Family, food, friends, the beauty of nature, experiences and pleasure make life rich and sweet. I suspect many of us have enjoyed them today (or not!). Some may use words like ‘gift’ or ‘blessing’ to describe them, or use words like ‘thankful’ or ‘blessed’ to describe their feelings towards these things. But what if, behind that sense of having received a ‘gift’, there is a gift-giver? What if that transcendent feeling of blessing, points to a blessor?
Christianity claims, among many things, that God is the ultimate gift giver, whose gifts are an outpouring of his perfect goodness. James, a follower of Jesus, puts it this way:
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. (James 1:17, ESV)
These good gifts of God available to everyone are part of what is sometimes (appropriately) called ‘common grace‘, and includes everything good and beneficial to humanity and is not limited to – food, water, oxygen, friends, family, even stuff like scientific and technological advancement, medicine, civil authorities, the human conscience, music.
While these things are wonderful in and of themselves – and are to be enjoyed as such – they are not the ultimate reality, but pointers to the greater good of God himself, whom we are intended to enjoy. I recently heard  this great quote from American preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758):
“God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of him is our proper; and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.”
– Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 17: Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733
To paraphrase Millar, we must follow the beams back to their ultimate source, for only there can lasting satisfaction be found.
Matt Papa captures these big ideas in his song, The Ocean from the album Look and Live.
Look to the sky the star painted heavens
Who could deny your glory, God?
The mountains that rise, the sea as it breaks
This world full of life, it’s all just a taste
These are scattered beams, you are the bright sun
These are shallow streams, you are the ocean
These are just shadows, and you are the substance
We are thirsty, we are dry, only you can satisfy
You are the ocean.
Father of life you give every blessing
Who could deny that you are good?
A table of friends
A welcome embrace
The joys we have found
The echoes of grace
For from you and through you and to you are all things
All things forever my God
Then when our eyes behold your appearing
Who will deny that you are God?
Your glory will shine, our idols will fade
We see now in parts but then face to face