Monday, March 3, 2014

Using Your Gifts To the Glory of God

Of all the Winter Olympics  games, my favorite is the pair figure skating. It never ceases to amaze me how perfectly in-sync the couples dance on the ice, leaving figure eights in their wake. And, every time I watch a male skater spin his partner in a death spiral, her head dangerously close to hitting the ice, I hold my breath until she is is upright and they skate in unison again.

These athletes are at the top of their game, receiving rigorous training for the pivotal moment when they are chosen to represent their countries to compete for the gold.
Some talents are apparent, like athletics, music, or art. Others go largely unnoticed. But, we all have them. And, they have been given by our gracious heavenly Father, regardless of who we are or what we believe. 

We can grow and develop our gifts and use them to the glory of God or squander them and use them for our own glory.  

Then there are spiritual gifts. Gifts given only by the grace of God and by the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of Christ followers. These gifts are most visible through trials, temptations, and the testimony of others who "see your good works and glorify God in heaven (Matthew 5:16)."

And, we can grow and develop these gifts through living a life of faith, or we can squander them as well.

Jesus is the greatest example of One who used His gifts to the utmost glory of God. 

After being baptized, the Holy Spirit, who came down on Him in the form of a dove, filled Him, and then led Him into the wilderness (Matthew 3:16,17, Matthew 4:1-11).

There He fasted for forty days. True, He was spiritually enabled to be able to endure forty days with nothing to eat, but that didn't mean He wasn't hungry. This trial sapped His body of strength and made Him vulnerable.

And that is exactly the time that the devil entered the scene. 

He watches and waits until we are most vulnerable and then waves temptations before our eyes.

Three times the devil tempted Jesus. Three times Jesus prevailed.

Our Lord did not fight with earthly weapons, fine arguments, or armies of angels. He fought by the powerful Word of God.

It is crucial that we follow the same strategy as Christ to fight temptation when it comes.

When the devil came with the lie, Jesus fought back with the truth.

The devil uses the same lies and deception on us to attempt to tear down the character of God so we will mistrust Him and live for our own pleasure, glory, and gain instead of God's.

Jesus saw through the devil's delusion and continued to trust in the Father's heart and plan for His life.

Olympic champion, Eric Liddell, was known as saying he ran for God's pleasure. And, his life is a testimony of living for God's pleasure, glory, and gain.

Liddell could have spent his entire life reaping the benefits of his fame and fortune, but he left it all behind. His heart was elsewhere. In China. The land of his birth. He felt called to go back and share Christ with the people He had always loved.

Although China was under frequent attack by the Japanese during WWII, Liddell chose to go there as a missionary. He spent his life on behalf of teaching future leaders of the country in hopes that they would become Christ followers and be influential in opening doors for the spread of the gospel.

When the attacks became too dangerous, he sent his wife and children to Canada. But, he stayed behind to relieve his ailing brother at a rural Chinese mission station and continued to help the poor. Soon he found himself in a Japanese internment camp. 

Many in the detainment camp were blessed to know Liddell. By their testimony we know that he continued to trust in the Lord and worked hard to keep spirits up and help maintain order. 

One of his fellow internees, Norman Cliff, who later wrote a book about his experiences in the camp described Liddell as "the finest Christian gentleman it has been my pleasure to meet. In all the time in the camp, I never heard him say a bad word about anybody".
Langdon Gilkey, an American who survived the camp and later became a prominent theologian said of Liddell: 
"He was overflowing with good humour and love for life, and with enthusiasm and charm. It is rare indeed that a person has the good fortune to meet a saint, but he came as close to it as anyone I have ever known."
In the last letter he wrote to his wife, Liddell wrote of suffering a nervous breakdown due to overwork. Liddell died on February 21, 1945, from a brain tumor, five months before liberation. 
Liddell had a chance to leave the camp, but instead gave his place to a pregnant woman. This final act of sacrifice surprised even his family members.
Gilkey later wrote, "The entire camp, especially its youth, was stunned for days, so great was the vacuum that Eric's death had left." According to a fellow missionary, Liddell's last words were, "It's complete surrender." He gave glory to God even to the very end of his life here on earth.
Any of us can live like Liddell, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live a life of total surrender. Not giving in to temptation to live for ourselves, but giving up our gifts for the glory of God.
We can trust in God to provide for our needs to do whatever He has called us to do with our gifts. Believing our significance is in Christ, not caring what men think of us, and being willing to give up money, status, and possesions, we can live life to fullest and not be tied down by fear of losing what we have gained here on earth.

The challenge for all Christians is the same. Are we willing to sacrifice anything for the sake of Christ's Kingdom?

During Lent, we can spend time in contemplation and prayer, asking the Lord to bring us to the point of living purely for 
His pleasure, glory, and gain.

To live a life of surrender so that we can truly live. 

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25-26 ESV