July 15, 2004
Encouragement for Today

Bags Full of Blessings
Van Walton - Director of Spanish Ministries, Speaker Team member

Key Verse:

"Then the woman left her water jar and went back to town." (John 4:28 NCV)

Devotion:

If you read the key verse in context, you will soon realize that 'the woman' is the famous woman at the well.  Although she lived long ago, we have a lot in common with her.  She left her house, as we all do, with plans to go to the well and fill her water jar.  Now we don't go to the well today, but women do make many trips to the grocery store each week.  Have you ever thought what it might cost you to abandon your groceries?  The woman at the well abandoned her water jar.  She realized the blessings Jesus had to give were far greater.

Returning from the store, I turned off the car's engine and stepped out of the car to unload my groceries. I slipped three bags onto one arm and two onto the other.  Then, reaching inside the back seat, I grabbed my purse with one hand and the cleaning with the other, bumping the door to shut it.  Suddenly, I realized how laden I was!  I could not have carried in another thing!  It took the act of an expert contortionist to make it up the steps from the garage and get the door open.  In the kitchen, I laid down my packages.  Five bags of groceries were placed on the counter top. The clean shirts were hung on the hall closet door and my purse was dropped on the desk.  And I still wasn't finished unloading the car. The trunk was still open.  I had to return for the rest of the groceries.
 
Suddenly it dawned on me that I was living out one of God's hard lessons.   I had to let go of the many packages before I could go back for the rest.  Those packages, groceries, cleaning, my purse, were just like blessings from God.  Once we grow accustomed to God's blessings and learn to depend upon them, realizing they give us comfort, joy, and purpose...those very blessings can become idols!  We don't want to let go. Yes, they are gifts from God, but they are not God. Sometimes we have to give up the blessings.  Our children, homes, careers, positions, and friends are just a few examples of the blessings God gives us to allow us to experience joy and delight.  Many of us develop a dependency on those bits of joy and forget to worship and thank the One who blesses. 
 
God has asked me many times to let go of certain blessings.  I have not wanted to tell a friend good-bye or send a child off to college.  I have grieved at giving up my fulfilling career, even though it was the best choice for me when my children were born. Loneliness has surrounded me after a move that required me to give up positions of worth and importance.
 
But the blessings that have filled my empty hands when I willingly gave up those former "bags full of blessings" have been overflowing and abundant! My friend resides in a lovely city that I now can visit. My child graduated from college and is now in Mexico building churches. Being at home with my precious sons are memories I will always cherish and now God has called me to another career that also fills me with joy.  What about the loneliness that I experienced?  During those difficult times, I was able to come before the Lord and let Him prepare me for a new direction.
 
Reaching for grocery sacks containing the angel food cake and strawberries I was thankful that I had emptied my hands of the sacks holding potatoes, onions, carrots, band aids and cough medicine. My opened and freed hands were ready to accept the sweetest blessing of all. Now I could serve dessert after supper!
 
Next time you find that you are being required to give up a blessing, remember this truth.  God has dessert waiting for you as soon as you can free your hands to receive the better blessings He has prepared for you.
 

My prayer for today:

Good and generous Father, Forgive me for holding on to your creation and forgetting to focus on You, my Creator. Every blessing I have comes from You.  You have the right to give and take because You know best. Forgive me for making idols of those things you have given me. Remind me to let go and lift up empty and clean hands to You.  You are the only One worthy of giving me what I need. I trust You totally and worship You only.


Application Steps:

What blessings do you hold on to that need to be let go? Make a list of that which occupies your life and keeps you from fully receiving God's grace. Then simply - one by one - let them go.

Reflection points:

Remember, too-full and too-busy hands leave very little room for God.

Why am I unwilling to let go?

Do I truly trust my Lord and Savior?

Can I turn my open and empty hands to the Lord, asking Him to exchange blessings from the past for new blessings today?


Power Verses:

"Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! "Isaiah 43:19a (The Message)

Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." John 4:10b (RSV)

"But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? "  Galatians 4:9 (NAS)

Come close to God, and he will come close to you. Clean up your lives, you sinners, and clear your minds, you doubters. James 4:8 (GWT)

The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever. I John 2:17 (NAS)


Additional Resources:

Leading Women to the Heart of God by Lysa TerKeurst
http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/leadingwomen.html

At Home with God by Sharon Jaynes
http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/athome.html

P31 Woman Magazine
http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/p31woman.html