Appreciating God’s Gifts
CALLING attention to Jehovah’s goodness the disciple James states: “Every good gift and every perfect present is from above, for it comes down from the Father of the celestial lights.” Yes, every blessing of life that we enjoy emanates from our heavenly Father. And he continues to bestow his gifts upon his human creatures even though they take them all for granted and show no appreciation and thankfulness. Their ingratitude does not cause him to become bitter and to withdraw his gifts. He enjoys bestowing his gifts upon mankind, thereby giving them reason to be happy and to know that he is a loving Creator. He himself gives us the best demonstration that “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving”.—Matt. 5:45; Acts 20:35; 1 Tim. 1:11; Jas. 1:17, NW.
The earth itself is one of God’s gifts, and so also is man’s life upon earth. While at man’s beginning life was an outright gift, God made man’s continued enjoyment of that gift dependent upon man’s obedience, upon his appreciation of that gift, upon his willingness to co-operate with God in the purpose for which God had given him that gift.—Gen. 1:26-28; 2:7, 17; Ps. 115:16.
Our first parents failed to show appreciation of the gift of life, refused to cooperate with God’s purpose, disobeyed, sinned. By reason of that misstep all their offspring lost the gift of life. However, knowing that some of these would show appreciation of his gifts God opened the way for such to get life by means of still another gift, that of his only-begotten Son. Through that gift not only life, but eternal life, is made available. “For the wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 5:12; 6:23, NW.
None of us are in position to earn God’s gifts, least of all to earn the gift of life. But we can show ourselves worthy of the gift of eternal life by demonstrating now, with such gifts as we do have, that we will properly use the gift of eternal life when God gives it to us by Christ Jesus. To that end we must cultivate the friendship of Jehovah and his Son by devoting all our time, energy and means to the matter of making this gift of eternal life our own. That means dedicating ourselves to Jehovah and then proving faithful to that dedication.—Ps. 49:6-9; Matt. 19:21; Luke 16:9, NW.
GIFTS FOR THE MINISTRY
Those who have dedicated themselves to the service of Jehovah come in line for many more gifts, foremost of such being God’s energizing force or holy spirit. God first bestowed this gift through Christ Jesus upon 120 of his servants on the day of Pentecost. Thereby he endowed them with special powers, such as speaking in tongues, interpretation, prophesying, ability to teach, healing and managerial ability. All “with a view to the training of the holy ones for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ”.—Acts 2:18; Eph. 4:12; 2 Tim. 1:7, NW.
To establish the Christian congregation in its infancy and to expedite the missionary work the holy spirit thus bestowed gifts miraculously. Having served their purpose these gifts passed away. Today God bestows the gifts of the spirit with due respect to the inborn or innate abilities and uncultivated natural talents Christians may have, as well as according to their zeal and willingness to be used by God.—1 Cor. 13:8.
Of course, not all are given the same gifts today, no more than all the members of the early congregation received the same gifts. (1 Cor. 12:27-31) God, by his holy spirit, bestows his gifts in great variety so that his visible organization, the Christian congregation, may become a broadened, well-balanced and fully rounded-out instrument for the accomplishment of his purposes. We should therefore not complain if we see others have gifts and opportunities for service that we do not have. Rather we should endeavor to benefit from those who do have such gifts by using them to improve our own ministry, even as in apostolic times the others did not envy the apostles their special gifts but were glad to accept their help.—1 Cor. 12:4-11; Eph. 4:16, NW.
CULTIVATING THE GIFTS
We all have certain innate abilities, certain uncultivated faculties, and we all have certain opportunities for employing these. The holy spirit which God gives helps and improves these so as to make us more useful, more capable, more productive in the ministry. However, it does not do so apart from our own efforts. Each one must be alert to make the most of his opportunities, must cultivate and train his latent powers to the fullest extent for the advancement of the Kingdom interests on earth and to demonstrate to Jehovah that he is worthy of everlasting life in perfect conditions with still more gifts to be used. “For to this end we are working hard and exerting ourselves, because we have rested our hope on a living God, who is a Savior of all kinds of men, especially of faithful ones.”—1 Tim. 4:10, NW.
The cases of Noah and Bezalel and the apostle Paul illustrate how the Lord uses his holy spirit to activate his servants. Noah was not chosen because he was a boat builder, but because he was an upright man and walked with God. Nevertheless, by being obedient to God’s instructions and with the help of God’s active force, Noah was able to build that great ark or chest, thereby giving a most remarkable exhibition of what the spirit of God can accomplish. We might draw a parallel here to the work of Jehovah’s witnesses in modern times. All of them preach the good news of the Kingdom by going from house to house, by standing on the streets and by making return visits upon the people and conducting Bible studies in their homes. And they do this even though they had no previous training in such matters before they became witnesses, but worked as farmers, carpenters, housewives, etc.—Gen. 6:9, 14; Zech. 4:6, AS.
On the other hand, it is quite likely that Bezalel, who was used to supervise the fine workmanship in the construction of the tabernacle and its furnishings, had certain natural abilities, training and experience, even as the apostle Paul had training in the law before he became a Christian. Their natural abilities, training and previous experience, together with willingness and God’s holy spirit, enabled them to serve in very special capacities. So today, as need arises for servants with special capacities the holy spirit activates those having possibilities or previous experience and who are willing to be used.—Ex. 31:2-6; Acts 22:3.
God has promised to supply us with the needed gifts. If we have real faith in his promise we will not content ourselves with merely wishing or praying for such gifts, but we will energetically lend ourselves to the work at hand, we will purposefully exert ourselves to the full for the sake of the work. Are we given an appointment or an assignment? Then let us give it our best, whether it requires advance study, special training, practice, rehearsing or other preparation.
So let us show appreciation for the gifts we have by cultivating them earnestly, making use of every means the Lord has provided for our training: his Word, the Watchtower Bible helps, congregational and other assemblies, as well as activity in all features of the Christian ministry. As Paul counseled Timothy: “Continue applying yourself to public reading, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not be neglecting the gift . . . Ponder over these things, be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons. Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (1 Tim. 4:13-16, NW) And, above all, thereby we shall be making glad the heart of our great Benefactor, thus showing our appreciation of his gifts.—Prov. 27:11.