The Ultimate Christmas Gift
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” --John 15:13 NLT
On Christmas Day, we participate in a number of traditions. Gift giving is one of the major customs of this holiday, reminding us of the Wise Men’s gifts to the baby Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Yet, theirs were not the first gifts of Christmas.
Jesus gave us the original gift on the day He was born. He is the “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16 ESV). Jesus gave His life for us so that we would not perish but live and spend eternity with Him.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV). His was the greatest of all gifts. It is up to each of us to receive this precious gift of salvation.
During this Christmas season, reflect upon what you have done with this ultimate present. Is it still sitting, wrapped under the tree? Have you returned it unopened? Or have you accepted the profound gift of eternal fellowship with your Lord and Savior?
Realize the enormity of God’s gift, express your sincere gratitude to Him for His amazing love, and look for opportunities to tell others of this amazing gift that is available to them.
…For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. -–Isaiah 30:18 NLT
There are many times throughout life when you are waiting for answers to prayers. You may have an unresolved physical ailment; a prolonged job search; complications with selling a home; or ongoing difficulties in a relationship. As you wait, days may turn into weeks, weeks into months, and sometimes months into years. How do you survive the uncertainty?
First, you need to understand and accept that difficulties are a part of life. Our Lord Jesus explained, “…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).
Also, do not be afraid. Continue to pray to the Lord and trust Him, being assured that He loves you and He will not abandon you. “Yet I am confident I will see the LORD’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD" (Psalm 27:13-14 NLV).
Finally, rest in God’s love. Faith in the Lord’s goodness separates you from unbelievers. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7 ESV).
Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. -- John 6:27 NIV
How ought we to feed our souls? It is well-known that without proper nourishment, our physical bodies will suffer. We have some understanding of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients needed to keep ourselves strong, energetic, and healthy. But, how should we nourish our souls? Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35 ESV). Our spiritual diet begins with inviting Jesus to live in our hearts. We need to come to Him each day in prayer.
Another vital part of spiritual nutrition includes daily consumption of His words in the Bible. “Your words were found and I ate them. And your words became a joy to me and the happiness of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16 NLV). Savor each word.
A final aspect involves throwing out the junk food. “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation...” (1Peter 2:1-3 NIV). Keep your thoughts, words, and deeds pure.
With a balanced diet of prayer, study, and a pure heart, your soul will be well nourished.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
-- Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
Paul’s letter to the Galatians identifies goodness as a fruit of the Spirit. Being good is one manifestation that the Lord is active, living, and working in your life.
As a child, the words “be good”, meant obeying the household rules, the community laws, and the Ten Commandments.
But, goodness goes beyond obedience. It is the quality of being consistently upright and pure, escaping “...the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:4 NIV). This quality requires you to keep your eyes and your mind fixed on Jesus, abstaining from all appearances of evil.
In Philippians 4:8 NIV, Paul encourages each of us to think on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, and worthy of praise. The Lord says in Jeremiah 6:16 NIV, “…ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Be vigilant each day in finding ways to be a blessing to those around you.
Make a commitment today to seek God’s guidance through prayer and the study of His word. In doing so, you will be able to tap into the Lord’s strength in order to walk in His ways. And, then one day, you will hear the beautiful words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21 NIV).
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! -- Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
Faithfulness is the quality of being consistently full of faith. This fruit of the Spirit is characterized by loyalty, constancy, and unwavering trust in the Lord. It requires each of us to move forward each day, trusting in God without answers or visible evidence. “…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV).
Without the Holy Spirit’s help, it would be impossible to keep our eyes steadfastly fixed on Jesus, believing unwaveringly in God’s mercy and love for us. It is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to trust what God says in the Bible, and not necessarily what the world or our own eyes tell us. Proverbs 3:5 NIV states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
We are to trust in the Lord in every situation, whether it be a minor incident or a major crisis, knowing that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28 NIV).
Refuse to Be Mediocre
When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. -
–John 15:8 NLT
Jesus desires that you produce much fruit to glorify your Heavenly Father, demonstrating that you are His disciple. You are meant to be profoundly effective. You are urged to “serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do…” (Ephesians 6:7-8 NIV).
Think about how you can positively influence others, putting your faith into action. Producing fruit involves much more than just praying; it requires effort. Give God your best each day.
Live out your faith, offering encouragement, showing interest, helping others as needed, and sharing your testimony. Such actions will yield a plentiful harvest. “Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord…” (Colossians 3:23 NIV).
Strive for excellence. Do not settle for being comfortable. Push forward to be profoundly effective. Refuse to be mediocre.
Receiving Gifts - Part 3
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. -- 1 Peter 4:10 NIV
How are you responding to God-given gifts? Have you opened each box to discover what you have received? Have you acknowledged and thanked the Lord for each gift? Are you enjoying the gifts and using them? Or in contrast, are you rejecting something bestowed upon you, forgetting to thank the Lord for it, or simply not using it? You may even be trying to re-gift it, encouraging someone else to take on a role that God intended for you, not recognizing that God gave you a certain ability to be used for His purpose.
Each day, ask God to reveal a new gift that is yet unopened. Take delight in it. Thank Him for all He has given you, and use each of them in meaningful ways. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8 NIV).
Receiving Gifts - Part 2
Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! -- Psalm 107:21 NKJV
Your heavenly Father is generous, giving you many thoughtful gifts, both spiritual and tangible. The gift of salvation is paramount. But, He has bestowed many others. These include fruits of the Spirit such as love, joy, peace, and patience, special talents and abilities, gifts of emotional support including family and friends, and more concrete ones such as a comfortable home or a reliable car.
It pleases Him greatly when you use and enjoy the gifts He has given you, as well as when you express genuine gratitude for these presents. He wants you to enjoy His gifts, use them, and to express your appreciation.
The gifts that the Lord gives are not deserved, nor have they been earned. They are freely given. Otherwise, they would not be gifts, but rather incentives.
The Lord is incredibly generous and His love for us is awesome. “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15 NKJV).
Receiving Gifts - Part 1
Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” -- Luke 17:17-18 NASB
Does your reaction to God’s gifts please Him? Think of the feelings you get when someone is using and enjoying the well-thought-out gift you have recently given him or her. Perhaps it was a beautiful sweater that you had spent hours shopping for or a set of tools that your son is using to make his life easier. Whatever you have given, there is a great sense of satisfaction and happiness in not only receiving gratitude for the item, but in seeing the joy you have brought into the life of the loved one as he or she uses it.
On the other hand, consider the feelings you experience when the recipient of a gift does not express thanks, does not seem to enjoy it, never uses it, returns it, re-gifts it, or worse – leaves it unopened in the box. With such a response, you are bound to feel disappointed, unappreciated, and less inclined to bestow further gifts upon this recipient.
Likewise, your response to the Lord for what He gives you can delight Him or displease Him. “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Meditate on the many gifts the Lord has given you. Recognize the boxes that remain unopened, and reveal their contents. Do not fail to use them and to express gratitude for each and every one.
Pray Every Day
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. -–Jeremiah 29:12 NIV
Bring to mind the one who holds the most loving place in your heart. Perhaps you are thinking of your spouse, a family member, or a friend. How often do you communicate with that person? If he or she spent the day with you, is it likely that you would let the entire day go by without a word? Could you maintain a healthy relationship without communication? Of course, you couldn’t.
The same holds true for each of us in our relationship with our Lord. He has made us in His own image, and He desires fellowship with us every day. We are reminded in Psalm 145 that “the Lord is near to all who call on Him…” (Psalm 145:18 NIV). Jesus invites us to communicate with Him: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV).
A deep relationship with our heavenly Father requires sharing with Him our deepest hopes, dreams, concerns, and questions. No matter how busy we are, it is vital to devote a segment of each day to one-on-one time with the Lord, as well as spontaneous communication with God throughout the day.