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Spirituality

Appreciating Our Divine Gifts

Ken McNamara | Mar 3, 2021

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Ken McNamara | Mar 3, 2021

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Our merciful, compassionate, and loving God continuously showers humanity with gifts — and knowledge of these gifts is needed to live our lives to the fullest, bring about spiritual enlightenment, and draw us closer to God in this world and all the worlds of God. 

Only by coming to know of these gifts do we gain a true appreciation of the power and love of God, and our love for Him will grow, just as we would love and grow closer to someone who showed love to us and brought us emotional, material, and spiritual gifts. So, we might ask ourselves what are some of these gifts from God and how do we open ourselves up to be more aware of them?

Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote: “Know thou that, according to what thy Lord, the Lord of all men, hath decreed in His Book, the favors vouchsafed by Him unto mankind have been, and will ever remain, limitless in their range.”

He then lists, in beautiful language, what some of these favors are. They include a mind that gives us the ability to understand the reality of the physical environment and universe we live in. Discoveries of some of these realities through science and other means have led to endless benefits to humanity in health, communications, transportation, genetics, agriculture, and on and on. Of course, we have a long way to go — especially in our national, religious, racial, gender, and cultural relationships — but there has been amazing progress in every field of human endeavor, especially in the past 200 years.

Next, Baha’u’llah describes how the physical senses in humans support our minds, all of which we use to understand more completely. These include vision, hearing, the heart, and the sense of touch. All are “undoubted evidence of the majesty, the power, the ascendancy, the all-embracing knowledge of the one true God.” 

As important as it is for us to appreciate the gift of understanding to our physical well-being and the environment we live in, the most important reason God has given us this gift of understanding, is for us to come to realize the very purpose of our lives. That is, to “know and recognize the one true God.”

Well, that is a profound statement! The question of the meaning of life has perplexed scientists, philosophers, and thinkers of all sorts throughout the ages. The Baha’i belief is clear on this point  — that God is the Creator, and He has endowed humans with all kinds of gifts of superior understanding for one primary reason: to use that brainpower to get to know God. It then must follow that God gives us what we need to come to that knowledge. It is unthinkable, for example, for a person to enroll in a medical college with the goal of becoming a doctor, and the school not provide the student with books, laboratories, or the teachers needed to educate that student. Likewise, it is unthinkable that God would expect us to come to the knowledge of Him without giving us the means to use our gifts of understanding to learn of God and His purpose for creating us and of the world around us. 

That gets us to the greatest gift of all! As Baha’u’llah wrote: “That which is preeminent above all other gifts, is incorruptible in nature, and pertaineth to God Himself, is the gift of Divine Revelation. Every bounty conferred by the Creator upon man, be it material or spiritual, is subservient unto this. It is, in its essence, and ever will remain so, the Bread which cometh down from Heaven. It is God’s supreme testimony, the clearest proof of His loving providence, the symbol of His most perfect grace. “

Remember the medical student who needs books, labs, and teachers? God has provided us with the books of learning, that is, all the texts of the world’s religions. The Bible, Quran, Bhagavad Gita, the vast writings of the Baha’i Faith, plus many others are full of instructions, admonitions, prayers and the knowledge of the nature of God and ourselves in order to help us live fulfilling and meaningful lives. The laboratory is the physical earth itself, the families we are born into, the things we encounter in life that teach us, test us, and reward and punish us, as we become the kind of person we choose to be. And the teachers are the very Messengers of God, the Founders of the world’s religions, the Manifestations of God that have instructed humankind throughout history to every people in every land. Sacred texts, all physical realities and perfect Messengers; this is the Revelation of God to humanity. Today, that Revelation is centered on Baha’u’llah and the Holy Writings of the Baha’i Faith.

A significant component of the Revelation of God is what we ourselves need to do to help us find our path to God. For example, the Baha’i writings tell us:

The Call of God hath been raised, and the light of His countenance hath been lifted up upon men. It behooveth every man to blot out the trace of every idle word from the tablet of his heart, and to gaze, with an open and unbiased mind on the signs of His Revelation, the proofs of His Mission and the tokens of His glory.

This passage certainly implies that we need to put our gift of understanding to work to study the words, history, and present-day actions of the Baha’i revelation, free of many of our preconceptions, to determine if it is indeed the truth.

Numerous are the prayers and exhortations found in the holy writings that ask God to help us in our quest to know the truth about God, grow closer to Him, and conform our lives to His will. Here are but two such quotes found in the prayers written by Baha’u’llah:

I beseech Thee to aid and assist me at all times and under all conditions, and seek from the heaven of Thy grace, Thine ancient favor.

Also,

I ask of Thee, by thy Most Great Name, O Thou the Desire of the world and the Well-Beloved of mankind, to grant that the breeze of Thine inspiration may sustain my soul, that Thy wonderous voice may reach my ear, that my eyes may behold Thy signs and light as revealed in the manifestations of Thy names and Thine attributes.

And finally, when we use the gifts that God has given us to search for the truth regarding God and His Revelation, Baha’u’llah promised that God will guide us. He wrote in one of His prayers revealed for us:

Thou disappointest no one who hath sought Thee, nor dost Thou keep back from Thee anyone who hath desired Thee. Ordain Thou for me what becometh the heaven of Thy generosity and the Ocean of Thy Bounty.

God has given us an endless and continuous stream of gifts: 

  • The need to know and recognize Him; 
  • All of the means to use these gifts to our best advantage in our search for spiritual truth regarding God and His precious gift of Revelation; 
  • The physical environment, holy writings, and infallible teachers; 
  • Prayers for assistance and guidance; 
  • Promises that if we are sincere in our search, there is nothing that can hold us back.

Material gifts are very nice, but compared to the gifts from God, they don’t quite compare.

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