The Things of Earth

Asked to describe what the good life looks like in one word, I’d be tempted to respond that the good life is creaturely. If, instead of one word, I had two pages, I’d be comfortable just quoting Joe Rigney from the end of his book called The Things of Earth:

At the heart of this book is the call to embrace your creatureliness. And the heart of creatureliness is receptivity. God is fundamentally a giver. Within the Trinity, the members of the Godhead fully and completely give themselves to each other. In relation to creation, he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. He opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son to us, and the Father so delights in his Son that he gives us to him. The Father and Son together give us the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us comfort and grace and power and himself in our hearts and in our midst as his everlasting dwelling place. Yes, God is fundamentally a giver.

Therefore, to be a creature is to be a receiver. ‘What do you have that you did not receive?’ (1 Cor. 4:7). The great privilege of man is to receive everything that God gives in all the ways that he gives it, and then to know it and enjoy it and delight in it and sing about it, and to know him in it and to enjoy him in it and to sing about him in it. All things are truly ours–‘whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s’ (1 Cor. 3:21-23).

So embrace your creatureliness. Don’t seek to be God. Instead, embrace the glorious limitations and boundaries that God has placed on you as a character in his story. Embrace the fact that creation is a magic glass, the kind that allows you to see God more clearly the thicker it becomes. Embrace time and space as glorious and wise features of creaturely existence. Embrace your body and your five senses and the wonders that they can perceive and receive in the world. Embrace your heart and your mind, your ability to think and feel, your understanding and your will, that amazing image of the triune God that he has embedded in your soul. Anchor yourself in a supreme, full, and expanding love for God and then let your enjoyment of his gifts run wild.

And then seek to be like God–generous, overflowing, lavish. Share your time, talent, and treasure with those near and far as a way of spreading a passion for God’s supremacy in all the things you have gladly received from him through Jesus Christ.

And, as a final exhortation, let me commend to you a life of gratitude. Gratitude is the proper response to an abundance of gifts. Gratitude is the posture of the soul that most readily increases receptivity. Gratitude demands humility, since only those who acknowledge their dependence, their need, and their delight in the goodness and kindness of another can be grateful. Give thanks always and for everything. And be specific. To that end, let me offer some fresh thanksgiving to God for his manifold kindness to me.

I’m thankful for cool autumn days and the brilliant colors that ride on them; for my wife’s diligent efforts to care for me and our boys, especially when it’s hard; for the college guys who help me with yard work; for my in-laws who will be visiting for the next week or so; for nine years of splendor and grace in marriage; that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills; that I get to teach and invest my life at Bethlehem College and Seminary; that I have two pillows to sleep with at night, one under my head and one between my knees; that the kingdom advances when I’m faithful at my post; for Narnia and the North; for the gifts, talents, and success of others; for Parkway Pizza and Oatmeal Stout; for the ability to think and remember; that God governs the affairs of men, including mine; that Jesus paid it all.

So if you are awash in a sea of God’s gifts, dive in and savor them. Relish all there is to relish in them as a means of expanding your mind and heart to know God more deeply. Receive God’s gifts gladly, give thanks for them, and then be as generous with others as God has been with you. And if you are in the midst of losing something or someone precious to you, don’t detach. Press in. God is your only comfort, and he is present in your loss in ways you cannot fathom if you run from the desire and the longing and the pain.

All you have is Christ,

1) whether you have him in all the good gifts that he lavishes on you;

2) or whether you have him in all the gifts that you gladly receive and then freely give away in the cause of love;

3) or whether you only have him in the loss of everything else that is precious to you.

May the Father of lights, who knows how to give good gifts to his children, teach you the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need, being brought low or being raised up. May he grant you the grace to do all good things, receive all good things, lose all good things, and endure all hard things through Christ, who gives you strength.

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