The Father’s Love in Giving (Part 5)

In the first post on the Father’s love I introduced both the challenge and the importance of seeing God the Father as loving. As we meditate on the biblical truths of the depths of his love and begin resting in that love we will be refreshed with newfound freedom and security to keep drawing near. Therefore, thinking rightly of God our Father is not just a matter of having our theological ducks in a row but it’s a game changer in living the Christian life. We will consider seven NT examples of how God puts his love on display for us, wanting us to know about it and be wrapped up in it.

1) The Father’s love for us is nowhere more clearly seen than in the sending of his only Son—freely, unprompted, undeservedly—to reconcile us back to himself.

2) The Father’s love for us is seen in that Jesus is sent to reveal the Father to us. The Father desires to be known and understood.

3) The Father’s love can be seen in the friendly and familial vocabulary describing a believer’s relationship with God. He is not only our God, he is our Father.

4) The Father expresses his love in the comfort he gives, and even in the fact he calls us to find our comfort in his fatherly embrace.

5) The Father loves us by giving good gifts. He enjoys us enjoying him as we enjoy his gifts. Every child erupts into joy when a parent gives them a present. That doesn’t change with age, although hopefully our happiness in giving does increase over time. God is the original and unrivaled gift-giver. This exhibits not just his care and provision for us—although that is true—but it expresses his generous and glad heart towards his children. If we go back to the Bible we’ll see how God has revealed himself to us. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” (James 1:17). “Yes, the Lord will give what is good” (Ps. 85:12).

The truth is God hands out who knows how many gifts to his children every day. But, the problem is either we don’t see the gifts or we don’t stop to consider that they’re from God. We start to err when we think we have the things in our life because we earned them (I Cor. 4:7). If that’s the case, then God is unnecessary and there’s no one to thank besides ourselves. Another error occurs when we see God as holding back or not giving us what we want so we grumble against him (Num. 14:2; I Cor. 10:10). However, the win-win happens when we open our eyes to an awareness of the gifts and then we raise our eyes in a response of thanksgiving to the God who gave them. Ann Voskamp connects the two when she writes, “The art of deep seeing makes gratitude possible. And it is the art of gratitude that makes joy possible.”[1]

Paul makes gratitude a prominent theme in his writings. I think the reason, in part, is because when we truly see God’s love in giving gifts to us our hearts feel genuine gratitude. That is consummated as we return thanks to God. “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”[2] Gratitude becomes worship. The Bible uses a number of words to express this: gratitude, thanksgiving, praise, and bless (Col. 3:15; I Thess. 5:18; Rev. 7:12). Each of these words connects our response to God as the giver of all good gifts.

The tightrope we’re walking here is enjoying God in his gifts instead of idolizing his gifts. David Pao explains: “Thanksgiving in Paul is an act of worship. It is not focused primarily on the benefits received or the blessed condition of a person; instead, God is the centre of thanksgiving.”[3] God doesn’t want us to minimize or fail to find pleasure in what he provides because we’re paranoid about committing idolatry. He wants us to delight in his gifts not as competition of our affections but as conduits to them. The gift should always lead to the giver.
“When the gospel of Jesus Christ frees us to see and savor the glory of God above all things, the way is opened for us to experience seamless joy in God and his gifts. We are able to see every gift as a beam from the sun of God’s glory. Every joy in the beam runs up to the fountain of light and ends there. No created thing becomes a rival but only a revelation of God.”[4]

Jesus argues from the lesser to the greater to bring home the reality of God’s goodness. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13). The best examples of earthly fathers in their generosity and love in giving good things to their kids is a tiny picture of God’s greater love communicated to us in his gifts. God has blessed us with innumerable blessings, both physical and spiritual, and the more we see them as gifts the greater opportunity we have to rest in and relish his Fatherly love. In other words, one way to see God’s heart of love for us is to see the gifts that come from his hand to us.

[1] Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 118.
[2] C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 10.
[3] David Pao, Thanksgiving: An Investigation of a Pauline Theme (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 28-29.
[4] John Piper, God is the Gospel (Wheaton: Crossway, 2005), 141.

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