It comes to me over and over again, with greater appreciation, that God TOTALLY loves us with ALL HIS HEART. Even if we haven’t seen it, the love has been this huge force in our lives, taking care of us, holding us together.
In sense, God gave everything to reach out to us.
In love, He GIVES and continues to give.
I went through the gospel of Mark and wrote down the ways God gave to us through the coming of Jesus. He GAVE:
- Purpose and meaning for our lives — to be fishers of men
- New teachings so we would know how to live effective lives
- Forgiveness of sins
- Assurance that He would take care of us (consider the lilies...)
- Eternal life
- HOPE and power — “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
One great picture of God giving is in the parable of the tenants: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. “
Like landowner in the parable, God gives us a fruitful life — a job, friends and family, things we enjoy. It’s not something we would have apart from His beneficence. All things are His, and he allows us to use them. Most of us reading this are RICH.
Another great picture of God giving is in the parable of the tenants in Matthew 18 —
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
This servant was forgiven of a debt of 10,000 bags of gold. An incredible amount he would NEVER be able to pay back. That is absolution on a VAST scale.
And that is the way God gives forgiveness to us.
I love this excerpt from “Healing for Damaged Emotions” by David Seamonds, “The world is made for forgiveness; it is made for grace; it is made for love in all of life. The need for these has been built into the structure of nature, of persons. It is in every cell of our bodies, in every interpersonal relationship. We are made for grace and love and acceptance.”
We are MADE to receive grace and forgiveness, to be GIVEN TO BY GOD.
As the very reflection of God, Jesus came to give, to SERVE. He came teaching, healing, pouring out his life.
“For the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for all.”
And here is the cool thing. The serving and saving didn’t stop with the death of Jesus, or even at the point we were saved. God gives to us by CONTINUING the salvation process. He still loves us actively, with full intensity.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. Romans 8:28-29a
God is WORKING good for us by orchestrating our lives to shape us to be like Christ.
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32
God WANTS to graciously give to us in abundant ways.
But what is our response? Do we even recognize that He has given to us?
I read this passage from Mark 6 about the time when Jesus had gone up on a mountainside to pray after he had fed the 5,000, and then walked on water. His disciples saw him in the dark and thought he was a ghost. They were afraid. Jesus got in the boat and calmed the wind. Mark says, “They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”
How much do we not understand about the loaves, about the miracles that have been performed in our lives, about the multiplying of something from nothing? Do we attribute everything we have from our own efforts? Do we disregard our mistakes, and all the times things could have gone wrong, but didn’t?
Are we like the tenants, who didn’t appreciate the vineyard they’d been given to work? Do we think that we don’t need to GIVE BACK?
At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. Mark 12:2-8
Are we like the unmerciful servant, who didn’t pass on the forgiveness he’d been given to others?
But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
No! We must give thanks unceasingly! We must give out of the overflow of our hearts.
You know, I don’t think we are supposed to obey just because we recognize the awesome God of the universe. I think we obey because our heart is MOVED to respond when we see how much we’ve been given.
How hard it must be for God to give and give to a people who take him for granted, whose hearts are hard to His overtures of love. I know I react imperfectly, but may I at least warm God’s heart by seeking every day to LOVE Him with all my heart, mind, strength and soul as I give to others, love them, forgive them, all the while giving HIM thanks and praise.