By now most everyone has seen the video of UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi’s enchanting floor routine. All over the world, people were gripped not only by her perfect performance, but by this young woman’s unrestrained joy; by how she was so thoroughly immersed in the pleasure of doing what she is uniquely gifted to do. Ohashi’s smile captivated us as much as “the backward split that she does after her leap pass,” which, her coach informed us, “is insane.”
Ohashi has given us an illustration of how to think about — and relish — the gifts God gives us. She reminds us that as God’s creatures, we are always — 24/7/365 — on the receiving end of His extravagant generosity.
Take a look at 1 Corinthians 4:7, where the Apostle Paul asks, “What do you have that you did not receive?” From the air we breathe, to the water we drink, to our minds, talents, and abilities; to our friends, neighbors, and pets; to grace, mercy, and forgiveness —we are all constantly receiving priceless gifts from the hand of God.
Paul wants us to delight in them, and through them, to delight in the One who gives.
We’re to love God completely — with our heart, soul, mind, and strength — because then, and only then, can we receive his gifts as a sip of his glory.
That’s why he tells Timothy that we’re not to set our hope “on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). And why he assured the Corinthians, “All things are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:21).
But we may squirm at the thought … just a little. We’re grateful, of course, but we’re also wary. As Christians, we’re painfully aware that we can distort the role of money, sex, homes, cars — even our talents and abilities — until they become idols. Hence, the Apostle John warns us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15). Similarly, James warns us that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4).
There’s tension here, but no contradiction. There’s no need to choose between relishing the gift and being faithful to the giver. Rather, these promises and commands blend into a life-giving whole. We’re to love God completely — with our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30), because then — and only then — can we receive his gifts as a sip of his glory. When we love God rightly, his gifts — whether the beach or a mountain view or our talents and abilities — all become occasions for enjoying Him. They become “beams of glory that we chase back to the source,” says author/theologian Joe Rigney.
In his book “The Things of the Earth,” Rigney quotes C.S. Lewis, who understood the predicament. There’s plenty of room in “our present pilgrim condition,” Lewis said, “to abstain from, renounce, and mortify our natural desires.” But if we were to come across a horse — a majestic creature we might esteem too highly — we aren’t to avoid it, Lewis said; rather, we should learn to ride.
Behind our self-denial, Lewis argued that we should be asking, “Who will trust us with the true wealth if we cannot be trusted even with the wealth that perishes? Who will trust me with a spiritual body if I cannot control even an earthly body? These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that we may someday be free of horses altogether but that someday we may ride bareback, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables.”
Love God, and then immerse yourself in the gifts He gives. Think, feel, and reason, then praise God that you’ve been given a mind and emotions. Love God and enjoy everything. Do not be cheated.
Relish All There Is to Relish
Love God, and then immerse yourself in the gifts He gives. Revel in the good fortune that by His grace you’re surrounded by natural wonders. Savor the smell and taste of coffee, then thank Him, not only for the coffee, but for the capacity to enjoy it. Marvel at a lunar eclipse, and then give thanks to the One who created the heavens. Think, feel, and reason, then praise God that you’ve been given a mind and emotions. Love God and enjoy everything. Do not be cheated.
“If you are awash in a sea of God’s gifts, dive in and savor them,” Rigney says. “Relish all there is to relish as a means of expanding your mind and heart to know God more deeply. Receive God’s gifts gladly, and then be as generous with others as God has been with you.”
Like Him, give your gifts away. In imitation of God, use what you’ve been given to enrich others. As one who bears His image, lavishly share your time, talent, and treasure.