Monday, October 5, 2020

Today: The Gift That Gives More Than We Imagine

 I don’t know who originated it, but some punster came up with the observation, “Every new day is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.” But when we’re young, and healthy, it’s easy to take each new day for granted. We make plans weeks, months, even years in advance, with utmost confidence those plans will be fully realized.

However, as we get older – especially after encountering health setbacks, or simply the reality that our bodies are aging – we discover tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. This teaches many of us to appreciate the dawn of another day, the chance to arise from a night’s sleep and eagerly face the opportunities and challenges of the next 24 hours.


In recent months, two of my friends have undergone open-heart surgery. Now they’re engaged in cardiac rehab programs to help them to resume their active lifestyles. Other friends have confronted various forms of cancer. Then there are coronavirus survivors. Each of these now understands, more clearly than ever, that each new day is truly a gift. We couldn’t earn or deserve it. We just received it.


The question becomes, what do we do with that gift? How do we use it? Should we try to squeeze every ounce of sensory experience out of each day? Go skydiving, or hang gliding? Ride the fastest, steepest rollercoaster we can find? Travel to exotic locales? Spend our money on the glitzy “stuff” we’ve seen advertised? “Grab the gusto,” as the old commercial slogan used to tell us?


We find two very different perspectives in the Bible. The book of Ecclesiastes, which most scholars believe was written by King Solomon, offers a fairly pessimistic view. For instance, the king admitted:

“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure…. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).


Bummer! He was the richest man in the world, at least for his time, yet experienced frustration and futility in pursuing any and all tangible things and experiences the world could offer. Solomon discussed this throughout the book, but ultimately arrived at one conclusion: “Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him – for this is his lot” (Ecclesiastes 5:18).


In the New Testament, however, we find a more optimistic outlook, one that focuses on eternity rather than this temporary world in which we exist. 


Jesus exhorts His followers, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in an steal” (Matthew 6:19). If we stop there, He seems in agreement with Solomon. The things that catch our eye, the earthly treasures we work so hard to acquire, slip away. We don’t see hearses pulling U-Haul trailers.


But then Jesus offers an option, explaining there is a way of investing for our long-term future: “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21).


We might respond, “This sounds good. But how do we do it?”


Jesus gave us a good starting point in responding to the question from a Jewish religious leader, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Without hesitation, He replied, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:36-37).


Loving others, God first, and then our “neighbors” – whomever the Lord brings into our lives – is a key to a meaningful, rewarding life and one way to ensure we don’t squander the gift of each new day. Ted DeMoss, whom I had the privilege of working with from 1981 to his passing in 1997, used to say that when all is said and done, only two things will remain: “the Word of God and people.” 


Jim Elliot, a missionary who lost his life in 1956 while participating in Operation Auca, attempting to evangelize the Huaorani peoplein Ecuador, made a similar observation: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” He also said, “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”


I hope you woke up this morning fully realizing you had received a true gift – the gift of a new day. So yes, by all means, grab the gusto. Go for it! But in so doing, grab the gusto for God and His people.

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