Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: STEW (11/26/15)
TITLE: Every Good and Perfect Gift
By Gerald Shuler
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“The question for next week is...” Pastor Jack said, as he reached deep into the basket, “Oh, my! This one will be good. The question is 'What is the difference, if any, between what James 1:17 calls a good gift and a perfect gift?'” The pastor rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “You won't want to miss this one. Next week everyone in attendance will receive a good gift... and one of you will get a perfect gift.”
That week was mercilessly long. My question was going to be answered and I felt like an over-anxious child who couldn't wait. The next Sunday I was impressed with the number of visitors in the church. Word had gotten around about everyone getting a gift but I just wanted my answer.
The service seemed to drag on as mercilessly as had the week. Songs seemed slower, verses longer (and even included the fifth and sixth verses), and announcements took forever. Finally, though, Pastor Jack rose from his chair and approached the podium. He motioned to the ushers and they began to distribute papers to everyone. As each person looked at the paper they were given it became obvious that no one saw this as a good gift at all. Finally, I got my paper and looked at it. My heart sank. All I had been given was a recipe for Traditional Irish Stew. The congregation had all received the same disappointing stew recipe. The bewilderment on our faces must have been obvious. Pastor Jack look just as disappointed as the rest of us.
“You don't appreciate this good gift?” he asked. “You have in your hands all the instructions you need to gather ingredients, mix, season, cook and enjoy a meal that has always been one of my personal favorites. It is a truly good gift... all the information is there for you to use. That, though, is the catch about 'good' gifts. You have to do some work to make them complete. If you don't do the work you will never know how good my stew tastes.” He paused briefly to let his words either sink in or float away. For most of us, the words floated away. “God has given each of us good gifts to use. It may be a talent to write, sing, or teach. Everyone gifts but too often we don't use them. Just like the recipe, the gifts God gives are good. The real question is 'Are you using your good gifts?”
Pastor Jack certainly had my attention. I had wasted my talents for years, thinking myself inferior compared to others with the same talents. I was guilty of not even trying. Conviction hit... and stung.
“Now,” the pastor said, “One of you is receiving a perfect gift today. I don't know who wrote this question but if you are here would you be kind enough to step forward and receive your perfect gift?”
Suddenly embarrassed, I rose slowly to my feet and approached the pastor as he continued to preach.
“As I said, a good gift requires work to complete. In God's Word, the word 'perfect' means 'complete'. Like the gift God gave us on Calvary's Hill. Salvation is a perfect gift. There is nothing to be added, nothing to be done, nothing to be changed. It is complete. So, Susan,” He smiled at me. “I took the recipe for Traditional Irish Stew and did the work for you.” He pulled out a crockpot from behind the podium. “It doesn't compare to what Jesus gave us, but it is complete. All you have to do is enjoy the stew when you get home.”
He looked at the congregation with great compassion. “Don't take this good gift lightly. It is a challenge. Do the work. Prepare the stew. Then, if it is in your heart to do so, give it away. That is how you take your good gifts and make them perfect... you do it for others.”
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