Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Ultimate Gifts

“…We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” ~Romans 5:3-5

“Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.” ~Malcolm Muggeridge (quoted in “The Ultimate Gift”)

“Any process you are going through will get tougher before it gets easier. That's what makes learning a gift, even though pain is your teacher.” ~ James Garner as “Red Stevens” in “The Ultimate Gift”

In the 2007 movie, “The Ultimate Gift,” billionaire Red Stevens (James Garner) posthumously seeks to bequeath to his grandson, Jason (Drew Fuller), an inheritance that will not only “not ruin” him, but will, he hopes, ultimately transform him into a better person. Though I wasn’t expecting to need tissues nearby, I recommend the movie highly as its two central messages are strong, positive, and even Biblical: first, problems, pain, and trials offer incredible opportunities for growth, and second, there is untold blessing in considering others and living selflessly and generously.

Aside from simply being well done and uplifting, the story also parallels the Christian life in many ways. Like Jason, we all start out, more or less, as narcissistic, hedonistic, self-reliant sinners. Yet, as Red does with Jason, God desires to make something better of us – he desires to redeem us, and make us outward-focused and Holy as He is Holy. God sometimes grants blessings and gifts freely (for example, salvation), but as the perfectly wise Father, He knows that times of trial and testing actually produce the most powerful, transformational growth.

Reread Malcolm Muggeridge’s quote:

“Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.”

What do those happenings look like? Sometimes …
… we get good news;
… the miracle comes;
… we live comfortably;
… we have what we want;
… we experience success;
… we receive an unexpected blessing.

But perhaps more often …
… we face temptation;
… our faith is challenged;
… our dreams are crushed;
… we encounter disappointment;
… we struggle with difficult people;
… the valley of the shadow of death looms near;
… we have opportunity to be stretched beyond our comfort zones;
… God calls us to do something that seems crazy or even impossible.

And what are the gifts of growth is God trying to impart? The movie suggested the gifts of family, love, dreams, laughter, giving, friends, learning, work, money, problems, gratitude, and a day. All very good, but we cannot forget the Holy Spirit’s gift basket that holds love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

And what about …
… the gift of hope;
… the gift of faith;
… the gift of purpose;
… the gift of grace.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” ~James 1:2-4

So, what’s it gonna take for you (or me) to “get the message?”


  1. It takes more than I would like. I know the pain and suffering must take place to remove the ugliness of me and show forth the beauty of our Savior. Sometimes I would like a break in the suffering, a time to catch my breath. Not so and I push forward knowing He loves me beyond comprehension.

  2. I feel totally irreverent posting this here but Scrabulous is Facebook scrabble where you challenge your friends to a game. It can be slow but so much fun. I have only won 2 games. Facebook is its own universe. It is worth checking out.


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