You Are a Gift

You Are a Gift

You Are a Gift
Matthew 16:24-28

Last December my son John called me and told me what he’d bought me for Christmas. Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy receiving gifts like most people. But when my children spend a lot of money to say, “I love you,” I know how hard they have worked hard for that money. Truthfully, I’d rather they keep their money and use it for their family. I’d rather they pay down something extra on their house payment or give something to those in need.

What I’d like for them to realize is that they are my gift. Every time I am with my family, every time we can spend time with each other, that is a gift to me.

When my sons took time, spent money to go on a turkey hunt to South Dakota last year, now that was a gift. We will be talking about that trip for the rest of our lives. Anytime you can do something that builds memories like that, it’s a gift, especially when do it with family.

When John was learning to walk, he would allow anyone to hold him. He would reach out to a stranger, to someone he’d just met at church, and he would smile and be happy. His little life was a gift to a person who may not have held a toddler in years, but that child blessed their day. He was a gift.

There are so many people in this world that do not believe they are a gift. They think they are a burden. They don’t think anyone loves them or cares about them. They do not see that their life has any sustaining value or purpose.

Many people have been told that they are no good or that they were a mistake.

We all need significant people in our lives to communicate to us that our life is a gift, not only to them but to the world around us.

We need others to tell us that we are people of value. Otherwise, it is easy to develop poor self-esteem, a poor self-image, a negative view of ourselves and the world.

The result can be that we do not see a purpose in life. This can affect our understanding of how God views us.

For some people, the pendulum swings to the other extreme.

Some people can become so self-centered and that they think everything they do in life revolves around fulfilling their wants, desires, and pleasures.

When the world revolves around us in such a way, we severely limit the impact our lives can have on others.

A twenty-three-year-old man had the opportunity to take a summer tour of Europe as a graduation present. He traveled about Europe by train, boat and sometimes by bicycle.

Finally, he ended up on the beaches of France where he was determined to spend the rest of the summer.

His parents, who had paid for his trip, insisted that he stop by to see relatives in Switzerland.

This was the last place that he wanted to go. He wanted to stay at the beach. But his mother would not let up. She insisted that he visit the relatives in Switzerland, and she insisted that he make a good impression.

So, reluctantly, he took the train to the Alps.

However, he had spent all of his money on having fun at the beach, and as a result, he only had three dollars left in his pocket when he had arrived in his relative’s town.

He knew he needed to make a good impression or his mother would be very upset, and perhaps call him home before the summer was up.

As he walked into town, he looked in the store windows to see what he could buy for three dollars to make a good impression for his mother.

He realized it was hopeless. He had spent all of his money at the beach, and there was no way he could afford anything of value as a gift for his relatives.

As he pondered his situation, a beautiful young woman caught his eye. She was working in a fine crystal shop. He immediately went into the store, even though he knew he could not afford anything in the store.

Forgetting about his dire situation, he began to flirt with the young woman, making her laugh – and she promptly dropped a very expensive crystal bowl breaking it into three pieces.

The owner of the shop yelled at the young woman who fled into the back of the store crying. It was then, that that the young man realized his hopeless situation was now solved.

He purchased the broken bowl for three dollars and asked the shop owner to gift-wrap the bowl.

Upon his arrival at his relative’s house, he fake tripped through the doorway and dropped the gift-wrapped box to the floor.
It took everyone by surprise at his clumsy entrance.   He picked up the present apologizing for his fall, but knowing his time at the beach would now be extended.

He picked up the damaged box and gave it to his aunt who opened it to find a beautiful crystal bowl, broken into three pieces – and each piece was individually wrapped in white tissue paper. https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon-illustrations/64365/on-stories-by-peter-loughman?ref=TextIllustrationSerps

Not only was the bowl broken, but this young man was busted.

What he didn’t realize WAS that he was the gift.

He could have come with a card or some flowers he picked by the road, but instead, he went with a grudge, and his gift showed his selfishness and self-centeredness.  It showed that he was the one that was broken, flawed in many ways.

Before any of us can ever accept that we are a gift with real goodness to offer others and the world around us, we need to affirm these things:

1) You are not an accident.

Look at Isaiah 44:2
“I am your Creator. You were in my care even before you were born (CEV).”

These are old statistics, but in 2011, nearly half of the 6.1 million pregnancies in the United States were unintended.  (https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/unintended-pregnancy-united-states)

By this I mean, people were conceived but they were not planned.   However, just because half of us are surprises does not mean that God is surprised by our arrival.

Rick Warren puts it this way, “Long before you were conceived by your parents, you were conceived in the mind of God. It is not fate, nor chance, nor luck, nor coincidence that you are breathing at this very moment.  You are alive because God wanted to create you! http://www1.cbn.com/devotions/You-Are-Not-an-Accident

2) You Were Created on purpose and for a purpose.

The Bible says the LORD will fulfill his purpose for me (Psalm 138:8a NIV).

It would be a very unloving thing for God to create us for no reason at all.

One of the reasons so many people are unhappy and live a life that is unfulfilling and lost is that they have not discovered the exciting purpose God created for them to live.

Paul told the church at Ephesus that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

In discovering our purpose, it is important to take an inventory of the gifts God has given to us and decide how we can use those gifts to make our world a better place to live and as a way to enrich the lives of people around us.

As long as our lives are self-absorbed either with feelings that we have nothing to offer or with a desire to grab all we can for ourselves, it will not be possible to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.   We will not be able to see ourselves as people that God loves unconditionally.  He loves, empowers and equips us to love others.

3) You are a gift when you die to self.

When we die to self, we give ourselves away. Jesus said if we want to be his disciples, we have to do this. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

If we do not die to self, then self will occupy the center of our world. We will make all our decisions based on what is best for us without any concern for those around us.

It is easy for this to happen in churches.  Church members begin to make decisions that only affect ourselves without any thought to the lost, the unchurched, or the underprivileged.

A lot of people view life as if it were a mad dash to the stores on Black Friday. As long as we have our basket full of what we want, we don’t need to worry too much about what other people have or don’t have in theirs.

Instead, Jesus wants us to see our lives as if we are the basket. He is the one who has filled it. He wants to fill our lives with the gifts He wants us to give away.  God wants to gift us, but our gifts are not just for us, they are for others.

We cannot give away what we don’t have. When we come to see our lives as the gift to be given away, we have reached a crucial point of discovery.

In the Old Testament, people brought portions of their crops and livestock as gifts to God. They presented these to the priest who offered part of them to God, and the rest was used to support the priest and his family.

After a while, people began to go through the rituals of worship but had no change in their hearts. Their offerings were more to appease God.  They did not reflect obedience, gratitude, or genuine worship.

The prophet Hosea spoke on behalf of God, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

And the Apostle Paul, wrote in a similar vein to the church at Rome, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. (Romans 12:1)

You are a gift because God made you a gift. God gave you life and created you on purpose and for a purpose.

Perhaps you have heard this: Your life is God’s gift to you.  What you do with your life is your gift to God.

Will you waste it? Will you keep it for yourself?  Will you share it with others?

The greatest churches are those where the largest number of people have come to see their lives as a gift to be given away.  They have come to understand that when they combine their gifts into a single vision – wow! Amazing things can be done.

These churches can have a powerful witness in their community and do great things throughout the world.

But there are too many churches that are like people that want God to give them gifts to enjoy more than to give away to the world.

This morning, I have come to remind you that you are a gift.

Jesus extends the invitation for you to follow him and give your life away to him in spiritual worship.

I want you to remember that this church is a gift to this community.  I would like for you to read our Future Vision again to remember what we have committed ourselves to.  Ask yourself, “Where in this vision can I use my gifts to help this church be what God wants it to be?”

Please continue to pray for our building committee as they work with our architect for our future building needs.  People are coming to Jefferson and Jackson County by the hundreds.  As they do, we need to be in a position to share the love of Jesus with them and ask them to join us in by using their gifts to make our fellowship what God wants it to be.

Remember, you were created to be a gift to use your life to bless others.   Do you need to make any changes in your life so that you reach the full potential God wants you to reach?

Remember, our church is to be a gift to others and not just a fellowship for us to meet our own needs.  While the church is here to help us in our relationship with Christ and others, as a part of the church, we bring our gifts to ensure that the church is reaching out to those around us, both inside and outside the church.   Do you need to make any changes in your life so that your gifts are helping our church reach the full potential God desires it to reach?

Photo Credit: Mooseburger.com