Jentezen Franklin - Strangely Wrapped Gifts
I remember reading this story and hearing this story, from a columnist by the name of "Dear Abby". Many of you who are my age will remember the "Dear Abby" columns, they were very famous. She tells the true story that she had researched of a father, and how that this father lost his wife, and they only had one son. And the son was a good boy, but he missed his mother, and the father was a very successful businessman, and he did everything that he could to build his business, so he was distracted a lot from the boy, and the boy came up in high school, and finished high school, and he and the father kinda grew apart, but, you know, they were there, and he was raising the boy, doing the best that he could, but the father was becoming more and more wealthy and successful.
Then, the boy goes off to college, and they kinda drifted apart, but toward his senior year, the son started reaching out and trying to get some more relationship with his father, and sure enough, they got a little bit closer his senior year. And here's what happened. The son only had wanted one thing from his father, really, one special request. He had outstanding grades, he had been an excellent son, he had always shown respect and honor to his father, even though they didn't have that close, intimate relationship, probably, that they should've had, because the dad was so busy with his business that he didn't really have the time for his son. And the boy had an empty place in his life, and, but he was trying, and that senior year, he said, "Dad, I only want one thing for my graduation".
And, certainly, the father was able to give it to him, he was so wealthy. And he said, "I want this certain sports car". And he told him where the dealership was, and they went over, and they looked at it, and even test drove the car. And the boy loved it, and the father thought it was gorgeous and beautiful, and he said, "Dad, if I get straight A's, would you consider getting me this car for my graduation"? And the dad said, "I sure will. I sure will, son. I'll think about that". And on the day of graduation, they all go to the college graduation, and the father says, "Come to my home after graduation". And he comes, and they're in that beautiful mansion that he had. They go into the study, and it's a beautiful study, it's full of books, and just an office where he did his big business deals.
And there on the table, the father had a package for the son, and it was a wrapped gift, and he pushed it across the desk to his son, and the son was already taken back just a little bit, because that's not what he was expecting. He knew the gift he wanted wouldn't come in a package like that. He knew the gift that he had asked the father for, which certainly, you know, I know my father loves me, and I know my father can afford, unlike anybody, probably, to buy me this car. It was nothing to him to buy that car for his son, this is a true story. And so, when he walked in, he was already a little bit ticked off, because when the father said, "I got you something for your graduation," there's no way the car I want is in that package.
And he tore it open, already had a little bit of an attitude, and when he took the lid off, after he tore open the wrapping and took the lid off of the box, there was a Bible inside. A Bible that had his name engraved in bold letters on it, and he just looked at it, he couldn't believe it, he lost it. He didn't handle it well at all, the son's temper got the best of him. And especially since his dad had not been overly religious the whole time that he lived with him. He would go to church occasionally, but for some reason, something had happened to him, and he got him a Bible for his graduation, and he wrapped it in a box, and gave it to his son, and he had his name in bold letters on it. The boy got furious. He shoved the package back across the table at his father, and let him, said a few words, and stormed out, and the dad said, "Wait, son, wait". And he slammed the door, went out, left, never to return. He never came back home, he went off after he had graduated from college.
He used his dad's name to pull some strings, got a better job, invested, became very successful. They never were communicating, the father had reached out and reached out, and the boy wouldn't have anything, it was pent-up anger, he was mad, because, just, all the things through the years that he had felt neglected about, and finally, the boy fell in love, got married. He didn't invite his dad to the wedding, and had his first child a couple years later. And when that child was born, it was a son, and it touched the son's life so much, that relationship that he had with his own son, that something began to shift, and he said, "I need to make things right with my dad". And so, he decided to surprise him, and he told his wife and his family, "We're going halfway across the country. We're gonna drive, and we're gonna go to my dad's house, and I want him to meet his grandson for the first time, and I want us to build the bridge back to dad's life, even though he didn't give me what I thought that he should've given me".
And when they were coming across the country, he got the message that was sent to him, a tragedy has taken place, and your father has died. And when he got there, you can imagine, he was heartbroken. They went to the funeral, and the father left his son everything that he had in his vast fortune and empire that he had built, and the beautiful mansion that he lived in, everything was left to the son, and they hadn't spoke for years and years. And when he walked into that mansion, he had a hole in his heart the size of a battleship. It was truly broken and grieving to think that he had been driving, and he was so excited, and he couldn't wait to wrap his arms back around his father, and now, he knew he would never get that chance. He walked into that same office where he and his father met for the last time, and when he walked in, he was just kinda fumbling through the papers that were left, even some of the business deals that his dad was working on, and untied things, you know, that he was finishing up when he met his unfortunate death.
And the son's just kinda browsing through and walking through, and he was emotional, and he looked up on the shelf, and there, he saw that same box. That same gift and the wrappings, and the paper, and he knew that what was in it was that Bible. And he pulled it down off of the shelf, and of course, it had been torn open, and it still had the wrapping paper on it. And he reached in this time, and when he saw his name that his father had had imprinted on that Bible as a gift, he picked that Bible up, and the tears began to flow, and it was only one place in the Bible that was marked, and it had a Bible marker in it, and it fell open to Luke 11, and I think it's Luke 11:13 where it said: "If you, being evil, give good gifts to your children, how much will God give the Holy Spirit if you ask".
And boy, it was about more than the son could take. And he began to weep, and he took that Bible that was opened in that place, and it was underlined, the only Scripture that was unlined in the whole Bible, as if the father really wanted him to get that message that day, and when he held the Bible up to his chest in that office and fell to his knees and began to weep and cry, something fell out of the Bible, and it was a key. And he couldn't believe it, he recognized the key, because it had the name of the car dealership. It was a key to the car that he had asked his father for. And sure enough, he went out into the garage, and there, under a covering of dust, was that car that his father had bought. It was there all the time, his father had provided it, it was waiting in the garage when he had stormed out and shoved the gift back to his father. He had received exactly what he asked his father for, but he didn't recognize it, because of the package, the strangely wrapped package, that the gift came in.
And I wanna tell you today that when we ask God for something, when we ask God to use us, when we ask God to do something powerful in our lives, He answers our prayers. We have a Father who hears and answers prayers, but He sends those answers, many times, it's been my experience, that He will wrap those answers in strangely wrapped gifts, and if you're not careful, you won't recognize what God is doing because it doesn't show up the way that you thought it would show up. He got what he wanted, but he didn't like how it was wrapped. He didn't like what it looked like. The father gave him exactly what he asked for, but he didn't like the package it came in. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a Heavenly Father who still gives strangely wrapped gifts to His children.
I remember it like it was yesterday, it's funny. I'm 57 now, but I still remember when I was 16 years old, and 17 years old, and how God began to deal with me about ministry, and one particular time, I was sitting in a service, and a man by the name of Ronnie Brock was preaching, and he really spoke a message that night that touched me. I was sitting in the back of a church service, a camp meeting, really, in North Carolina, and it stirred my heart, and I was weeping, I was crying, I was so moved by the message. When he gave the altar call, I could take you to the place, I walked down the aisle as hundreds of young people did, and I found a part of the building, the beam, and I knelt behind it, and I just sobbed. And I knew, and I didn't tell anybody, but I knew that, I said, "God, I want Your will to be done. And I feel like while he was preaching, You were saying that I would do that one day, but I'm scared, and I don't feel like I could ever do that".
And I remember the battle that I fought at that beam that was holding that building up. I cried out to God and I came to that place where I said, "I'll do whatever You want me to do, Lord, but I'm afraid". And I said, "But God, if You wanna use me, then I give myself. I'm not gonna tell anybody yet," and I wouldn't tell anybody for a couple years, but you know what? That was a major place in my life. But something strange happened. I thought, well, you know, God will open the doors, and one thing will lead to the other, and everything will be fine, and I was, you know, 16, almost 17 years old, and that's a very important age, and, you know, you care about everything, and popularity, and how you look, and all those things really matter to teenagers.
And something happened to me, I started getting boils all over my face, all over my head, all down the back of my neck, all over my body, all over my chest, my back, all over my body. It was the most horrible thing you can imagine. My eyes would swell, my nose would swell, my lips would swell. And on certain days, I would look like a monster. And it was almost like a joke, I couldn't believe it. And we went to doctors, and we tried to get help, but they couldn't help it, they didn't have the answer to what was needed during those times, and nothing helped it, and it went on not for a week or a month, or three months or six months, it affected my schooling, it affected my self-confidence, it affected my self-esteem. I felt like I couldn't, I became a hermit, basically. I became very recluse. I stayed in my bedroom. I wore big, thick coats when I did have to go to school. People, teenagers, are cruel, and they would laugh and make fun, and I felt humiliated.
During that season, when everything went dark, when nothing was going right, God was giving me exactly what I asked Him for, but it would come in a strangely wrapped gift. And in those hours, when I would pray, and in those hours, when I lay up there, weeping and crying and feeling like an outcast, like a leper, like someone who would never be normal again, God was going deep in me, and teaching me that He is someone who's near people who are hurting, near people who are broken, near the rejected, near those who sit at the table by themself, near the kid in the lunch room who eats all by themself, near not just the kids who are running with the popular crowd, but He allowed me to go through that solid year and three months of my life. Because to this day, when I put sermons together, to this day, when I get up and preach, the Holy Spirit will take me back to the loneliest, most hurting, broken, awful, questioning God season in my life, up to that point, I've had a few since then, but as a teenager, you can imagine, all of my friends are having the time of their life, graduating, and I don't have a friend, I don't have anything. I don't have a date, I don't have anybody in my life.
It was in that time that I started playing the saxophone, four, five, six hours a day, practicing the piano, learning chords. In one year, I learned to play the piano and the saxophone, I practiced. I would've never done it. Before, I was popular, I was running all around, and I was starting to party and get with the wrong crowd. But I didn't understand God, even through my suffering, even through my pain, even through my rejection of friends, even though my sorrow, even through the nights at 3 in the morning when I laid in the bed and cried and wept, He was giving me everything I asked Him. I asked Him for a ministry, I asked Him to use me to touch people's lives. I asked Him, and He said, "I'm gonna send it, I'm gonna give you exactly what you asked Me for, but it's gonna come in a strangely wrapped gift".
I thought about Moses, his name means "drawn out". His mother would hold him and say, "Son, your name, Moses, means drawn out, and one day, you're gonna draw Israel out of Egyptian bondage. You're a child of destiny. God has preserved you". And he thought that day had come when he saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite, and he slew that Egyptian, and covered him in sand. And someone the next day got in an argument with Moses's brother, Aaron, and Moses spoke up for his brother, and the man said, "What are you gonna do, slay me like you slew that Egyptian"? And he knew, oh my God, word is out, I covered it up, but word is out, and so, listen. He flees to the wilderness. It's a strangely wrapped gift. I'm sure, for 40 years, when he was in the wilderness, he questioned God's call. Called out, "How am I gonna deliver Israel? How am I gonna set God's people free? How in the world am I gonna ever be used mightily of God, to break the chains of slavery, for millions of people? How's God going to use somebody like me? I'm in a desert".
Nothing's happening. None of the prophecies are taking place. It's 40 years of nothing. I don't see any signs, but God was teaching him desert life, God was teaching him where the water holes were, God was teaching him how to survive the heat. It's intense heat and pressure that gives birth to diamonds, and God had him in the desert, and it was a strangely wrapped gift. He didn't know what he was doing, but before God could bring him out into the wilderness for 40 years with the Israelites, He had to make sure that he had the confidence to lead them, and the only way to do that is let him go through that wilderness first, and after 40 years, a burning bush says, "Now, go bring My people out". He brings 'em out, and when he had 'em out in the wilderness, he knew where every water hole was, he knew where every shade was, he knew where all the poisonous snakes were. He knew everything about the desert 'cause he had been in it, and God gave him exactly what He promised him. The Father sends strangely wrapped gifts.
Boy, I really feel today that people are listening to this message, and the Lord wants you to know, He hasn't forgot. Your Heavenly Father sees what you're going through, He's allowed it, and He's gonna perform and fulfill everything He's promised. Don't throw away, don't take the gift when you don't understand it, and shove it back into the face of the Father. The very thing that you can't understand, the very package and gift that you've been given, that you would have never personally chose, that gift, if God has allowed it to come into your life, it's to work into you, that's what Paul said. The beatings, the suffering, the imprisonment, the stripes beyond measure, but he said, "I've learned to take pleasure in the wrapping of the gift". Praise God.
Just bow your heads for a moment. Some of you have been through things that you don't understand. You asked God for some things, and the next thing you knew, was at your doorstep was delivered a strangely wrapped package. I promise you, the gift is still in there. I promise you that God is faithful. I promise you that even out of the tears and the suffering and the loss and the bad things that happened to good people, He's working. He's working when you don't understand, He's working when you can't see it. He's working all things together for the good. You meant it for my evil, but God meant it for my good. And if you're in this house today, and you would say, "Pastor Jentezen, I need to get to the feet of the cross. I need to get this hurt, this bitterness, I need to get this", maybe you've questioned, and maybe something was so severe that happened in your life that you walked away from God, that you said, "It's over. How could God allow that to happen"?
I don't wanna serve a God, I don't want a God who let me child die, let my son be killed, let something like that happen. I promise you, if you'll bring that brokenness to the cross, He'll get glory out of your life, He'll make sense out of some things that come wrapped in strangely wrapped gifts. This is your altar call, so with every head bowed, every eye closed. "Pastor Jentezen, pray for me. I need to get right with God today. I want Jesus to be Lord of my life," right where you're standing, right there in that room, at every campus. If that's you, just lift your hand high, the Spirit of the Lord is touching you. The Spirit of the Lord is speaking to you, so just surrender it to Him. Just say, "God, I don't care what I go through, I don't care what I face. I'm not gonna let go of You. I'm gonna hold on to Your strong hand. I'm gonna lean on You".
And if you'll do that, I promise you, He'll get you through it. Sometimes, He doesn't rescue you and take you out, but I promise you, He'll take you through. There's people who have been receiving strangely wrapped gifts. You've almost cursed it. You've almost felt angry at God and wanted to shove it back at the Father in bitterness. But now, I want you to say, "God, I don't understand it, but nothing can come in my life as a believer that You don't allow, and so, either You've allowed it and You're gonna get glory out of it, or You're going to absolutely remove it with victory in my life, but either way, I am an overcomer through the blood of Jesus Christ". And what the enemy means for my evil, God will turn it for my good. So pray right now this prayer, everybody, say these words.
Lord Jesus, I give You my life. I surrender everything to You. I don't understand why this has happened, but I have a strangely wrapped gift, but I lay it at Your feet. I don't have to have all the answers. I don't have to know everything and every answer to my question. I surrender and I say You're my Lord, and I give You my life. Use me, and everything I've been through, for Your glory.
He hears your cry today, and He's doing a work in your life that's going to change you for eternity. Your name is being written in the Book of Life, and you are registered for a party in heaven on acres of diamonds.