What we have been studying in Acts 12 reminds me of the story of a young lady who was waiting for her flight in the boarding room of a big airport. As she would need to wait many hours, she decided to buy a book to spend her time. She also bought a packet of cookies. She sat down in an armchair in the VIP room to rest and read in peace.
Beside the armchair where the packet of cookies lay, a man sat down in the next seat, opened his magazine and started reading. When she took out the first cookie, the man took one also. She felt irritated but said nothing. She just thought, “What nerve! If I was in the mood, I would punch him for daring!” For each cookie she took, the man took one too. This was infuriating her, but she didn’t want to cause a scene.
When only one cookie remained she thought, “Well…what will this abusive man do now?” Then, the man, taking the last cookie, divided it in half, giving her one half. “Ah!” she thought, “That was too much.” She was much too angry now! In a huff, she took her book, her things, and stormed to the boarding area. When she sat down in her seat inside the plane, she looked into her purse to take out her glasses. And to her surprise, her packet of cookies was there, untouched, unopened. She thought the man was taking from her, but actually she’d been taking from him and he was happy to share with her.
This story is about perspective, and how we can so easily have the wrong perspective. Apply this to the story we’re studying this week in Acts 12. We can think our blessings came from our work, our own goodness, our own smartness or ingenuity. That is the wrong perspective.
But how do we know when we have the wrong perspective on the source of our blessings? Here’s one way to find out: observe what happens inside you when you feel like those blessings are taken away. Do you get angry? Do hurtful words come out of your mouth? That just might be a indication you have the wrong perspective.
But if we can learn to observe the good things that happen to us from the right perspective, we’ll see how blessed we really are, even when those blessings are taken away. The woman in the story above, for example, was very angry when she felt like the man was taking from her cookies. If, however, she had the right perspective about blessings, she could have joyfully shared with him, having an attitude of generosity. Of course, this is not to say that we should be doormats, allowing ourselves to be abused by people who mean to harm.
My point is that if we learn to see the Lord as the source of our blessings, we’ll realize that we are truly blessed. And, here’s the thing, he gives blessings to all. NOT just to those of us who love him. He is a good God. He gives good things to all people, he loves all. So the level of abundance or prosperity or health in our lives does not reveal whether God loves one of us more than the other. That’s the wrong perspective about God. When we view life from that false perspective, it is much more difficult to be grateful and we tend to complain more.
The right perspective is remembering where good things come from. God! When we have the right perspective, we’ll be able to avoid the false idea that we are “owed” an easy, good life. We are talking about having a posture for recognizing good gifts for what they are and remembering who gives them to us.
In the previous post, I quoted a passage written by Jesus’ brother, James. But there is another passage James writes that talks about this even more clearly. Here is what he says in chapter 1 of his letter:
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him…Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created.”
God is the source of our blessings, so how, then, do we count our blessings the right way? In the next post, I’ll suggest some practical ideas.