a christian perspective on the world today

Gifts from God

Ever wondered how God makes a difference in a person’s life? Cathy Ireland explains.

The starting gun fired and the first runner on our relay team took the lead in just two long, quick strides. Her baton caught the sun as it rocked back and forth in rhythm with her high-speed pace. With muscles taunt and nerves jittery, I waited. I was the runner in third position. A thin bead of sweat broke out above my lip as the second runner rounded the bend just behind me. As she entered the transition zone and I began to run, my heart beat hard. I reached out and without flaw grabbed the baton firmly.

The pass made, I was off at full tilt. Everything around me blurred into insignificance and the voices of the cheering crowd faded out into silence. I was focused on one thing. Running the race! What an exhilarating experience! I was in primary school, just 12 years old. Never before or since did I run so fast. Unfortunately, the adrenaline rush that accelerated my normal momentum incapacitated my ability to navigate the hand-off at the final pass. My legs connected with the fourth runner and, for a precarious moment, we fumbled. That mix of surplus speed and flailing limb caused us to drop from first position. I was devastated! Every track day, I had failed to bring home even a single blue ribbon. My younger sister, on the other, excelled, coming home plastered in colour. This was as close as I ever got to the coveted first place.

Why could she win so easily? Great talent is a mystery.

According to Benjamin Bloom, who completed a five- year study of some 120 superstars across many genres, discerned that they aren’t born; rather, they’re raised. Parents alert to their children’s natural curiosity and care about what interests them plays a significant role in the development of a child’s success potential. Positive input virtually always produces positive results.

The Bible says, “The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11). God is the ultimate of fathers; He fosters our natural curiosity and in Him we’re all winners! Genesis 1:1 tells us that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Adam and Eve had complete freedom to roam the earth—with but one exception. God told them not to eat the fruit of one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (see Genesis 2:16, 17). The consequence of doing so would be death. The choice to obey was theirs, for God never forces His will upon anyone.

Unfortunately, Adam and Eve were deceived by a serpent (see Genesis 3:1), and their world and ours was forever changed. Our chance of winning seemed diminished. Sin entered our perfect world.

But God didn’t leave us without hope! Following are some simple truths concerning this:

1. God loves each of us

We all make foolish mistakes. Thankfully God’s love and grace extends to everyone.

Recently someone shared with me how, in a drunken state, he’d killed a man, which resulted in his incarceration. While in jail he joined a Bible-study group, where he was introduced to the love of God. He couldn’t resist it, and invited God into his life. Even though the consequences of his wrongdoing remained, the weight of it immediately lifted. What an amazing thing God’s grace is! The Bible says that “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).

2. God fills in what’s missing

Shel Silverstein wrote a couple of delightful books entitled The Missing Piece and The Missing Piece Meets the Big O . They summarise the quest of all human beings to find personal meaning and a strong sense of self-worth.

From our beginnings, Satan—much as he did with Adam and Eve—has worked to snuff out God’s dream for us. His tactic is to wound us in childhood with unkindness or difficulties that push us away from reaching our full potential.

In John 8:44 we’re told that Satan is the “father” or author of lies. But when we read God’s Word—the Bible—we find the truth about God’s purpose for our lives, which helps us feel a whole lot better.

3. God gives purpose

Recently there’s been a lot of attention given to superchurch pastor Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life . Why? I believe it’s because we all want to hear that life holds something more. Every person on this planet is born with a unique set of gifts and talents designed to use for God’s glory. When we fail to use them for that purpose we aren’t happy.

The Great Commission given by Jesus Christ in Matthew 28:18-20 is inclusive!

4. God makes all things beautiful

Last year the world was devastated to learn of another major waterborne disaster, Hurricane Katrina, which drowned New Orleans. Fortunately, many people responded.

Amy Grant, host for NBC’s Three Wishes program, in its October 7 edition, featured the wishes of the mayor of a South Dakota community to help a displaced family start over in his town.

The documentary introduced David and Giselle Sparkman and their two children as the chosen family. Through their story viewers were brought closer to the suffering of thousands. Individuals and families around the world do not need to live without hope, for one day all will have a story of God’s intervention in their life, if they choose Him!

5. God waits for us

Most of us have family members who live far away, and we can only pray and entrust their care to God. One night a short time ago, a friend awoke from a deep sleep, troubled by a dream concerning her sister in South Africa. Concerned, she immediately began praying, but was so anxious for her that she phoned. She learned that just moments before, she and her husband had returned home to find it ransacked by thieves.

My friend believes that God intervened to ensure her family’s safekeeping.

Speaking of the returning “prodigal” son, Luke 15:20 states that “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion.” Such is the abiding and constant care of an almighty God and the power of prayer.

6. God builds hope

The Bible tells us that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

This doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen to good people with high expectations, for they do. But God promises to remain close throughout every experience.

Fortunately there’s always something positive that can be drawn from tragedy, but we must look for it. Many people have found their life’s purpose and work in trying times. There’s a saying, “That which doesn’t break us makes us stronger.” Who can help someone more than one who has had a similar experience? A friend of mine once said that she mentally pictures God as a “master planner,” looking over the earth and pulling together the right people at precisely the right time. If you’ve been the recipient of some such divine “arranging,” you’ll know what I mean. God’s love is pervasive and personal.

7. God offers a better life

In John 14:3, Jesus tells us, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” God’s plan is to restore Eden lost by Adam and Eve.

One day we will be united as winners, alongside our loved ones that we’ve lost through death or sickness, with financial problems resolved and disasters put to rest.

In life, what is important isn’t that we start but that we finish. Paul, in his valedictory to Timothy, says, “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord . . . will award to me . . . and not only me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7, 8). God’s love is eternal and unconditional—except that we accept it.

Just as winning begins with your first step, salvation begins when we accept Jesus as our personal Saviour. That can be as soon as today. “Greater love has noone than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus, our friend, is the Winning Way, dying in our place that we might have a place in His kingdom.

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