Unquestionably, hardships fit miraculously into that every “good and perfect” category as well, even though their appearance is often dreadful and hiding or exchanging them would seem to be ideal. In A Gift Worth Keeping, author Shelli Littleton shows you how, given a chance, they can change you from the inside out and cause you to love and cling to God with all your might. When you do this, He can use your personal testimony to comfort others.
Littleton explores the ways you can use those special gifts to their optimal power. You can learn how to avoid Satan’s downward spiral and jump on God’s upward one, how to differentiate between the godly mirror and the worldly one, and how to be a living display of God’s love. Most importantly, Littleton shows you how to be thankful for those hardships.
A Gift Worth Keeping can help you realize your hardships fit perfectly with your décor and can become the greatest assets to your ministry.
|Publisher:||Lifeway Christian Resources|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.75(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A Gift Worth Keeping
It Goes with My Décor!
By Shelli Littleton
CrossBooksCopyright © 2013 SHELLI LITTLETON
All rights reserved.
A GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT
This gift is a blessing; I know that full well.
It's not the heartache Satan would have me to tell.
It is you, God, whom I gladly choose to believe.
Not the father of lies and the one who deceives.
I'm not the only one to face a hardship or two.
Your own Son faced the hardship of all; this is true.
You will work to mold me into the image of your Son.
And I'm confident you will not finish until I am done.
So a gift allowed by you is a blessing to me
So I may become what you want me to be.
My heart is in awe that you love me so much.
Indeed, Almighty Father, I need your touch.
A gift for me? Aw, you shouldn't have! No, you really shouldn't have!
When my husband and I were in our mid-twenties, he was active duty in the United States Air Force, and he received orders to move from our home state of Texas to Spokane, Washington. We absolutely loved Spokane and bought our very first country home outside the city limits in Edwall, Washington. It was the most adorable home on five acres of rolling hills with two huge barns. One barn was red and picture-perfect; my vivid imagination pictured it lined with tulips of all shades.
As our first winter approached, to my surprise and dismay, my husband received TDY (temporary duty assignment) orders to Italy for three months.
This native Texan Southern belle was in for a very different kind of winter in Edwall, Washington. Left alone, there were a few things about a Washington winter I had yet to discover. I hadn't realized the weather could become so fiercely cold that our old, single-pane windows could ice over on the inside of the house. And I didn't know that apparently there had been a large hole at the edge of our carport, and the people we bought our home from had filled the hole with fresh dirt. After the snow had accumulated, melted off, and softened the ground, I was backing out of the carport one day and my tires sank into the ground. I tried everything to get myself unstuck. I finally called my neighbors, who happened to be the people from whom we bought our home, and they bailed me out! Another thing I didn't know about Washington winters was that it could become extremely foggy at about three o'clock in the afternoon so one could barely see a foot's length in front of one's vehicle.
As the time approached for my husband to return from Italy, he called and said he had a surprise for me upon his arrival. He didn't give any clues as to what the gift could be, but whatever the gift was he obviously really liked it. Not knowing what to expect, my assumptions led me to believe it would be something wonderful and what I always wanted. I was left with this assumption because not only was the gift from Italy, but I had also faced my first real winter alone, and my husband was absent through Thanksgiving, Christmas, our anniversary, and New Years. Expectations of something very marvelous — maybe something really girly — pranced around in my mind because, after all, that much time left alone deserved something wonderful.
When my husband arrived home, he plopped that huge army-green, military duffle bag down on the vinyl kitchen floor and enthusiastically pulled out my gift. My eyes must have widened as large as silver dollars. Do you want to know what the amazing surprise was? A brown and white ceramic eagle. Yes. Oh, yes. He had taken a ceramic class to occupy himself and was extremely pleased to have made it for me. To say disappointment swallowed me whole is a huge understatement. Disappointment was written all over my face; my reaction certainly hurt him. Still, he really liked it! Still does.
My first thought was: This does not go with my décor! At that time, my home was decorated in country crafts, with homemade cows and bunnies in dresses gracing the view. My colors were blue and mauve (this really dates me), and this gift did not, in any way, shape, or form, color-coordinate. The only place this gift belonged was at the back of my closet.
We have all been given gifts we like and appreciate, but have you ever been given a gift so terrible, in your perception, that you didn't possibly know what to do with it? Can you imagine opening the gift and seeing it, hoping the giver did not notice your eyes bugging out of your head? You try to smile and act as though you appreciate it, but in your heart you know the gift is not "you" at all. Whatever it is, you know it does not fit you, and it definitely does not go with your décor.
Maybe you have cried, thrown a fit, or gotten mad over a gift like this. Maybe it was wrapped beautifully, and you had high expectations of what might be inside but felt only disappointment upon opening it. It certainly wasn't the jewel you expected.
That is exactly the way life is at times; isn't it? Whether bad situations transpire because of our own poor choices or those of others, even if they are no one's fault, seeing and accepting what lies ahead can be shocking and disappointing. We have high expectations of how we want our lives to play out. Knowing we might be stuck with a bad situation for life can seem intolerable.
My Good and Perfect Gift
I have faced some difficult hardships, and I want to share the story of one particular "gift." Your difficult circumstances are more than likely different from mine, but hopefully you can relate.
At twenty-six years old, infertility challenges came to call. My life's plans were devastated. D-e-v-a-s-t-a-t-e-d. At the time I don't think I could have ever viewed my hardship as a gift because it felt like a curse, the worst punishment I ever received. It was not remotely a desired gift; the news was more like opening my worst nightmare. In my head and in my heart, it definitely did not go with my décor.
Most little girls grow up with expectations of marrying and having a family. Coming from a divorced home and marrying at the tender age of eighteen, I had very few ambitions of my own. My mind was not set on occupational goals, but one thing I knew, wholeheartedly, was that I wanted to one day become a mother.
The possibility that my life's dream might never come true was looking like reality. From all standpoints, life felt completely unbearable.
God Sees and Cares
Tears became a familiar friend in my life for a time. Never think for a moment God doesn't see our tears. When we are in pain and our souls are so overwhelmed that tears flow, our God sees and cares. Look what David said in Psalm 56:8: "Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record?" Dr. Charles Ryrie's study notes, regarding that verse, states, "God is attentive to every detail of his life." The idea that God would record our tears is lovely. I don't know about you, but I've surely kept a certain someone busy in the recording department!
Years ago, we had a German shepherd named Tipper; she was with us for twelve special years. She loved to play ball. She would reluctantly drop the ball and run out to hide. While she was hiding, we would kick the ball to her. She would run out from her hiding place, retrieve the ball, and reluctantly leave the ball ten feet away from us; then the whole process would resume. The funniest part was she thought she could hide anywhere, even behind a single blade of tall grass. She weighed slightly over one hundred pounds, but she thought if she ducked behind a blade of grass we couldn't see her. Her only remotely hidden part was maybe a fraction of one eye. The rest of her stuck out like a sore thumb. The point is, no matter what we choose to duck behind, no matter where we make our hiding place, God sees and cares about every single tear.
Don't Be Deceived
You might be asking, "What on earth is a 'gift,' and who is it from?" As stated in the introduction, a gift is any hardship you are facing now or may have been facing for years. This hardship may come in any form and usually differs from person to person; but rest assured the giver of the hardship has the same purpose in it, and they all cost the giver equally. The gift's giver is God. Remember, nothing comes into our lives without God's stamp of approval. Just think — no matter how difficult our trials/hardships, gifts have been allowed in our lives from God Almighty, the Most High God, and the Great I Am. Please let that sink in.
Hardships are difficult and sometimes unbearable. Do you think you could view life's hard circumstances as gifts allowed by God? I've definitely shown God my disappointment over my life's hardships. However, James 1:16-17 says:
Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
You might think a gift is only something pleasing, but I'm here to convince you everything God allows you to bear is truly a gift; it is good, and it is perfect. I'm here to convince you that your opinion of what is good and perfect might be a little different from God's. We just have to redefine our definition of good and perfect. As my dad would say, "We need rewiring!"
Don't be deceived by this world's opinion of a good gift. Most importantly, don't be deceived by Satan's schemes.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:8-10
We know Satan deceived Eve. Genesis 3:1 says, "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, 'Did God really say, "You must not eat from any tree in the garden?" Of course, we know the rest of the story. Eve is deceived, eats the fruit, and gives it to Adam. Ryrie notes, "Eve was deceived; Adam ate knowingly; their sin was more than merely eating forbidden fruit; it was disobeying the revealed word of God, believing the lie of Satan, and placing their own wills above God's. Sin, with all its dreadful consequences, now entered the human race and the world in general" (Genesis 3:6).
When my husband and I were newlyweds, we visited my grandparents. We all decided to drive from the Texarkana, Texas, area down to Tyler, Texas, to visit my father. My grandparents were in their car ahead of us, and we noticed it had started drizzling rain. My grandfather was flying down the road, as usual. I could just see my darling back-seat driving grandmother fussing at him for speeding. My husband was driving fairly fast to keep up. They live in the country with very narrow, oil-top county roads. In fact, the roads are so narrow that when an on-coming car approaches, as a courteous driver, you need to pull completely off the road to let them pass before proceeding. Now, my grandmother had taught me to drive when I was young, and I recalled her always saying how slick those oil-top roads could get with a little rain. Exhibiting a minor amount of back-seat driving myself, I told my husband he'd better slow down and reminded him how slick those oil-top roads could get. He didn't listen, thought he knew better, and absolutely didn't want to lose the trail of my high-flying grandfather. Instantly, our truck took a huge spin, rotated a complete 360 degrees, and spiraled down into the ditch.
When our heads stopped spinning and our vision cleared, we noticed the area we had spun down into was the only area without a huge electric pole. We were so grateful we were uninjured; we did not hit anything or anyone. We got straightened out, took a deep breath, offered thanks, and then ... just laughed our heads off because my grandparents were nowhere to be found! They had continued driving down the road, never remotely noticing our accident. We got back on the road and eventually caught up to my grandparents. My husband still laughs about it, and there is rarely a time we drive on that oil-top road today that he doesn't mention it. He humbly says he should have listened.
Eve didn't listen or obey God. She chose to believe Satan over God. Satan started a downward spiral; he deceived Eve to bring sin into the world, and one of his goals is to get us to jump on board and spiral down. When hardships come, Satan would love for us to believe his lies over God's truth. He wants to put us in the ditch and keep us there. Here are some lies Satan will whisper into our ears with his viral voice and hope, with everything he is, we will believe:
You are useless.
You are hopeless.
You are defeated.
You are worthless.
You can't do anything.
You don't deserve anything.
You will never be good at anything.
(The victory is Satan's.)
Can you envision the spiral down? I've jumped on that spiral down many times and felt all those things. Some that stand out most are, "You will never be a mother"; "You would never be a good mother"; "You don't deserve children"; "You aren't even a good wife"; and the list continues. You see, we have to replace Satan's lies with God's truth. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Are you starting to get the hang of it? We have to see with eternal eyes. We don't want any part of that downward spiral. In the spiral down, Satan would have us believe it's all about ourselves — what "we" can or can't do. Satan does not want us to trust God. He surely does not want us to believe our hardships are allowed by God.
You see, God has an upward spiral, and that is the one we need to jump on. God's spiral up says to seek Him first, and everything will be given to you, as well. It says He will graciously transform you into His Son's likeness, and you will be lacking nothing. It's not "you" anymore; it is "Christ in you." When you truly believe that, God can start working His masterpiece in you. Starting where you are and going up, God's upward spiral would look something like this:
(The victory is God's!)
I have hope.
I have victory.
I am useful to God.
I am valuable to God.
I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.
God will bring me out of captivity and into a land
flowing with milk and honey.
(Start here and go up.)
The fact Satan was able to deceive Eve is the reason we endure hardships today — out of our control. However, we can control what we put into our minds and who we choose to believe. God offers much in His beautiful garden. His Word is full of life; but if we believe Satan, we are choosing to eat from the one tree leading to death. Can you imagine the depressive state that could lead to? I wonder how many (not all) Christians are dependent on anti-depressants today, how many have taken their precious lives, because for one second they bought into Satan's lie. They didn't recognize Satan's schemes and stomp him to the ground. They spiraled down, down, down. God is surely saying, "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:9). He offers so much wonderful. Why would we choose to pick from the one tree Satan offers?
It seems once we step on that spiral down, we often tend to stay and wallow. Have you ever noticed a dog's actions when it runs across a dead carcass? The dog is not content to merely sniff the remains and move on. The dog will lie right down on it; and not stopping there, it chooses to wallow. What a terrible stench the dog has afterwards! It smells like a dead animal. No surprise. We tend to smell like what we choose to wallow in; don't we? The dog won't smell better until it is washed and cleaned. But if we are Christians, we've been washed in the blood of the Lamb, and we don't need re-washing; but we often need cleansing through repentance. Jesus died that we might remain on that spiral up. He so wants us to jump off that spiral down, and choose to smell the roses. I'd go as far to say, He'd love you to just wallow in His roses. Want to come out smelling like roses? I do.
If you have bought into Satan's lie, it is never too late to jump on God's spiral up. We just learned where believing the lie of Satan is a sin against God. If we believe Satan's lies for merely one second, we desperately need to repent, turn 180 degrees, and jump on that spiral up. Believing God is a matter of life or death. Believe God and live victoriously; believe Satan and die. Don't do a 360 spin! I've seen people take that 180 degree turn, believe God momentarily, and then spin all the way back around, once again, to believing the enemy's lies. What a vicious cycle! I've done it myself. It is painful in that ditch. God is the only one who can get us out of that ditch and keep us out. There is hope, power, and strength in the name of the Lord. "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" (John 12:13).
Excerpted from A Gift Worth Keeping by Shelli Littleton. Copyright © 2013 SHELLI LITTLETON. Excerpted by permission of CrossBooks.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: A Good and Perfect Gift,
Chapter 2: Receiving and Believing,
Chapter 3: Exchange the Gift, Return It, and Get a Refund!,
Chapter 4: Reflecting on the Giver,
Chapter 5: Resolving to Keep the Gift,
Chapter 6: Contentment in the Tent,
Chapter 7: An Awesome Display,
Chapter 8: Love at First Sight,
INSIGHT FROM TRAVELS,
Chapter 9: Diamond in the Rough,
Chapter 10: Prone to Wander,
Chapter 11: Appreciating the Gift,
Chapter 12: Seeking the Giver,
Chapter 13: Say "Thank You",
Chapter 14: Gifts Given,
Chapter 15: Giving a Gift worth Keeping,
Chapter 16: The Ultimate Gift,
SAINTS GO MARCHING ON,
Wrapping Things Up,
Photos of Remembrance,
Thank You Notes,
About the Author,