Where Credit Is Due

My daughter is at an age where she demands a certain exactness from everyone around her. It is not acceptable to tell her it’s 3:00, when it’s actually 2:57. She also feels she deserves credit for any part of a project she’s helped complete, no matter how small. If DH thanks me for making dinner, for instance, DD will make sure everyone knows that she participated in cooking, even if all she did was shred a carrot. To my chagrin, I’ve noticed I share in this latter tendency.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV)

I don’t think of myself as a boastful person. In fact, I usually focus more on the negative things about me than the positive. But, that doesn’t keep me from craving accolades for my efforts, no matter how insignificant they are in the scheme of things. When the people around me don’t step up and acknowledge what I’ve done, I get cranky. And when time passes and still no one remarks on my contribution, I start getting angry. The silly thing is, often, my family and friends appreciate whatever I did, they just didn’t make the big deal out of it I was hoping for.

God,

You saw this coming from miles away and stopped it all in its tracks. You shower Your grace on us when we have done nothing to deserve it. Not only that, but You provide the faith we need to believe Your promises and receive Your blessings. You made sure there was no doubt, no possible way I could imagine that I’m doing this on my own.

My first response, honestly, is annoyance. God, I want to do it! Why don’t You let me? Why is it always all about You? And yet, when I stop to consider, I realize: this is not Your way to thwart my abilities and talent, but to provide for me what I could never manage on my own.

Your desire is to give me these gifts that I could never earn for myself, not if I spent my whole life trying. You have better dreams for me than to spend my days trying to curry favor. You have already given it to me, more than I would ever have dared ask.

Thank You for this incredible generosity, for Your grace and faith and favor. Thank You for not letting anything, even me, get in the way of Your incredible plans. Help me to remember that even though You don’t need me, You want me. You invite me to participate in Your adventure.

And thanks for giving me all I need to complete the work You call me to do. Even when I forget to acknowledge You.

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Everything

One of my all-time favorite movie is The Princess Bride. The character of Vizzini is short, bald, and thinks he knows everything. He responds to numerous unexpected events with his trademark, “Inconceivable!” At one point in the film, when things have once again not gone his way, Vizzini spits out a particularly incredulous, “Inconceivable!” His hired swordsman responds, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Words are like that sometimes. Take the world of advertising, for instance. The definition of the word gift is “something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation” (source). Yet, we almost never hear about a plain, simple gift. Advertisements are meant to encourage us to spend our money, so when it sounds too good, we’re always looking for a catch. Even though, by definition, gifts are not something we need to pay for, nearly every ad offers the redundant phrase “free gift,” as though there were some other sort of gift that required a fee.

Sometimes, I have similar issues when I read the Bible–it sounds too good, so I’m looking for the catch.

God’s power has given us everything we need to lead a godly life. All of that has come to us because we know the One who chose us. (II Peter 1:3a, NIrV)

There is a credit card commercial I’ve seen lately that has a celebrity spokesperson asking the viewer, “What does ‘everything’ mean to you?” He goes on to explain everything, as determined by the card he’s pitching, is not just in some cases, but means every place, every time, always, without limit, as it should be.

Why do I think God’s everything offers less than the bank? And if He really has already given me absolutely everything I need, why do I waste so much time worrying about what I don’t have?

God,

You have promised again and again in Your Word that You will supply all my needs (Philippians 4:19), I lack nothing (Psalm 23:1), I only need to ask (Luke 11:10), I can do all things (Philippians 4:13), and You bless me wherever I go (Deuteronomy 28:6). Still, I keep looking for the fine print. It sounds too good to be true.

I have trouble believing You because I like to think You are like me. Help me to see how different You are. Help me to know that although I am limited, You are limitless; while I am poor, You are rich; where I am stingy, You are generous. And even when I’m focused on what I think I’m missing out on, thank You for graciously giving me everything I need.