“Instead of giving us good things, God first promises us good things”.
Jesus asks: “What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).
According to Jesus, evil earthly fathers give good gifts to their children, and the heavenly Father also does likewise. However, the good gifts that men give are fundamentally different from the good and the perfect gifts of God.
While God can give, and sometimes gives, what men give, men cannot give what God gives. The earthly father gives bread and fish, which God also gives. But only the heavenly Father gives the Holy Spirit.
This critical distinction between the gifts of men and those of God is revealed in Luke. There, Jesus says: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13).
There is one vital thing that God gives exclusively, and it is the only thing that is truly good. That one good thing is God Himself. God is so gracious and loving; He gives Himself to us. Jesus says: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
Since God the Father and Jesus the Son are one, in giving Jesus to us God gives Himself to us. So, when Jesus says: Ask, and it will be given to you; (Matthew 7:7), He is telling us to ask for God and not for bread and fish.
But virtually all our prayers are for bread and fish. Our prayers are disproportionately for temporal things. We pray for our children’s school fees, for our house rent, for the money to buy groceries. We pray to buy cars, to build houses, to have children, and to get married.
Our problem is that, like Peter, we are mindful of the things of men and not of the things of God. (Matthew 16:23). That is why James says: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3).
Jesus fed the people with bread and fish, the good things of men. So, they concluded He was the person they had been looking for all their lives. But when they went to great lengths to come after Him, He said to them: “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John t6:27).
What food could Jesus be talking about here, they wondered. He told them to eat His flesh and drink His blood. As a result, they lost all interest in Him and departed from Him. They were not interested in the blessings of goodness. (Psalms 21:3). Their god was their belly. (Philippians 3:19).
Goodness only comes from God. It is the fruit of His Spirit. If God were to give anything good, it can only be Himself for only God is good. Goodness does not exist outside of God.
God does not only give good gifts, but He also gives the perfect gift. James says: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17).
That perfect gift is God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ. This means God Himself is our glorious possession. We are heirs of God and not just of what belongs to Him. (Romans 8:17).
In Canaan, God gave most of the Israelites the good gift of lands. But He reserved the perfect gift for the Levites. He did not give them any land. Instead, He gave them Himself. The Bible records that: “To the tribe of Levi Moses had given no inheritance; the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance, as He had said to them.” (Joshua 13:33).
In effect, those who got lands obtained the good things of men. But those who received God obtained the perfect thing of God. Moreover, those who got God insist they got the better deal. The psalmist says:
“O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance.” (Psalm 16:5-6).
God’s perfect gift is Himself. For this reason, God’s good gifts are simply appetisers and inducements for His perfect gift. God knows we are carnal, and that, in ignorance, we have little or no appreciation for the perfect. We are sold out on the good. Therefore, instead of giving us good things, He first promises us good things.
He will tell us He is going to do something good for us. Then He will make us wait for it. While we are waiting for the good gift, He will reveal to us the perfect gift of Himself. Indeed, by the time He finally gives you the good gift He promised, we might no longer be interested, having discovered while waiting the perfect gift of God Himself.
God offered Himself to Abram. He told him: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” (Genesis 15:1).
But Abram did not want God. What he wanted was a child. When God finally gave Abram a son, He asked him to sacrifice his son. But by then God had become Abram’s portion. He said to Isaac: “God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:8).
“Therefore will the LORD wait, that He may be gracious unto (us), and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon us: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him.” (Isaiah 30:18).
When we receive a gift, we can leave the giver immediately. But when we receive a promise, we stay. We get to know the promiser. We discover that the perfect gift of God is God Himself. God only uses the good things of this world to bring us to Himself.
These good gifts are temporal, while the perfect gift of God is eternal.
The Lord came to me once and asked me a characteristically loaded question. He said: “Femi, what do you own?”
While I was pondering what he meant exactly and how to answer, He decided to help me out. He said to me: “If what you have can be lost, then it does not belong to you. If it can be stolen, then it has no value. If it can be burnt or destroyed, then it is illusory.”
Then He asked me: “So what do you have left?” The Holy Spirit helped me out. He said: “The only ‘thing’ you have left is Jesus.”