His Son Jesus Christ will meet all needs of all people in all time under all kinds of situation. Since all people were created in God’s image, have His spirit in all of them and are all sinners because of our corrupted nature, we all need the gift God has sent us: Jesus and His forgiveness of sin and eternal life. Sinners of all kinds will be saved if he/she will repent of their sins and believe in His name. “To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave them the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

3)   The gift that perfects us: Most human gifts are for consumption and won’t create lasting benefits or results. But the gifts of God in our lives will create lasting and perfecting results if we trust Him in His ways. James told the early Christians that the gift of God in trials and testing will perfect us for eternity. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. And perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)No gift may make any life perfect, but the gifts of God in trials, setback, failure and even suffering will perfect us in our faith for all good works. We all need to be tested to be good for His kingdom and our lives.

4)   The gift of the Father: In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus was talking to His disciples about how much the Heavenly Father knows what best gift He would give to His children then human fathers to their children. “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? Although you are evil, you 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?” Just as children don’t know what is good for them, we don’t know what is good for us either in many things. “Father knows the best” is perfectly right when we receive gifts from God.

CHOOSE ALL THE GIFTS YOU WANT: (James 1:12-18)

1)    The gift of being blessed: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.” (1:12) Persevere means endure with courage and strength. To receive blessing from the Lord requires us to endure all kinds of tests with strength to endure and overcome. Just as athletes must endure strenuous training with hardship, we must go through serious training to attain strengthen our faith.

2)    The gift of the crown of life: “When he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life.” (1:12)Salvation is free to all believers but crowns of life or glory are earned by those who pass the test of life. “No pain, no gain” is true in receiving crowns of life.

3)    The gift of life over death: In 1:13-15, James called Christians to overcome evil desire which may produce death. By allowing the power of God to live in us, we are able to overcome sin and death by refusing to bowl to temptation and evil desire. In Christ, we are more than conquerors. “The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57)

4)    The gift from the Father: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights.” (1:17) Will you treasure a gift from the president of the United States? Or a gift from the CEO of your company? Or the principle of your school? How about a gift from God Himself? Can you trust that whatever gift God may give you must the best for your life? Can you believe Him that He knows the best and has your best interest in His heart when He chooses gifts for you?

5)    The gift of birth through truth: “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth.” (1:18)This is the spiritual birth, the born again new life from the Word of God, the truth. There is no human gift that provides the path to eternal life except through the truth in the Bible, the Word of God.

6)    The gift of first fruits: “We might be a kind of first fruits of all He created.” (1:18)In the Bible, first fruits are the most important, the prestigious and the most precious. God demands that His people are to bring Him the first fruits, be it vegetation, animal or babies, all first fruits belong to Him. There are over 20 places in Exodus, Leviticus and numbers, God demanded offering to Him the first fruits. Jesus was the first to rise from the dead and therefore was the first fruit of all Christians. (1 Corinth. 15:20, 23)

 

CONCLUSION:

1)    Let go of unwanted gifts: Whatever this world may have given you that are not compatible with Christian value and character, we have to let go of them. This includes worldly values, selfish purpose of life, anything goes attitude and any and all unseemly acts, words and ways of doing business, treating people and executing responsibilities. We are children of God, the Light, and we need to live as light and in the light. We don’t and can keep those things on our back as we pursue spiritual growth and journey to heaven. Examine your heart and see what kind of inventory you have and clean up your closet. Create room for the Lord.

2)    Seek and keep godly gifts: After you clean up your closet of the heart, do not let it stay empty. Seek and keep gifts God wants us to have. Seek true wisdom from God when choose gifts that help us grow into maturity and usefulness for His Kingdom and churches. Stay strong and take firm stand in difficult times, persevere in time of trials and keeping the fire of faith bright towards God. Trust His wisdom and leadership in making choices. At the end of the day, you will see that your spiritual life is mature, complete and lacking nothing. (1:4)

3)    Build your gift list: Some people like to build gift lists for wedding, birthdays and Christmas, things they wish to have. Lists like these are designed to please our hearts. Christians need to build another list of gifts to please the heart of God. We need to aim for gifts that help us building Christian character, attitude and virtues that help us to be the light of the world while we are here and to delight the heart of God when we see Him in heaven. Check your list of gift and see if they are compatible and helpful to our Christian pursuit.