Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How to Unwrap Our Gift

Written by: Conrade Yap (22 Dec 2009) 
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms." (1 Peter 4:10)
This is Christmas week. Retailers cash in on the last minute shopping rush. Consumers dash to finish their last hour of buying. Parents queue up for the coolest toys. Children wait up in anticipation of wonderful gifts. It is season's greetings, with shouts of jingle bells to the ears, Christmas lightups to the eyes and with merriment all around. Carols fill the airwaves. Flashy ecards flood Internet screens. Merry making starts the day with continuous feasting and drinking through the night.

I like this time of the year, where people stinge a little less, to give a little more. Partly because it is time for humanity to come together. Partly because it is a time to slow down and reflect over the past year. The mood is pleasant. I am not alone to wish that everyday is like Christmas Day. As I look at Christmas trees and their decorations, I admire the nicely wrapped presents of different shapes and sizes. North Americans are really creative. Everything seems to revolve around family and get together with friends. It seems like the whole world is wrapping and giving away presents to all. It seems like many people wants to express their love and appreciation through giving and sharing. It is entirely appropriate that I do the same, using the gift of God to serve the children of God, that they too can serve others in the world, young and old, rich or poor, sad or glad, regardless of language, ethnicity and worldviews.

Unwrapping God's Gift to Us
How do we unwrap God's gift to us? We read in many parts of the Bible about gifts. Today's passage above is from Peter. It is an exhortation to Christians to continue to bring love, joy and peace to the world, especially among the communities around them. One question that continues to draw attention is about the 'Will of God' in our lives. It remains one of the most sought after topics at workshops and seminars in churches, Christian gatherings and teaching seminars. I remember how Christians I meet will raise this question over and over again. Many of them want to do good but are unsure how. Most of them desire to obey God but are not sure how. Many of them know they have a gift, but are not sure what it is. this article is written to help us get an idea of how to unwrap our gift.

I believe that God has given each of us a gift. We may have many talents, but most of the time, these talents stem from something more intrinsic, even hidden from us. In fact, the different skills, and talents that we have do not define who we are. The reverse instead is true. We all typically have one gift, many manifestations. Let me suggest my paradigm for discovering and for unwrapping the gift God has given us. I call it the G.I.F.T. When we can unwrap our GIFT, we will learn to cherish it, to use it for the glory of God.

The GIFT Paradigm
Through the years, I have been reading about the will of God. I am still learning and this represents a small part of what I have experienced and learned. A common argument made by many Christian authors is that we need not look very far to find the will of God. They all agree, that we find God's will with God's Word as a guide. Let me supply my simple guide to unwrap our gift, based on 1 Peter 4:10.

1) G = Generosity
In uncovering our gift, there is a sense of a desire to share, not simply for monetary sake, but for BOTH monetary and non-monetary means and ends. This means that it is not only when we are paid to do something, then we exercise our gifts. No! God's gift is freely given. Thus it should also be freely given away through a proper use of it. Frequently, the exercise of this gift is demonstrated by a desire to share it, and to joyfully use it for the benefit of others. Peter exhorts his disciples and hearers to use their gifts 'in serving one another.'

I remember when I start Sabbath Walk devotionals, one of the concerns is how do I compensate for the time spent for it. How do I justify the initial small outlay to create the website, buy the domain and maintain it weekly? There is no business plan. There are no financial means to justify the hours I put in to pray and to write our my thoughts. In fact, many times, a devotional sent out hardly gets any feedback at all. Not that I crave recognition or positive affirmation. Rather, if anyone were to measure the *success* of Sabbath Walk, if it was a company based on positive feedback or monetary returns, Sabbath Walk would have been a bankrupt company within the first 3 months. I want Sabbath Walk to be a channel to use my gift, to encourage the body of Christ, and to be a gift for the people of God.

In a nutshell, I believe God has been very generous with me. I acknowledge God's generosity with me, and want to be generous with God's gift. Sabbath Walk is essentially a gift that I joyfully and generously want to share with my family, my friends and all who know me or are getting to know me. I discover to my delight, that 'generosity' is the one aspect of unwrapping God's gift to us. We need not be coerced from the outside to be generous. True giving is always something that grows from the inside.

2) I = Innovative spirit
Secondly, we can recognize the gift we have by seeing how we desire to innovate and to be creative around it. People who recognize a gift never stays contented in just one version of it. They desire to use this gift to create different versions of it. Those with a desire to sing learns as wide as possible a repertoire of songs. They want to reach the potential of their voices. They want to communicate powerfully the emotions tied to any song. They want to share more of themselves through the music they belts out. In other words, they have a strong desire to innovate and to continue to do so all of their lives. They 'faithfully administer God's gifts in their various forms.'

I have been reading leadership materials and how some companies succeed and others not. One of the key factors between great companies and merely good companies is how they innovate. Companies that move from good to great are those that do not simply sit on the successes of yesterday. They innovate. Hewlett-Packard is one of them. When they were already successful in their measurements unit (now Agilent), engineers in HP Labs, (top class research division) created the world's first inkjet device. Unknown to them, this small invention were to spawn a multi-billion dollar printer industry, and launch a whole new era in printing. The dot-matrix ribbon printer leader at that time, Epson, was left wondering what happened to their business, even as HP skyrockets to become one of the computer industry's biggest innovation stories. We can all unwrap our gifts by recognizing the particular gift in us that makes us want to innovate.

3) F = Fervour
Thirdly, it is the heart that drives the hands to do the most wonderful things. In business, one of the core traits of entrepreneurs is passion. Without it, one cannot run the marathon of hard business dealings. Without passion, one can easily give up when the funds are low. Without passion, one easily complains and whines about life and how unfair the world is. Fervour is one of my favourite words, besides zeal. It is a way to unwrap our gift. In other words, the gift that we have within us, is most visible when we employ our resources to use them with fervour. We dream it when we are sleeping. We think of it when we are waking. We pray about it in our working. We ponder over it frequently in our leisure. Sometimes, we are so excited about it, that we unconsciously exercise it.

I believe I have the gift of teaching through writing, sometimes speaking. Even though my writing is imperfect, with grammatical errors and long-winded prose at times, I continue to press on despite negative comments even nasty words. Some of the feedback I get are crude and painful. Others border on the non-committal word called "interesting." Yet, these negative things not only do not discourage me, they spur me on to improve. They make me want to do better, and to do more. Failures are seen as learning opportunities. Like the famous inventor Edison, a failed attempt is not a bad thing. It shows us what *NOT* to do next time. With fervour, we can unwrap God's gift to us even more, each time we do it with passion, with love and with joy.

4) T = Thankfulness
Paul's words to the Thessalonians is to give thanks in everything (1 Thess 5:18). I think there is a deep spiritual benefit here. It is also theology powerfully put into practice each time we give thanks. When we give thanks, we acknowledge that what we have, is nothing but grace. In fact, the world runs on grace that we often take things for granted. The bus transit system runs on time. The TV news channel broadcasts at the set hour. The electricity and water flows according to our demands. I believe that each time we give thanks, we make this world a better place, beginning with our hearts. When we turn on the power switch, and give thanks, we show our appreciation for the power engineers, the people who make the electricity possible to us. When we go for a nice warm shower, and give thanks, we recognize how much we have been blessed by an efficient water distribution system. When we go to the restaurant, and pause to give thanks, we start to realize that the chefs, the decorations, the meticulous menu and the people working in the restaurant did not appear overnight, but has been painstakingly planned and prepared for our benefit.

This is the fourth aspect of GIFT that unwraps the gift in us. In fact, I will say that giving thanks enable us to unwrap our gifts over and over again, each time able to see a newer perspective of our gift. Some of my best writing moments flow out of a thankful heart. My words become seasoned with grace and gratitude. My sentences are bubbly. My thoughts are lively. Give thanks to the Lord, for he indeed is good.

In this electronic day and age, distance has been overcome by the Internet. Sharing takes on a whole new level, and the world is now much bigger than simply our small neighbourhood. Distance is no longer a big constraint. We can use our gifts to benefit more people more than ever before. Let me summarize the four aspects of unwrapping our gifts.

We unwrap our gift through eyes of generosity. For some of us it is volunteering our services free of charge, like serving as an usher in church, hospitality, or even simply greeting one another. It is generously done. We never stop giving.
Ask:What are the things we are generous with? What are we most willing to invest, regardless of benefits or cost?
We unwrap our gift through innovative hands. We look at it from different angles all the time. We have that strong desire to improve and do things differently. We never stop becoming creative.
Ask: What are the things that we constantly try to improve, even without others prompting us?
We unwrap our gift through fervour.
Ask: What is our passion in life? What makes us persevere on in both good and bad times?

We unwrap our gift through continual thanksgiving. May I humbly suggest, that we have already been given much, so let give thanks frequently. In doing so, our efforts at generous giving of ourselves, time and efforts, our innovative ways to exercise the gift, our fervour to use them, will take on a new dimension each day. In giving thanks, the unique gift in each of us becomes more evident in us, and through us. In giving thanks, we unwrap our G.I.F.T over and over again. Each time we do that, do not be surprised that love, joy and peace comes alongside this unwrapping.
Ask: How much do we appreciate God's grace to us? Much is given, much is required.

One more thing. Each of our unique gifts grows out of a common gift of faith through grace. Let us celebrate the greatest Gift of all to us: Christ. In fact, as I think of church and the community, I dream of the day where Christian believers unwrap each other's gifts in such a way and still able to say the following"
“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” (quote attributed to Burton Hills)
Let me add. Let's wrap our gifts around each other, and together become a united gift for God. May his kingdom come, and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

From Sabbathwalk, have a blessed Christmas 2009!


Copyright by SabbathWalk 2009. This devotional is sent to you free of charge. If you feel blessed or ministered to by SabbathWalk weekly devotionals, feel free to forward to friends, or to invite them to subscribe online at http://blog.sabbathwalk.org . You can also send me an email at cyap@sabbathwalk.org for comments or enquiries.

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