~By: Jeanne Litke~
With the hustle and bustle of my favorite time of year having just wound down, I like to reflect back on this special season. I love the time just before Thanksgiving leading up to Christmas. It's a time of gratitude and excitement for what’s to come.
As a child, I remember writing my Christmas wish list months in advance, checking it twice, and making sure I was not naughty but nice, because as the song goes, you know who is coming to town! Christmas Eve would finally arrive, and I slept blissfully unaware of all the preparations going on around me. I didn’t know what I’d find under the Christmas tree in the morning, but with expectant hope, I always found that the gifts I had wished for did indeed arrive.
The world wants us to view everything through the temporal lens. It is a “getting what I want when I want it” way of thinking. This is altogether different than God’s delivery system, as I have come to realize.
“...While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 NKJV
If you knew me, you would know that I am guilty of last minute planning. I know how I can get when I don’t get what I ordered. Embarrassingly, I confess that’s all it takes sometimes to send me over the edge. Either the Christmas packages that I had chosen and planned on getting delivered on time for Christmas are delayed, or worse, out of stock! But God is never late. His plans, His timing, and His purpose are always just right. God’s perfect gifts are always delivered in full.
The hope we have as believers in Christ is enduring, anchored in eternity, and not found in this world. One of my favorite verses is found in Hebrews 6:19: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil.” What an unfathomable gift indeed!
Obedience always precedes favor. God’s grace alone determines what that looks like and how that plays out in our life. Our expectations and specifications don’t get first priority in God’s eternal plan. He is always working upstream on our behalf, whether we see it or not.
Genesis 22:1-3 gives the account of Abraham being told by God to sacrifice Isaac. In Genesis 22:1 CSB we read, “After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
The words “after...God tested Abraham” are not to be missed. So often, we want immediate blessings and favorable outcomes. From our worldview, we often see a gift as something we get based solely on what we want and that costs us little to nothing in return.
Genesis 22:2-3 says, “‘Take your son,’ He said, ‘your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.’ So Abraham got up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took with him two of his young men and his son Isaac. He split wood for a burnt offering and set out to go to the place God had told him about.”
Scripture is silent on how this command from God affected Abraham or Isaac emotionally, but I can only imagine that it must have been gut wrenching as Abraham raised up the sword and looked into his son’s eyes. The cost to Abraham’s heart was everything.
God knew this as Abraham obediently followed through. Just as he was about to deal the fatal blow, an angel of the Lord came, and in verses 22:11-12 we read, “But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ He replied, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from me.’”
Previously, in Genesis 15:5-6, we see that God had blessed Abraham for his belief, “He took him outside and said, ‘Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then He said to him, ‘Your offspring will be that numerous.’ Abram [Abraham] believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”
James 1:17 NKJV tells us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
Read those words again. Every good and perfect gift is from above. It requires us to recognize ahead of time, like Abraham did, the true Giver of the gift, not the gift itself. Sacrificial giving of all kinds should be a natural and loving response back to God for all He has done and will do.
We are called to respond as Samuel did in 1 Samuel 3:10 NIV, “The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’”
“We must hear from God. The preacher may speak, our parents may speak, our friends may speak, our teachers may speak, those on the radio or television may speak. That is all fine, but their voices mean nothing for eternity unless God speaks through them. Scripture is clear - costly sacrifice pleases God, not because God is greedy and wants to get as much from us as He can, but because God Himself sacrificed at great cost. God wants costly sacrifice from us because it shows we are being conformed into the image of Jesus, who was the greatest display of costly sacrifice.” ~David Guzik
My prayer for all of us this year is that we step out in expectant faith with loving obedience to the Giver of all good things, and may this be the year of living sacrificially to the praise of His glory!