James 1:16-18. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
When life is bad we tend to forget that God is good. James knows this. That’s why he moves directly from talking about trials to talking about God’s goodness. Do not be deceived he says. Why? Because he knows that we are not immune to doubting God’s goodness in times of great trial. And he knows that in times of great temptation, the real temptation is not the surface level sin itself, but the deeper sin of denying God’s goodness.
And so in two little verses (1:17-18), James will remind us of five big truths:
1. God is good.
God is the Father of lights. God is the creator-dad. God relates to us as a father who is both loving and strong. Strong enough to be able to make all the heavenly lights (and everything else), and kind enough to do it for us. He is good.
2. God is always good.
There is no variation of shadow due to change with God. God’s creation changes all the time. But unlike his creation, God never changes. He is always the same amount of good. He doesn’t get better or worse. He doesn’t offer more or less of himself depending on the situation. You will never go to God in your hurt and find him unwilling to love you back into his ultimate reality.
3. God only gives good.
James says every good gift…is from the Father. This could be translated as “all good giving is from the Father.” Or “the Father only gives what is good.” If it’s from God, it’s good. If it’s bad, it’s not from God. God does not tempt us with evil (James 1:13). Yes, God allows what is bad. And yes, God uses what is bad for our good (Rom. 8:28, Gen. 50:20). And that is what makes God so good.
4. Everything good is from God.
Every perfect gift is from the Father. Let’s think for a minute about some of the good things in life. Sunsets. Mountain ranges. Beaches. Gardens. Parks. Family. Children. Parents. Friends. Art. Music. Great food. Good coffee. Games. Play. Work. Learning. Freedom. Love. Beauty. Glory. Every experience. Every joy. Every happiness. It’s all from God.
This is not meant to dismiss our pain and suffering. But it is meant to give us a proper perspective on life. James has already admitted that life is full of trials and temptations. But life is also full of immense good. Eternal beauty and wonder. Meaning and purpose. All a perfect gift from the Father of Lights. All of it meant to be enjoyed by his children.
But rather than simply enjoying all of God’s good gifts, we believe we have to create these good gifts on our own. We believe everything good gift comes from below, from our own doing, not from above. I made it happen. I earned it. I’ll be happy when ___ happens. We fail to see everything good in life as a gift from a good Dad. And we fail to let all his good gifts take us into his presence to enjoy him above all else.
We are deceived.
5. Jesus is God’s best gift.
God gave us Jesus, the word of truth, THE perfect gift, by his own will. Our salvation is all of grace. God saved us because he wanted to save us. God loves us because he loves us. Not because of anything we have done or deserved. Only when we find our greatest good in the free grace of Jesus will we be able to see every other good thing in the universe as that same grace.
“To live is Christ” means we are the firstfruits of God’s new creation. Christ is the greatest gift that allows us to enjoy all God’s other gifts. When life in Christ alone is ultimate, and no other gift from God is, only then can those lesser gifts be enjoyed. No longer will they control our hearts. No longer will they be our source of joy and fulfillment. Work will just be work. Not our savior. Play will just be play. Not our savior. Family will just be family. Not our savior. Friends will just be friends. Not our saviors. Romance will just be romance. Not our savior. When Jesus alone is our savior, everything else can be a simple gift to be enjoyed for as long as God allows you to have it.
Do you see God as good? What makes you happy? Is it God?
You in Christ
How might seeing Jesus as your greatest good allow you to enjoy the rest of life a bit more?
Christ in you
How can you enjoy God today by enjoying one of his good gifts?
Playlist: God’s gift.