As I write this, in less than twenty-four hours my oldest daughter will celebrate her birthday. As with all our children, she will wake to see the path from her bedroom door to the breakfast table, covered with balloons. I will have hung the words “Happy Birthday” prominently across the wall above the table, and we will have prepared her place with an array of presents. All parents can attest to the great joy of seeing their children respond to these moments with enthusiastic thankfulness and excitement.
But that’s not always the way we respond when we receive a gift. Sometimes we respond with ingratitude, wishing we had received more or something different. Other times we respond with boasting, thinking that somehow we are better than others because of the significance or value of what we have received. But this kind of boasting fundamentally denies the definition of a gift. A gift is not earned, nor can you rightly boast in it.
Yet how often do we boast in what has been given to us? Men boast in their careers. Mothers boast in their parenting abilities. As children excel in school or in sports, they are quick to take credit. And while many of life’s achievements and milestones are paved with personal discipline and hard work, the Lord is the One who ultimately prepares that path for us. The Lord is the One who motivates, sustains, and brings about all that is good in our lives. As the Apostle Paul says, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31).
The Christian life is a gift from beginning to end. To be born again is a gift—a work of God in our hearts. But life itself is also a gift. Every breath is by His decree, and we will all breathe our last according to His determined timing. We grow in Christlikeness because He grows us. It’s true that the Lord uses means to produce fruit in our lives, but why do some of us grow more than others? A more revealing question is, why do some grow at all and others fall away? That is to ask, what separates Judas from Peter? These are significant questions, and the answer is that, simply put, Jesus prayed for Peter, but He didn’t pray for Judas. The moment-by-moment intercession of Christ on our behalf is a gift, and it’s what keeps all Christians from fully and finally falling away.
Every morning, the Christian should be like a joyous child waking to balloons and presents. For another day, the Lord has renewed His mercies (Lam. 3:23) and surrounded us with a smorgasbord of gifts and graces. Whether it be our talents, that day’s earthly provision and opportunities for godly service, or even trials and suffering, they are all from the hand of our Father in heaven—and they are all good. Let’s not compare and compete with each other. Instead, may we all give thanks and boast in Him.