“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” ~James 1:17
I like gifts. I’m sure you do too. We will get to enjoy giving and receiving in just a few weeks (which seem like forever to a certain 5 year old in our midst). There are many intangible things that are given to us, however, that have never been wrapped in festive paper or tied with a cheery bow. These are the best gifts. They are chosen for us by our heavenly Father. All things that we possess as disciplines or personality qualities or talents are given. Any time anything in us remotely looks like Jesus, we know it is from Him.
We can be sure of something else, too. That is that the deceiver has a counterfeit for all of these treasures. The adversary will take every beautiful thing and turn it on its head. These things will engage our human natures and their natural propensities at their worst. There is no semblance of the Master in these counterfeits. They are every bit of us.
What does this look like? Consider stubbornness or defiance. We understand that these things are negative traits. They are not desirable. But with the quickening of the Spirit empowering that same power of will, we find a transformation into strength of resolve, and godly determination. This should give us hope. With God’s power, what may seem unusable and corrupt can be re-purposed into gifts fit for service, full of purity in motive.
Let us find encouragement, especially as parents. The little bulldog of a child (you know the kind…you tell them “no” and they stare a burning hole through you as they do the very thing you told them not to do) may, with the transforming power of the Spirit, one day become a stalwart witness for Christ. All things truly can work together for good (Romans 8:28) when conformity to Christ’s image is in view. Oversensitivity can become compassion when the focus is turned from inward to outward. A sullen spirit can bloom into a heart given to meditation and deeper things. Perfectionism can be changed into a heart that desires to do all things to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). A personality prone to quick temper can be honed into one who has a keen awareness of righteous indignation. Discontentedness can be polished so that the heart learns true satisfaction is only found in eternal things.
First Corinthians 14 tells us to earnestly pursue love, without which none of these other blessings is possible, and without which none of these counterfeits can be converted into something good and perfect and useful. Such transformations are entirely for His glory.
One of my favorite things to study in science is metamorphosis. It is an amazing process. In the case of butterflies, they are originally in the form of a caterpillar, with simple eyes, chewing mouth parts, many legs, and a mode of transportation that employs them. After some time inside a chrysalis, an entirely different creature emerges. It is a miracle. How else can it be explained? To enter into that tomb-like encasement, become a living soup of sorts, and later exit the same with no resemblance of the former appearance? It now possesses compound eyes, a curling proboscis designed for an entirely new diet, a new body structure, complete with beautiful and complex wings to transport into flight…something the creature had never before known. It is all to the Creator’s glory. And any of the aforementioned changes in us also demand a divine explanation, for there is “no good thing” to be found there (Romans 7:18).
Take heart, believer. Seek His face. Love His word so you can recognize the counterfeits. Some of them are quite difficult to discern, and there is sometimes such a fine line between those things that are self serving and those that are Savior serving. We need to look at ourselves in the mirror of the scriptures and examine those things that need to change, as He reveals them. He will make those changes possible. Look closely at Him and desire in yourself what you see.