Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Grace of Anticipation

James 1:17 tells us, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." James reminds us that everything good in our lives comes from God. Now we often take such verses to mean the "holy" things come from God; the Bible, our church families, etc. And those are certainly gifts from God, given from the benevolent hand of the one who loved us and gave Himself for us. We praise God for these expressions of His goodness and worship Him for His generosity. But when James says that every good gift is from above, I don't think we're being untrue to the text to say that everything in our lives that is good is an expression of God's goodness. Even the things that aren't "holy" things can, I believe, be rightly considered to be good and perfect gifts from God. These are what we might call graces, i.e., demonstrations of the mercy and favor of God based on the imputed righteousness of Christ.
We have for example the grace of friendship. What a joy to have those with whom we can share our burdens and whose burdens we can share. It's an expression of the goodness of God that we can have these relationships.  
We have the grace of the beauty of creation. God could have made a drab, boring landscape. But He formed this world with the majesty and beauty that can only come from the divine brilliance of His holy creativity. 
In addition to these two is a grace that has been on my mind lately; the grace of anticipation. Anticipation is an expectation, a strong desire for something we look forward to, a hope that it will soon be ours. For the past couple weeks I've been anticipating an event that has become one of the highlights of my year--Guy's Weekend.  What is Guy's Weekend, you ask?  Simple; me and several college friends will get together for the weekend (pretty self-explanatory isn't it?). We'll talk theology, politics, and anything else we can find to disagree on. We'll play risk, cards, and golf (I won't actually play golf; my job is to ride in the carts and mercilessly taunt those who do). We'll eat an outrageous amount of ridiculously unhealthy food. We'll tell stories, we'll laugh and we'll crack on each other in ways that would ruin friendships less healthy than ours. Mostly we'll just enjoy one another's company. And I look forward to this event. It's a great time to unwind and to recharge.
A few weeks back, as I was thinking about the weekend and what all we'll be doing, God gently spoke to my heart; He reminded me that this anticipation I feel about Guy's Weekend is a gift from Him. And the reason it's a gift from Him is because it reminds me of a greater anticipation I have--the anticipation of going to be with Him forever. See, every good and perfect gift is from above. It comes from God. And so the point of these gifts is to point me towards God. The graces that God pours out on our lives are not just for us to enjoy. Certainly we are to enjoy them, to drink deeply of them and rejoice in the goodness of our King. But even more, they ought to cause us to want to enjoy Him, to drink deeply of Him and to passionately pursue the Giver of all good things.
The grace of friendship reminds me that there is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother. It reminds me that greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for His friends. The grace of creation reminds me that if all that I see is so magnificent, how much more magnificent is the One who spoke it into existence? If I can be swept away by the grandeur of the landscape, how much more should I be swept away by the grandeur of the divine artist Who designed it all? And if I can get so excited about a weekend with a bunch of knuckleheads, how much greater should my anticipation be for the eternal joy that will be found in the presence of King Jesus?
Let me share one other definition of anticipation--a realization in advance, a foretaste. All the good things in the world are simply a foretaste of the greater goodness that is found in King Jesus. All the good and perfect gifts are given to show us the ultimate satisfaction that is found in the good and perfect Giver of those gifts. 
May we drink deeply of the graces that God gives us. May we revel in them and rejoice in the expressions of goodness and favor from our great and benevolent King. But even more, may learn to look beyond them. May we learn to see that the greatest goodness we can enjoy in this life is but a foretaste of all that will be enjoyed in the presence of Jesus. May we learn that the greatest source of joy and delight is not the graces that are given; the greatest source of joy and delight is the Giver of those graces.

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