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It's a family tradition in our family that around Thanksgiving and Christmas we go see movies that come out for the holidays. Ford vs Ferrari was the first movie on our list to see, followed closely by A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. For me, one of the underlying themes of both movies was motive: Why do we do the things we do? Are we after recognition, fame and money? Do we do things simply for the joy of doing them -- because that's what gives life meaning? Or is our life centered on making a difference in the lives of others?

The Presbyterian Church is a confessional church, which simply means that we have statements about what we believe. One such statement, "The Westminster Confession of Faith," is written in the form of questions and answers. Although its language is antiquated, its first question has always held profound meaning for me: "What is the chief end of man?" In today's culture we might word it something like, "Why do we exist?" or perhaps, "What is the meaning of life?" And the answer is, "To glorify God and to enjoy God forever." We exist, our purpose, is to live our lives in a way that gives glory to God, a way in which we find joy in our relationship with God.

I give thanks to God that God has blessed me with abilities and talents that I enjoy using. Each of us has God-given gifts and interests. For some it's an athletic skill, for others it is musical or artistic talent, for others it is an inquisitive mind, or being good with numbers or language. We may choose to use whatever gifts and talents God has given us for our own benefit only, which may result in financial gain or recognition of achievement. But I believe that God gives us those gifts, and the opportunity to use them, for other reasons.

The purpose of a gift is joy -- joy that is best achieved through developing that gift to its fullest potential and sharing it with others. Think of the parable of the talents. The man who hid his talent hadn't used it in the way that his master had intended. God gifts us so that our talents, our abilities, our interests will expand and impact others -- increasing our joy and God's joy through us.

For me, both movies I've seen recently gave me a framework to ask myself whether I'm using the gifts God has given me in the way that God intends. Am I living into who God has called me to be? Am I glorifying God and enjoying God? With Thanksgiving passed, looking toward Christmas, I am encouraged to reflect on how thankful I am for the many blessings with which God has blessed me, the depth of God's love for me in the giving of God's self through a child born in a manger, and how God's gift of Jesus Christ impacts the purpose of my life. Thankfulness goes beyond the prayer before the Thanksgiving meal. Thankfulness begins with an awareness that everything we have and are is a gift of God, and extends to how and why we use those gifts. Give thanks, finding joy in knowing that how you use God's blessings makes a difference to God, to the world, and ultimately in your heart.

NAN Religion on 12/14/2019

Print Headline: God's gifts reflected in our joy

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