It’s not only on the minds of children; for millions of people, Christmas day is the pinnacle of celebration and gift-giving. It’s a day celebrated worldwide, each culture adding its own ethnic traditions, foods and music.
And at the heart of it all should be the reminder that Jesus came to earth as God’s ultimate gift – our Redeemer and Savior.
We have the opportunity to have a relationship with a perfectly loving Father who calls us His children. James 1:17 reminds us that our Heavenly Father is a ‘gift giver’, saying, Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights . . .
But there is one thing we must remember about God – a characteristic really no different from any parent’s; He does not want us to love Him only for His gifts.
Imagine if the only reason your kids wanted to be with you was because they knew it would pay off big on Christmas day. As a parent, you give to your children because you love them, not so that they will love you back.
God is the same way. He loves us; therefore, He gives us good gifts. But He wants us to love Him apart from His gifts.
God never intended to send Jesus so that we could live like kings and queens in the lap of luxury, treating Him like a genie or cosmic bellhop. No, God sent His Son so that we could know Him, share an intimate relationship with Him and commune with Him.
God loves giving from His hand as long as He knows we are really after His heart.
Jesus summed this principle up for us when He said, “But seek first His kingdom His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
An interesting thing will happen when you seek God’s presence and character above all else – the desire to know Him will begin to overshadow the desire to receive from Him. While His gifts are helpful during our walk on earth, they still pale in comparison to His person.
The more we walk with God and mature in our relationship with Him, the more we will ultimately discover that we need God, not His gifts. We were created to know Him, to commune with Him and to worship Him. Until we discover the joy of Him and Him alone, we will never be satisfied or fulfilled in life.
It’s a lot like our hunger pangs. Sometimes we feel so hungry we don’t think we can wait for a full meal, so we snack. We eat cookies, pick through leftovers or grab some chips and a soda.
Let me ask you, were you satisfied? Was your body so grateful that you fed it? Or did it make you feel almost sick? A few hours later, was your stomach back to growling? Snacks are a poor substitute for a well balanced meal. When your body craves nourishment, munching on substitutes will only pacify you for a while.
It’s the same with our spiritual appetites. Every person on this planet is spiritually hungry, and our souls are crying out for nourishment and life. Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to get the one thing that will satisfy them – a relationship with God.
So they grasp at anything and everything, shoving it into their lives as if it will fill a void: money, relationships, religion, success . . . But after gorging themselves, they discover that they are no better off than before.
Only one feast of the soul will truly satisfy the hunger of your heart. God has prepared a banquet table before us and He calls us to dine with Him:
. . . Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters . . .
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance.
In God’s presence there is joy and pleasure (Psalm 16:11). When we hunger and thirst after Him, He promises to fill us (Matthew 5:6). Until you come to God ravenous for what He has to offer, you will settle for that which only pacifies your longing and intensifies your craving.
Life can be hard, I know. With everything we have to deal with, who has time for such intense spiritual pursuit?
Let me propose a new perspective on those trials in your life: God often uses the strife to increase your hunger for Him. Finding the answer to your problems won’t satisfy the longing in your soul. Money, medicine, companionship or a splendid vacation are just snacks that suppress the hunger. Even getting more involved in church activities will leave you wanting in the end.
What God wants to do through that broken relationship, financial need or ailing body is to help you run to Him. He is your comfort, your healing, your restoration . . . everything you need.
You will never discover that God is all you need until He is all you have.
The Urban Alternative