I don’t often comment on specific Bible passages, but this one has really stood out for me this week. Check this passage out:
“Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7 v9-11)
I don’t know about you, but I have struggled a lot with this verse.
I mean, have you ever struggled with God giving you good things? Or have you ever felt guilty when God’s blessed you in an amazing way, when grace has been extended to you, whether directly from God or through someone else?
I know I do.
This last year or so I have been so blessed. God has given me so many good things, I don’t have too much to complain about. But sometimes its hard to believe these things are really real, or to truly embrace them, because we think we’re not meant to.
I mean aren’t we meant to be serving, giving, making sacrifices for God? Denying ourselves and taking up our cross? Forgetting our own desires and pursuing His?
Well, yes, in one sense we are, and in the Bible it does mention this.
But that is often misinterpreted to mean that God doesn’t want us to enjoy the good things He gives us and the opportunities and blessings He puts in front of us.
God wants us to have fun.
God wants to bless us - and that blessing doesn’t come from anything we’ve earned, it comes because of the grace and love of God.
But by the same token, God doesn’t just want us to be happy. Happiness is an emotion which quickly comes and goes, and our culture encourages us to pursue this. But because its so hard to attain and it doesn’t last, we have to keep going, keep striving, to pursue it - and that’s exhausting & ultimately unfulfilling.
I think God wants us to embrace the blessings we have - but that He wants us to see them as blessings, not as ends in themselves. He wants us to enjoy His blessings but He wants us to be willing to sacrifice them if He wants us to.
He wants to be the first in our heart.
You see when we put God first in our heart its much easier to enjoy all the blessings God puts in front of us. Because we know these are not ends in themselves, they aren’t the things we’re putting our hope and faith in.
I know its been much easier for me to enjoy the good things God has given me when I know that they all come second to God. But even now, I struggle to accept when the most amazing blessings come my way, because I think that God can’t want me to have them.
I can instinctively think
“What did I do to deserve this?”
“Why are you giving me this?”
“What’s the catch?”
When often there isn’t one. God just loves giving out, He loves blessing us, because He loves us. What I am learning is that I have to embrace these blessings, because if I don’t it’s almost akin to not trusting God. It’s like I’m taking something He’s given me and throwing it away, it’s kinda ungrateful.
But as I have said, I’ve only started to learn this once I started putting God first in my heart. When everything begins and ends with God, and everything is from Him and for Him, then when good things happen, and you know they are from God, then it becomes much easier to embrace them. Often we can over spiritualise things, and even use God as an excuse not to enjoy the blessings He gives us, because we think we shouldn’t enjoy blessing, because it means we’re not taking our faith seriously. But I think that as long as we put the blessings in their proper perspective - second to God - then enjoying the blessings that are put in our path is very much taking our faith seriously.
I don’t know about you, but growing up in the church I somehow got indoctrinated into this idea that having fun is a sin.
But that’s not true.
Making fun your entire life, and worshipping it, and putting it above God, that’s the sin. I mean, look at how many weddings and parties Jesus went to, I mean He liked to enjoy life.
But it was always second to God for Him. We need to take the opportunities put in front of us, recognise them and embrace them.
Here’s a clip from ‘Dead Poets Society’ (great film, if you’ve not seen it, make sure you do soon), which makes my point well:
Now of course, this doesn’t talk about God, but it makes an important point.
Seize the day.
Make your lives extrodinary.
We need to embrace the oppotunities and blessings God puts into our lives, we need to step out and take risks for God and allow ourselves to experience things. Life isn’t all about theory. James said that faith without action is dead, and that doesn’t just mean that we have to live out our faith through service & lifestyle - though it does mean that - it means that we need to step out and embrace what God is doing in our lives, and in relation to the verse above, to enjoy the blessings God gives us.
Now of course, there are other meanings and interpretations of this verse, and many of them are equally as meaningful.
We need to know & trust that God isn’t going to give us blessings that take Him away from us, and sometimes He opens doors to blessing and He just wants us to walk through them, to seize the day.
I think part of the journey of faith we are all on, part of the invitation of Christ, is exactly what Robin Williams says:
Seize the day.
Make your lives extraordinary.
Embrace what God has for you, take the opportunities He gives us, enjoy His blessing, and do it all in the light of Him - putting Him first above all things, seeing everything as a blessing from Him and in the light of who He is. Realise that God has extraordinary things in store for us, and part of that is embracing the blessings that He has for us.
I think these two quotes have much more to say to us as Jesus followers than we realise. It’s something maybe I will explore in the coming weeks.
But for now, know that God does give us good things, and He wants us to embrace them and enjoy them - in the proper context, in light of Him, as coming from Him, as blessings from Him, all second in importance to Him.
Then, we might really experience the blessing of God in a way we’ve not done before.