Thursday, November 3, 2011

Squandering Our Gifts, Wasting Our Provision

There can be no mistaking God's amazing provision for our lives.  God has given each and every one of us a tremendous outpouring of blessings and provision, many which we never recognize.  I imagine that when we get to Heaven we will see just how much God has done for us.  Many blessings we may never see because it is only on rare occasions where we can see what did not happen to us.  We do not see meetings of your bosses when considering whether or not to downsize your position and they choose to keep you.  We do not see that if there was someone who was going to do us harm that day have a hard time starting his car so that it never happens.  We (including myself) sometimes complain about our jobs, but what we will never see in this life is what may have happened if we did not have the jobs that we do.  Of course the most amazing gift we have received from the Lord is His blood as payment for our sins.  The gift of grace through His blood is sufficient for anything we may face in this life.  What amazes me, though, is how many times we squander God's blessings.  The Bible promises God favor upon our lives, but does not promise us that we will use that favor wisely.  We are all familiar with the Prodigal Son. 
Then He said: "A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to [his] father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falls [to me].' So he divided to them [his] livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want."  Luke 15:11-14 NKJV
Just as the Father gives us good things, his father gave him good things.  He did with his good things what many of us do with ours, he squandered them.  He wasted them all on nothing and when a problem arose, he had nothing.  This is what we do whenever we use God's gifts inappropriately.  This is nothing new.  The Bible is chock full of examples where this has happened before.  God gave Adam and Eve paradise with only one thing they were not supposed to do.  They did that one thing and were evicted from the garden.  After leaving Egypt, God miraculously fed the Israelites with a few simple rules to follow, one being not to try to hoard more food than they needed for that day (except the day before the Sabbath). Of course, many gathered more they could use and found rotten manna the next day.  God gave Israel the promised land, but they rejected that gift out of fear and were left to wander in the desert for many more years.  God gave Israel victory over Jericho, but tainted that victory by taking sinful booty from that land, causing them to suffer loss at Ai.  God gave Saul victory over the Amelekites, but disobeyed God by not killing all their livestock, and God rejected him as king.  This list goes on and on, but I am sure by now you get the point.  God gives us amazing things, but we often ruin them by not using them appropriately. 

The point here is that God's gifts come with instructions.  Being a man, I naturally have an aversion to instructions, but sometimes not following instructions makes a good thing bad.  God does not just give us things and tell us to go and do whatever we want with them.  If God gives you a million dollars, I am sure He has a plan for what you should do what that blessing.  Many times the blessing is not in receiving the gift, but in using and sharing it.  I remember one time I was taking a train into New York City.  I parked my car in my parking deck and on the way to the train station, I found $5.00 lying on the ground.  I picked up and thought "Cool, thank you God."  A few minutes later I was at the station purchasing my ticket when a lady at the machine next to me began to panic when she realized that she had forgotten to go to the ATM and was $5.00 short for her train ticket home.  I gave her the $5.00 I had found and she was able to get home.  She was blessed and I was used of God to satisfy a need and by that I was blessed so much more than $5.00 ever would have.  The point is that the $5.00 was not the gift from God, but it was having that $5.00 to be part of God's work.  When God gives us gifts it is to use in His service or for our own needs (and not necessarily desires).  God's blessings are truly amazing, but, like the manna kept overnight, they can sour rather quickly if we do not follow His instructions.  It is a very sad thing to receive a great gift and break it because we did not heed the instructions that came with it.  

And now let us turn our attention to God's greatest gift, that being the gift of grace.  This is one gift that God will never take away from us, but also the one we squander the most.  How many Christians just live like they have their heaven ticket punched and so they will live their lives just as they want.  Of course if you came to Jesus with that heart, then you are not saved at all.  You can not call Jesus Lord if you never intend  to follow Him.  But that is the worst of the worst, what about the rest of us?  Every time we sin, we squander the gift of grace.  Think about it, God has told us that we have died to sin and that sin no longer has dominion over us.  We are told that are free from the bondage of sin.  We are told that we are no longer slaves to sin.  In other words, we can never say that sinning was not our choice.  We have to admit that we decided to sin, despite knowing that the blood of Jesus is going to cover that sin.  Is the blood of Jesus so worthless that it is acceptable to spill it for our own petty pleasures?  Unless you are a murderer, you would not knowingly spill the blood of another for your own petty pleasures.  So why is it acceptable to do it for Jesus?  We all do it, including myself.  None of us lives sinlessly and few of us even consider His suffering for whatever pleasure we are involving ourselves in.  Make no mistake, every time we choose to sin we are wasting the blood of Jesus on our own pleasures. 

What this all does is testify to the greatness of God.  Think about it, how many of us would continue to give gifts to people who only wasted them?  This is not so with God.  Just as the Prodigal was dressed in a robe and given a ring and a feast when he returned to his father, so does God do for us every time we turn back to him.  We may have squandered whatever gift He has given to us, but He will give us more.  In fact, the chastisement received for squandering that gift was only to turn us back to Him.  Despite our failures, He wants to give us another chance.  He wants to restore us and train us up to be profitable servants.  As for grace, that is where it gets even better.  How many times a day do we need to go to Jesus and tell Him that we sinned and that we wasted more of His blood?  I can pretty much guarantee you that it is more than once!  Think about it, how long can you stay perfect for?  I know for me it is not very long at all!  So we come to Him, we tell him we spilled His blood, and He does not get angry but shows us love and mercy.  We waste His blood, but He tells us not to fret that He has plenty more!   Even if we have a horrible day, spent in sin after sin after sin, and we think we have completely blown it.  God tells us that His mercy is renewed each day.  Jesus will never run out of blood to cover our sins.  God will never run out of mercy to forgive our sins.  I am not saying that as an encouragement to sin, but as an encouragement to be  free from those sins you have committed and to live for God!  It is a foolish man who takes a pardon from a judge and goes out and commits the same crime again.  It is a wise man who recognizes the amazing gift he just received and changes his wicked ways.  Be wise, understand the amazing gift you have been given of God, and use that gift to bless others. 
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend [it] on your pleasures. James 4:3 NKJV

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