God’s Good and Perfect Gifts

I often hear people say that the bad things that happen to them are God’s punishment for something wrong they have done. I have a friend who desires to find someone to marry, but has said she doesn’t think God will ever bring her a mate because of all the wrong she has done in the past with respect to relationships. In the news we hear televangelists say natural disasters are God’s punishment for the sins of the people in the area hit by the disaster.

But I don’t think God works that way.

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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. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” James 1:17-18 (NIV). God desires to give good gifts, not punishment.

I also think of Job, a man who endured great suffering and loss. But none of it was punishment from God. Rather, all of his sorrows came from Satan, albeit with God’s permission, so that Satan would see that God’s redeemed and faithful servants would never reject Him simply because of trials they face. See Job 1-2 (NIV).

For the believer in Christ Jesus, all the punishment for our sins has already been meted out at the cross. As Jesus said, “It is finished.” John 19:30 (NIV). To believe that we need to suffer punishment for our own sin is to believe that Jesus’ sacrifice was insufficient. The apostle John wrote, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1-2 (NIV). God does not seek to punish, but to restore and redeem those He loves.

There are, however, natural consequences of sin.

If we are gluttonous, we are likely to be overweight and suffer various illnesses that come from poor eating habits.

If we get drunk, especially habitually, we will suffer in terms of health problems, possibly losing a job, or having financial difficulties because we spend too much money on alcohol.

If we get involved with other drugs, the same problems can happen, perhaps even worse if they are illegal drugs because we could end up in prison for breaking the law.

If we are sexually promiscuous we may contract diseases, end up with a child we didn’t want, or will suffer emotional damages and loneliness.

If we gossip and badmouth others, we will damage others view of us and damage our relationships.

Every sin has natural consequences. Sometimes we are fortunate to avoid the worst of the natural consequences, but not always. And all sin results in the natural consequence of separating us from God because our guilt and shame cause us to avoid God. That has been the case from the first sin in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve hid from God.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

Genesis 3:6-10 (NIV).

God knows what is best for us and has declared what is sin based on His superior knowledge of what is beneficial for our physical and emotional well-being. Just as He gave to Adam and Eve all that they needed in the Garden, He desires to give us good and perfect gifts.

In addition to the natural consequences of individual sinful behavior, the sinful nature of mankind over the centuries has brought into our lives a brokenness that leads to pain and suffering. The evil nature of some people can lead to suffering by others, such as a violent man who beats his wife, or the drunk driver who causes an accident that kills others, or a serial killer who tortures his victims. Our sinfulness is also engrained in our DNA and can lead to sickness and disease that brings suffering as well.

So if you are suffering and think that God is punishing you, think again. Return to God and seek His face, seek the good and perfect gifts that He has offered. Lean on Jesus in your suffering because He desires to restore and redeem you, not cause you more suffering. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5 (NIV). Come into the light and rest in His love.

Spellbound Captives of the Night

 

“We are all infected and impure with sin.
      When we display our righteous deeds,
      they are nothing but filthy rags.
   Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
      and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”

Isaiah 64:6, NLT

There are bad things that happen to us— ugly, awful and evil things, that only God himself can explain.  We read theology and we read our Bibles, we listen dutifully to preachers, but we still ‘can’t’ fathom this terrible ‘mystery of iniquity.’ “Filthy rags is what we wear. Our sins have destroyed us.

We are seem to be playing ‘ping-pong’ with the most challenging  issues.  We come to Him, because there is no one left who can answer things that have perplexed everyone else.  Why do we suffer?  Why does evil exist?  Why do people who live in blatant sin, succeed?  Why am I sick all the time?

If God is really God, why doesn’t he just give us an explanation about these questions?  Our title talks about being “spellbound.”  Are we really that inured, attached to a truly sinister evil, that we are being confused about what is real or true?  To be spellbound means we’re being hypnotized by something quite awful.  A cobra rises up, and opens its “hood.”  Its victim is entranced by what it sees in front of it.  He soon becomes supper.

Being held captive seems to be an ordinary occurrence for human beings.  Captivity implies imprisonment.  Usually in a dark, dirty and unpleasant place.  But yet, it intrigues us so much, and after all the “light” is such a boring and dull thing.  We feel great as we trade the truth for lies. We never realize that satanic power has blinded us.

 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Ephesians 2:1-3, ESV

From this new and fresh influence we come under the control and will of ‘the dark side’.  (And this is not merely “Star Wars” mythos.  It is very real.)  We gradually give ourselves over to the dark. We think we are pretty much impervious to being deceived, but the truth is that we’re already blind. In our lostness we can only stumble through life.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

John 3:19

At this point things have gotten desperately grim.  From a human standpoint, there will be no way to avert the inevitable.  Sin will roll over you, blasting into your life, and worst of all into the hearts of your family.  In a stark way— things get very dark, very fast.

Sin will always enslave.  It will turn on you and rock your world. 

But we are so entranced by what it wants to give us.  It looks so good…one could call it “self-actualizing.”  (Maybe even “liberating!”)  But in one of the many purposes of the Old Testament, is to clarify what happens in people’s hearts when we step down and let the sin and confusion take over.  You could say, that there will be pleasure for a brief season, but  it will always have a very savagely grim and a black conclusion. ”For the wages of sin is death.”

Jesus forgives us, and lifts the darkness. We start to see things as they are, reality breaks out in our minds. He has changed everything. His blood covers us, and we start to walk in what is true. We finally understand what sin has done to us, and we turn from it to what He now gives freely.

“If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will then we may take that it is worth paying.”  

–C.S. Lewis

Your brother in Christ,

Bryan

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