Thursday, February 21, 2013

Today's Gifts, Not Tomorrow's Rot

“They...fled unto Lystra, and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region round about, and there preached the Gospel. Now there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, which was a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. He heard Paul speak: who beholding him and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on thy feet.’ And he leaped up, and walked. Then when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, ‘Gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.’ And they called Barnabas, Jupiter: and Paul Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then Jupiter’s Priest, which was before their city, brought bulls with garlands unto the gates, and would have sacrificed with the people. But when the Apostles, Barnabas and Paul heard it, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying, and saying, ‘O men, why do ye these things? We are even men subject to the like passions that ye be, and preach unto you, that ye should turn from these vain things unto the living God, which made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that in them are: Who in times past suffered all the Gentiles to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless, He left not Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food, and gladness’” (Acts 14:6-17, Geneva Bible).

God is the Source of all the happy things in the life of humanity, from work (“fruitful seasons”) to pleasure (“food, and gladness”). We’ve been going through Ecclesiastes the last few months, hearing the message of the Preacher about these things. “There is no profit to man, but that he eat and drink, and delight his soul with the profit of his labor: I saw also this, that it was of the hand of God...I know that there is nothing good in them, but to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man eateth and drinketh, and seeth the commodity of all his labor. This is the gift of God...behold then, what I have seen good, that it is comely to eat, and to drink, and to take pleasure in all his labor, wherein he travaileth under the sun, the whole number of the days of his life, which God giveth him: for this is his portion. Also to every man to whom God hath given riches and treasures, and giveth him power to eat thereof, and to take his part, and to enjoy his labor: this is the gifts of God. Surely he will not much remember the days of his life, because God answereth to the joy of his heart...and I praised joy, for there is no goodness to man under the sun, save to eat and to drink and to rejoice: for this is adjoined to his labor the days of his life that God hath given him under the sun...go, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a cheerful heart: for God now accepteth thy works. At all times let thy garments be white, and let not oil be lacking upon thine head. Rejoice with the wife whom thou hast loved all the days of the life of thy vanity, which God hath given thee under the sun all the days of thy vanity” (Ecclesiastes 2:24; 3:12,13; 5:18-20; 8:15; 9:7-9). Give thanks to God for His gifts to us today (work and pleasure), but don’t try to wring meaning, peace, security, hope, fulfillment, identity, etc., out of them. They are given to us today to point us to the Giver of the gifts, Who has twisted reality so that we must turn to Him in faith to find all that we seek to get out of reality (Genesis 3:16-19; Ecclesiastes 7:13). Like the manna He gave from heaven to the children of Israel in the desert, it’s only good for today’s need and happiness; hold on to it until tomorrow and it’s rot (Exodus 16:13-21). Trust Him with tomorrow. Don’t be like the Lycaonians, worshiping everything except the Giver, Who has “left not Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food, and gladness.” Give Him thanks today for the work and the pleasure He gives in the name that is above all names, the only name given under heaven by which we must be saved, the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

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