Do you have a receiving problem?

We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.

1 Corinthians 2:12

Open handLouise and I love to give… encouraging words, fishing or hunting gear, a special gift, and even my time serving others. We especially love giving anonymously to folks in real need. We’ve found a lot of joy in giving, but we use to struggle with receiving.

It was difficult for us to go into ministry, as we are far more comfortable being the “givers” rather than the “receivers”. As the Apostle Paul noted, ministry is often about receiving so others can be blessed and rewarded. (Philippians 4:17)

For most of our lives we’ve had a hard time accepting compliments or rewards. Just saying, “Thank you,” for what someone would do for us seemed vain. If friends paid for lunch or dinner, we protested, making a mental note to reciprocate. When offered meals during tough times, we’d hesitate. We didn’t want anyone to go to all that trouble. Plain and simple: We’ve had a hard time receiving gifts from others.

We have seen too many people in ministry who regularly talk about their poor financial situation hoping to gain some additional support. When we went into ministry, we asked God to take on the responsibility for our finances so we could place all our energies into serving others rather than fundraising. Once a year we write a report on our previous activities to friends and faithful supporters. We ask God to move in their hearts to help provide the resources for us do the work He has placed before this ministry.

To some degree, in the early years of ministry we were very much like “Doubting Thomas”. When the disciples brought him the good news about Jesus, he was skeptical. In fact, he was emphatic; he simply would not receive it: “Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So, the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.’” (John 20:24–25)

Like Thomas, we were afraid to trust, afraid to hope, afraid to receive the love that was offered to us that it might rekindle some of the disappointments we had faced in our childhood years. It was easier to doubt the “good news” than accept it and risk finding out that it was conditional or phony.

Maybe that’s why some people don’t want to accept God’s free gift of love. Somehow, they know we’re unworthy — there must be some catch — and they don’t want to get burned. They go about life longing to be loved and feel special, looking for something or someone to trust. Yet it is there all along. There is a risk in receiving freely — no strings attached, no reciprocating — but it’s the only way God will have it. He will not let us earn His gift. By very definition, grace is free and undeserved.

Mercifully, Jesus didn’t leave Thomas in his unbelief. He pursued him and revealed Himself: “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’” (John 20:26–27)

And God has revealed His love to us. We see it all around us… and we welcome it! In fact, ever since we’ve been “practicing receiving”, God has been pouring out His love in extravagant ways. I mean in fantastic, unimaginable ways. It’s as if He’s saying, “Oh, and you think that’s cool, watch this!”

The response to our year-end letter this past year was simply unbelievable. God blessed our ministry in such a way that we can serve others in a variety of ways through our conferences, retreats, books, resources, college curriculum, and our new radio program. Praise God! And it felt like God saying, “Reach out your hand… Stop doubting… receive… and believe.”

Every time we think, “We couldn’t possibly accept this. It can’t be real… what in the world did we ever do to deserve this?” We remember, “Nothing. This is from our Heavenly Father who loves us immeasurably!” and we say, “Thank you.”

Personal Application

What do the following verses tell you about giving and receiving gifts:

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Matthew 7:11

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

If you haven’t already done so, ask God to forgive you of your sins and embrace His gifts of love and grace. He gave us the greatest gift of all — the sacrifice of His only begotten son Christ Jesus on Calvary’s Cross.

Jim Grassi image and signature  Jim Grassi, D. Min.