To our inquisitive minds come such questions as, Who is God? What is God? Why is God? In this article we will discover that He is Creator, Lover, Owner, and that it will take us eternity to comprehend and appreciate Him fully. But perhaps most of all, God is Giver.
God is the universe's greatest Giver. He does not restrict to Himself what He owns. God gives! He who existed before all things, created and owns all things, also shares all things.
Just suppose God had decided to create no one to share His bounties. He had the power to limit to Himself the universe with its unbelievable treasures. But He didn't. God demonstrates in His own life the attributes He seeks to develop in man.
God, the Creator-Giver, also finds great pleasure in receiving. What do you have to give to Him who literally owns all things? Through the power of choice, you have your love and allegiance. In the beginning God presented man with something of Himself life and love. Today God seeks love that He may offer men life.
Let us consider the greatest of all of God's gifts. To Eden and its bounties God periodically added His own presence. A personal relationship is what God has always sought to share with man. Too often man has limited his sharing to possessions, thereby losing out on the personal relationship. Sharing one's self is always the grandest gift anyone can give. The Godhead shared themselves from the beginning the prime example of stewardship in its highest form. When a person receives God as the supreme gift, he returns self to God in gratitude.
GIFT AT BETHLEHEM
The greatest of all God's gifts was Himself. Through the shepherds, the angel of the Lord announced to the world the arrival of the majestic present from God. "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11, KJV). He came, not wrapped in tinsel and sparkle to catch the attention of the receivers, but in the swaddling clothes of a newborn baby. It seems impossible to believe God could care so much for man. It demonstrates in an irrefutable manner the depth of God's love.
God the Son became a baby. He permitted Himself to be a child under the influence of earthly parents, progressing through the various stages of youth. Later, when His disciples childishly contended among themselves, Jesus urged them to be converted, to "turn around," begin anew, and become children of God. Jesus had literally become a child in order to redeem mankind. "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3, KJV).
God humbled Himself when He came to earth. He took our humanity that we might share His divinity. "In stooping to take upon Himself humanity, Christ revealed a character the opposite of the character of Satan. ... In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken" (The Desire of Ages, p. 2,5). How can man possibly appreciate the extent of God's gift?
Often He had to remind man of the need to humble himself. "Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:4, KJV). He could speak from experience on the subject of childlike humility. It is a terribly hard struggle to give up your own will and your own way. Pride, selfishness, and ambition must vanish. Your will must be swallowed up in that of Christ. Jesus learned such lessons as a little child. He wants to help each of us to surrender ourselves to Him and follow His example.
GIFT AT THE CROSS
Consider the kind of love required to motivate one to die for a good person. How many would be willing to do so? The gift of God at the cross was such a gift and more. Not only did Jesus die for good men, He died for evil men.
"Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble and lovable and generous benefactor someone might even dare to die. But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, died for us" (Romans 5:7, 8, Amplified).
Can you think of anyone you would willingly die for? Perhaps an extremely close loved one. Now consider someone who has slandered your name, has cursed, lied, cheated, stolen, and even refused to talk to you for years. Would you accept death in order that such a person might live? Not only the people of the world, but many people in the church have treated Jesus in exactly that manner. Why then did He choose to die? Why does He continue to care? What makes the difference between Him and us?
GOD CALLS IT LOVE
What does our love stimulate us to do for Him? Today, God is simply asking us to make a gift of ourselves to Him. He is not asking us to die to anything except sin. He urges us to give up sin, and be living examples of Christlike love.
GIFT OF THE SPIRIT
The most intimate relationship possible between God and man is for Him to dwell within. Through the Holy Spirit, God promised you would "know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:17, KJV).
Not only did God give Jesus that we might escape death, but now He gives the Holy Spirit to help us learn how to live. "The Spirit is constantly seeking to draw the attention of men to the great offering that was made on the cross of Calvary, to unfold to the world the love of God, and to open to the convicted soul the precious things of the Scriptures" (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 52).
Consider the effect the Spirit has upon those who allow His holy presence within them. Bitter opponents of the church become its champions, sinners unite with believers to herald the gospel, former Adventists become reconverted, new converts flock to the church, hearts yield to the power of the divine message, and it spreads to the entire world.
The influence of the Holy Spirit will affect both you and those who observe your life. "Every Christian saw in his brother a revelation of divine love and benevolence. . . . The ambition of the believers was to reveal the likeness of Christ's character, and to labor for the enlargement of His kingdom" (Ibid., p. 48).
Still another aspect of the Holy Spirit's presence is one that those whom He seeks to dwell within rarely appreciate. "Having brought conviction of sin, and presented before the mind the standard of righteousness, the Holy Spirit withdraws the affections from the things of this earth, and fills the soul with a desire for holiness" (Ibid., pp. 52, 53).
GIFT OF FAITH
Faith, like all other gifts from God, we must accept and then use if it is to accomplish the purpose for which God bestows it. It requires faith to believe and accept the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ in our behalf, and then make it a reality in the life. "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4, KJV).
We must be careful to understand what faith is. "Faith and feeling are as distinct as the east is from the west. Faith is not dependent on feeling. We must earnestly cry to God in faith, feeling or no feeling, and then live our prayers. Our assurance and evidence is God's word, and after we have asked we must believe without doubting" (Ellen G. White Comments, S.D.A. Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1073).
It enables us to go into the unknown with confidence and assurance. If we knew exactly how God was going to help us in a particular situation, we probably would not need faith. Faith is going from the known into the unknown with God. Presumption is venturing from the known into the unknown by yourself. Self-trust, or presumption, is Satan's counterfeit of faith.
The gift of faith calls us out of ourselves and makes us depend on God. He endeavors to develop within us the trust which we need to forsake everything else and follow Him. He came to the world not only to atone for our sins, but to instill faith within us.
Faith permits God to work His miracles in our lives, to continually be advancing with Him. God led Abraham to an unknown country. The patriarch had to take those first steps into the unknown by faith. Occasionally he faltered, but he never stopped moving with God. God attempts to keep us pressing forward as fast as our faith will take us.
GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE
There is a difference between life and existence. Adam and Eve had life before the entrance of sin. Afterward, man began an existence which still continues. "God is the fountain of life, and we can have life only as we are in communion with Him. Separated from God, existence may be ours for a little time, but we do not possess life"(Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 61). One who is living apart from Christ is spiritually dead and only physically alive.
Through Christ and the Holy Spirit we learn how to live. "Those who see Christ in His true character, and receive Him into the heart, have everlasting life. It is through the Spirit that Christ dwells in us; and the Spirit of God, received into the heart by faith, is the beginning of the life eternal" (The Desire of Ages, p. 388).
God, who is eternal, gave us eternity when He bestowed Himself. When we e ven remotely appreciate the gift of eternal life, the course of our present daily existence will change remarkably. The joys of Jesus will flood us as we link up with His divinity. Unending life will not be long enough to praise God for His indescribable gifts.
As constant recipients of God's gifts, our gratitude should flow back to Him in a constant stream. It is not possible to fully appreciate what He has done for us, but the gifts of Jesus and the Holy Spirit are enough to cause our grateful praise to continually ascend. The tide of God's love is always cascading into our lives. How much are you responding to it?
Cheerfulness, gratitude, and unselfishness have a life giving effect upon the body and the mind. "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine" (Proverbs 17:22, KJV).
Gratitude must be cultivated. Our expressions of love to God should be as systematic as His acts of charity to us. "He watches for some return of gratitude from us, as the mother watches for the smile of recognition from her beloved child" (Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 84).
How are we to show our thankfulness to God? He says we do it by faithfulness in tithes and offerings, giving money to aid the suffering, helping the poor, and by self-sacrificing efforts to tell others of Him. (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 75; Testimonies, vol. 9, pp. 50, 132; Counsels on Stewardship, pp. 18, 19)
Jesus appreciated the tokens of thanks bestowed on Him during His earthly ministry. From the expensive ointment given by Mary, to the flower presented by a little child, He accepted them as gifts of love which expressed pure affection, and as "giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified and made us fit to share the portion which is the inheritance of the saints (God's holy people) in the Light" (Colossians 1:12, Amplified). A heart opened in gratitude to God yields to Him the entire, unreserved, and unrestricted life for eternity.
Open your life to God. Enter into the full joy of a wise steward managing God's goods.
Paul G. Smith writes from Cleburne, Texas. His main concern in writing is to help readers understand the blessings of a life totally consecrated to God.