I have a new computer Ė it is an amazing gift. Previously I had worked on an old reconfigured, re-worked computer which chugged and whirred along, and burdened our small solar-power system. For quite a while I coveted a smaller, more energy-efficient laptop but knew it was far too expensive, even second-hand. Other bills always gained precedence.
But then my birthday arrived and I was presented with a box which looked suspiciously like computer packaging. Surely the contents were something different Ė a photo album with lots of wrapping, maybe. But no Ė I really had been given a laptop computer. I didnít ask for it. I didnít really think I was worth that amount of money. Friends had gotten together and passed the hat around, with donations coming from a range of people. All these contributors must have felt strongly about the value of myself and my skills to invest in me with this present.
It felt strange to receive such an expensive gift. Did I really deserve it? What if I didnít produce anything outstanding since receiving the computer? Would people feel that I was wasting their gift, or worse, would they regret their offering?
At about the same time, my neighbour Reg announced that he had also received an expensive gift. His came in the form of a shiny new car. Regís daughter and son-in-law had been blessed with their business and thought they would like to pass some of these blessings on to Dad. ďIíve never had a new car in my life!Ē Reg admitted. His previous car had driven over 400 000km and hadnít had any attention to the motor. The need for a replacement was evident. Reg felt it was a bit embarrassing to own a new car - a conspicuous statement of extravagance which he didnít feel suited him.
In Australia, it is typical to fall prey to the Ďtall poppy syndromeí where we think anyone doing well or getting special attention should be Ďcut down to sizeí. We donít want others to get an over-rated opinion of themselves, when our heritage is partly convict stock.
And we project that attitude on ourselves when we think maybe we donít deserve to do any better with our lives, perhaps we arenít as good as we thought, and maybe even our friends donít like us the way they say they do. We are plagued with insecurities and the society we live in does little to lift us up. The beautiful, talented and wealthy are featured in magazines and television shows, in the cinemas, recording studios, and sports-fields. We feel just a little bit ordinary when we compare ourselves to those larger-than-life celebrities.
So if a wonderful gift comes our way itís only natural to think, ďWho Ė me?Ē It is so hard to accept the fact that we are really special. Even if we are nothing much according to the worldís standards, in Godís eyes we are something amazing.
Before we were born, God knew us and had plans for us. He loves us! (see Psalm 139:13- 17 and Jeremiah 29:11)
When Jesus died on the cross to save the world from sin, this did not merely mean the people living in His time. Jesus died to save people in the past, in the future, those in the Middle East, those in Australia and New Zealand. Jesus died for you, and for me. So if we feel like we are not doing so well and our friends or family have doubts about us, thereís hope. Jesus has an incredible gift for us Ė the gift of new opportunities, new hope and eternal life. Our lives can be transformed to ones of joy and peace, with assurance that Someone is looking after us, loving us with an endless love. Godís love is an extravagant love, bestowing us with things we donít deserve, but He canít help spoiling us anyway.
It may be natural to think that maybe God died for those who are more honourable, those who might be more talented, hard-working or consistent in church attendance. Surely Iím not worthy, is our subconscious thought. But that is not the case. Jesus cares for us all, and demonstrated this by dying for everyone. God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not be destroyed but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, paraphrased).
But unless we believe and accept this truth, our lives arenít changed. I received a box which looked like it could contain a computer. If I had never opened it, I would not have experienced the reality of having a new computer. The gift becomes useless unless it is accepted and put into practice.
Likewise, we must open our hearts and minds to truly believe this about God and the offer of salvation Ė He loves us! He has good things for us! Because of His belief in our intrinsic value and potential, He died to save us from our empty, self-serving lives, our bad habits and addictions. It is true, and all we have to do is acknowledge and accept it. Our response should not be embarrassment or cynicism, but one of delight and praise. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)