What is the best gift you’ve ever received? Was it something you’d been wishing for? Was it something you needed? Did it come in a beautiful package? Everyone loves a great gift! As we meditate on God the Father this month, I’m reminded of what a ”giver” God is! Most of us can quote John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” At the very heart of the Gospel we profess is our Heavenly Father giving.
I was struck by this recently as our small group studied through the book of James together. James was written to the early church during a time when they were experiencing a lot of unrest and persecution. James acknowledges the various trials the church was facing from the very beginning of the letter but arrives quickly at the goodness and graciousness of God our Father in verses 16-17 where he writes, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Let’s take a closer look at what this tells us about God our Father…
We Can Misunderstand God’s Heart for Us
Our hearts and minds are wicked in their natural state. Without a work of God in our lives, we often misunderstand God’s character, His world, and ourselves. James 1:13-16 give us a really good example of this: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.”
James clearly tells us it is our own sinful desires that lead us away from God. Not only do our sinful desires lead us away, they also make us misunderstand God’s heart for us. In our sinful state, we think things like, “Is God really for me?” “Is God just waiting for me to fail?” James is clear about this point: that’s NOT what God does! We should never say that God is tempting us. Satan lays traps for us and waits for us to fail. This sinful, distorted view of how God works showed up recently in my own life as I struggled with doubt. I went through a very dark time in which my own sinful mind led me to think untrue things about my loving Father.
As I fixed my mind on God’s Word and allowed it to “renew my mind,” I was reminded of how our Father actually works: our loving Father prepares good works for us so we can walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). He plans good plans for a hope and a future for us (Jeremiah 29:11). He orders our steps (Psalm 37:23) and whispers in our ears, “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21). But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s move on to verse 17.
God’s Heart for Us Is Good and Perfect
James goes on to say, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Not only does God not tempt us, He gives us good and perfect gifts. Look around. Everything you have is a result of God’s grace in your life: the clothes on your body, the breath in your lungs, the food that you eat, the relationships you have. Do you have any other good things in your life? It’s all because of our good Father!
Jesus said something similar in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:9-11, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” It’s like James is saying: your natural understanding will try to tell you that God tempts you and wants to see you fail, but God is your Father. And your Father’s heart toward you is tender. He wants to give you good things.
This leads us to a big implication. If God wants to give us good things, why do bad things happen in our lives? Well, the short answer to that question is that we live in a broken world. But a more complete explanation also involves the fact that God’s grace and goodness don’t always look like a nice house, a perfect family, or a full bank account. God gives all kinds of good gifts! Sometimes, His good gifts might taste like a medicine or feel like a vaccine. The gift might not be pleasant at the time, but it comes from our good Father who knows what is best for us!
God’s Heart for Us Is Based on His Unfailing Character
The best part of our Father having a giving heart toward us is that it is not at all dependent on us. Verse 17 tells us that “there is no variation or shadow due to change” in our Father’s character. He doesn’t just have a bad day and change His heart toward us. He is faithful. He cannot be unfaithful; it’s against His character. He can’t give us bad gifts because He is a good God! This is a very good thing for us, His children!
God’s unfailing character is something worth praising Him for! He is a good and faithful Father who loves to give us His best. We can thank Him for the gifts, we can praise Him for His character, and we can trust Him to continue to have a giving heart toward us. It is in His fatherly nature.
As you meditate on your Heavenly Father’s giving nature, ponder these questions…
- Have I misunderstood God’s character in any specific way? What or who can point me toward a truer understanding of who God is?
- Is there anything in my life that I am viewing as a bad thing that might actually be a good gift from God? Is it something that tastes like medicine or feels like a vaccine, but it is actually God’s grace in your life for your good?
- What gifts can I thank God for today?
Father, thank You for being a “giver.” We are so thankful for Your gifts. You’ve given us Your Son. You’ve given us “all we need for life and godliness.” You’ve blessed us with “every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.” We’re also thankful for Your unchanging character, and we trust Your Father’s heart to provide every good gift we need.
2 Peter 1:3-11