EVERY GOOD GIFT...

"Christians sometimes have a confused approach to gifts. Oh, they understand about the 'Gifts of the Spirit' which are given to Christians, but they sometimes seem to refuse to contemplate any broader sense of 'gifts' - I think that that is a pity. In fact, this world is full of the gifts of God."



I must admit to having had a 'thing' for former Hollywood actress, Barbara Stanwyck.

For me, Barbara was not only lovely (although probably not in the conventional sense), but one of the most outstanding actresses that Hollywood ever turned out. Not - mind you - that Barbara always played nice, sweet and soft characters in her films, indeed, some of the characters she portrayed seemed to be quite ruthless, angry and dissatisfied. But I just think there was something quite 'special' about this actress and when she was in any particular scene, she always 'held' that scene (that is, all eyes were on her). I once heard a very experienced actor say that that is a gift - not all actors have it, something to do with vibrance of personality.

But one of the things I like most about Barbara is that, shortly before she died, she said something like this (I don't have the exact quote),

'All gifts come from God. If I - or anybody - has any talent or gift, its only because the big guy up there gave them to us.'

An early picture of Barbara Stanwyck (1907-1990), who is rightly considered to be one of the finest actresses to have ever been produced by Hollywood.

I like that. Too often today's big stars and personalities seem to be so filled with pride and conceit - it is hard to imagine any of them giving credit to God for any gifts which they might have.

Christians sometimes have a confused approach to gifts. Oh, they understand about the 'Gifts of the Spirit' which are given to Christians, but they sometimes seem to refuse to contemplate any broader sense of 'gifts' - I think that that is a pity. In fact, this world is full of the gifts of God.

Truthfully, unless we are going around with our eyes closed, we are bound to note that there are many non-spiritual gifts in the world, gifts which are given to otherwise ordinary men and women, gifts - without which - this would be a very mundane and cheerless world. Can you imagine this life without the mighty musical gifts of Handel, Beethoven, Mozart or Brahms? Can you imagine this life without seeing the wonderful paintings of Michelangelo, Rubens or Turner? Can you imagine our human existences without the truly great literature of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, or Eugene O'Neill? If you have never read Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov you really should. Same goes for O'Neill's A Long Day's Journey Into Night. I saw the play once (not the film, the play needs to be seen), it was deeply moving, and it truly impacted me. It is about an American family's gradual slide into hopeless poverty during the depression years. As I recall, one of the final scenes had the family's remaining furniture put out on the pavement (sidewalk) - they even had to give that up in order to keep simply existing. I maintain that it is impossible to witness that scene without having your eyes fill with tears! Powerful, moving and inspiring.


"Can you imagine this life without the mighty musical gifts of Handel, Beethoven, Mozart or Brahms? Can you imagine this life without seeing the wonderful paintings of Michelangelo, Rubens or Turner? Can you imagine our human existences without the truly great literature of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, or Eugene O'Neill?"

What about the Christian writers? Can you imagine evangelical theology without the contributions of C.S. Lewis? I must admit that I can't, although I have to confess to being a huge C.S. Lewis admirer. The amazing thing about Lewis is that it probably would not be entirely accurate to describe him as 'wholly evangelical' - yet his influence over Bible-believing evangelicals continues to be huge. What about Francis Schaeffer? Let me make a plea right here and now that if you have never read this evangelical Christian philosopher you really should do so - especially if you are a Christian preacher or writer. There are too many further examples here to mention but I might just mention 16th century Protestant reformer Martin Luther and current baptist theologian Wayne Grudem. Grudem has done an incredible thing: he has made Christian theology highly 'readable' - and absorbing reading at that!

Okay, we would certainly associate Christian writers with having been granted spiritual gifts from above, but we should not disregard some of the other literary and artistic greats either! Truth is: God gives differing gifts to every human being! These don't have to be specifically Christian gifts (for the building up of the Church), but can be musical, intellectual, artistic, communicative, craftwork skills or other gifts. This world, after all, remains God's Creation and just as particular gifts or skills have been given to plants and animals (can you imagine a world without potatoes, rice, lovely green vegetables, oranges, peaches and bananas? Can you imagine a human existence without the beauty of spring flowers, without roses, trees, bees, the birds of the air, horses, cats and dogs?), so He also gives such 'general gifts' to many people, all of whom were created in His very image. Just as with the gifts of nature, these gifts are 'general creation gifts' - there for everybody to see, use and to appreciate - to make life more enjoyable, comforting, inspiring, profitable and pleasant for all.

James wrote, 'Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.' (James 1:17, NIV).

God shows His reliability and permanence of holy character in allowing our world to remain filled with good gifts to charm and sustain both man and beast even after the rejection of the Fall. We should certainly use and enjoy all such gifts in appreciation of the boundless generosity of God.

Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953), whose four act play, 'A Long Day's Journey Into Night' is one of the most powerful plays of the 20th century.

Regarding spiritual gifts, One of the most telling complaints about today's church is its 'set hardness' and refusal to recognise and to utilize the gifts among members of the average congregation, for the work of the gospel. Too often, a pattern has been set up in which the pastor is expected to do most everything, ignoring often abundant gifts within the congregation. This is most surely highly displeasing to the God who is Himself the giver if every perfect gift.

Do you have a gift of art, music, craftwork, colourful or persuasive writing or something else? Please be prepared to use it! Preferably in the Lord's service, but certainly use it. Even if your gift is not a spiritual gift which may build up other believers, if it a genuine gift it remains a divine gift which is there to be used and shared. You may not be a Michelangelo or a Mozart, neither do you need to be; the way you manifest your particular talent or gift will be utterly unique to you. It is yours as a gift of God: Use it!
Robin A. Brace, 2007.



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