Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Gifts or The Giver?

            “When Simon Peter saw this [that they caught a large number of fish when Jesus told them to lower their nets, even though they had caught nothing the whole day], he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’  For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of the fish they had taken,”  (Luke 5:8-9) 

            Does God’s goodness to us, His wonderful blessings, astonish us anymore?  Or do we expect them and take them for granted?  Food, shelter, a good friendship, health, an adequate job, children?  Do we really notice them and live with a thankful heart for all the ways He’s blessed us?  Or do we wolf down the blessings and then look for the next one, barely taking the time to praise Him for His goodness and appreciate the things He has already done for us?
            Do God’s blessings make us look at Him more closely, make us recognize Him for the good, generous Father that He is?  Do they make us realize how inadequate we are on our own, how dependent we are on Him, and how undeserving we are of His blessings?  How far we fall from His righteous standards?  Or do we focus more on playing with our newest toy and on how it makes us feel happy and warm and cozy?  Always keeping our eyes open for the next thrill?
            Our answers to these will tell us if we are more focused on the gifts or the Giver!

            The fishermen didn’t expect the great catch of fish.  They were astonished that it happened.  And they didn’t explain it away as something natural, as we are tempted to do when something good happens.  “Oh, it must’ve just been the right spot at the right time.  I bet we scared the fish earlier in the day.  Rocked the boat too much.  Or maybe it was too hot.  Thanks for the suggestion, Jesus!”  Anything but “What a wonderful gift from God!”  And they didn’t take it for granted, like, “Finally.  We deserved this after a hard day of work catching nothing.”

            They were astonished.  They recognized that something miraculous happened.  And they gave it the awe it deserved. 
            But it didn’t stop there.  This miracle also humbled them.  Instead of focusing on how happy it made them, how much money they could get for the fish, how much they deserved it, or if they could get something more out of Jesus, Simon Peter looked past the fish and saw – really saw - Jesus.  He recognized God in Him and fell at his feet in worship and humility, focused more on the Giver than on the gift.  The blessing made Peter see Jesus for Who He really is.
            Generous!  Holy!  Supernatural!  God! 
            And this caused him to see himself for who he really was, in comparison. 
            “I am a sinful man, Lord.  I do not deserve to be in Your presence, let alone to have You pour out this kind of goodness and blessing on me!”
            In our materialistic, self-made, self-sufficient age, I fear that we have become far too focused on the gifts - turning them into idols that we chase - and we fail to really see the Giver.  We fail to praise Him for the gifts we already have because we are too busy praising the gifts.  Or else we take them for granted, always wanting something more, not content with the basic blessings.  (Yet these “simple blessings” become “enormous blessings” the moment we lose them.  And we wish that we had recognized them as such when we still had them.)  We fail to recognize how undeserving we are and how everything we have is a gift.  We fail to care about how far short we fall of God’s holiness, living instead like He owes us something.  We fail to see Him as He really is - our good, generous, loving Father who owes us nothing but gives us everything.  We fail to fall at His feet in thankfulness and awe and humility!    
            And so we live in discontentment, always looking for the next thrill, barely taking time to be thankful for the ways He has already been so good to us.  And we live in smugness, expecting the blessings, taking them for granted, getting upset when things don’t go our way, and building up treasures on earth instead of in heaven.
            But if we were to truly focus on the Giver more than the gifts, we would continually be astonished at His goodness – for every new day that we have to serve and praise Him, for every boring day that goes by when a tragedy doesn’t happen, for every meal we can put on the table, for every safe day of travel - and we would fall down at His feet and say, “I am not worthy of such undeserved love and gifts.  But I am so, so thankful anyway for these blessings.  But I am even more thankful for Your presence!”
            How about you?  Are you astonished anymore?  In awe of our amazing and generous God?  Humbly bowed at His feet in thankfulness?  Do you see Him – really see Him – or is your focus on His gifts?  Where is your focus?  Where is your treasure? 

             “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in a steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Matthew 6:19-21)