September 14, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 8)

Submitted by Ray C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 8:1-7

  • What are some contrasting words that describe the Macedonian church?

The grace of God             vs.      severe test of affliction

Their abundance of joy      vs.       extreme poverty

Wealth of generosity

  • What does this say about the source of generosity and joy?

The source of generosity and joy is not the abundance of possessions, money or even abilities and spiritual gifting.  In other words, the source is not a person’s or a church’s set of circumstances.  The true source of generosity and joy is the grace of God.  The grace of God is what makes a person and a church struggling in extreme poverty and affliction STILL able to be full of joy.  It is a joy and generosity borne from a divine source.

I can fool myself into thinking that I will surely be generous and more fully of joy when things slow down, when I make more money, once I grow in capacity to be able to handle a lot of responsibility without being so stressed.  No–these are all circumstances I can wrongly blame when the real problem for my lack of generosity and joy is my disconnection with the true source – God Himself and the grace He daily pours into my life: the grace of daily confession, repentance and forgiveness; the grace of daily crying out to God and depending desperately on Him for wisdom in ministering to the people in my life.

  • When was the last time I gave “beyond [my] means” to God?  What was this experience like?

Last year was an experience of giving beyond my means to God.  New ministry, new child – everyday felt like a challenge to just put one foot in front of another; to fight my sleepiness; but most of all to give the best of my thoughts and mental energies to think about the ministry and people, and to change to be a better leader.  There were so many things I didn’t know or didn’t think to do, so many times I made the wrong decision – and so it was an exercise of constantly giving myself beyond my wisdom, beyond my mental capacity.  I stayed afloat by the mercies of God; Sieun, my wife, did too; our marriage did too – and through it all, I got a closer to my leaders, more humble, more hungry for feedback and help, and above all I drew closer to God.  Would I do it again?  Yes, I would.  It was the most difficult year of my life, but it was a period in my life something like the first love I had when I first became Christian; it was a year of purifying my heart from many lesser loyalties that could have grown in my heart (loyalty to career, to putting my family on a pedestal; loyalty to a shallow and comfortable view of myself); and I came out of it more convicted about the Gospel, less tempted by the world, more thankful for my salvation, for my leaders, for this Gospel that has laid a hold of my life.  Ultimately, I did grow closer to the heart of God – and for this, I am so thankful for last year.

  • What was the Macedonian church’s attitude towards giving?  How can I “excel in this act of grace”?

Their attitude toward giving was that it was such a high privilege that they begged Paul earnestly  (literally those words – “begged earnestly”) for the “favor” of taking part in helping the saints financially.  Giving was all honor and privilege, something that to be able to do was seen by them as favor and grace from God.

What a corrective to my attitude toward giving–though I don’t say it, sometimes I feel heroic and later self-congratulatory for work and service I’ve gotten to do for God.  If I am eager to serve and give, that motivation of me doing well, being successful, these creep in so naturally.  It’s the air I breathe.  But the motivation of the Macedonians was to serve God in any way; every chance to give was a chance to say thank you to God for His grace in their lives.  I need to let their attitude correct my heart daily toward the privilege of giving.

Submitted by Susanna L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 8:1-7

  • What are some contrasting words that describe the Macedonian church? 

Some contrasting words are as follows:

“severe test of affliction” vs.  “abundance of joy”

“extreme poverty” vs. “overflowed in a wealth of generosity”

  • What does this say about the source of generosity and joy? 

This says that the source of generosity and joy is not dependent on our outward circumstances.  What we have internally from God—His Holy Spirit indwelling in us and His promises given to us in the Word—is the source that propels generosity and overflows joy.

  • When was the last time I gave “beyond [my] means” to God?  What was this experience like?

Coincidentally this is the same message and question that the text from the “Feeding of the 5,000” from Mark 6:30-44 which I will be teaching tonight has been addressing me and challenging me.  What are the 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish that God is asking me to give so that He can multiply?  Likewise, when was the last time I gave “beyond [my] means” to God?  What was this experience?  In terms of financial giving, I recall giving up a security nest fund for God’s work.  This experience was actually freeing and very joyful as I entrusted my future into God’s good hands.  I remember experiencing the joy of surrender and trust in God as My Jehovah-Jireh, My Provider.

  • What was the Macedonian church’s attitude towards giving?  How can I “excel in this act of grace”?

The Macedonian church’s attitude towards giving was that of “abundance of joy,” “a wealth of generosity on their part,” “gave beyond their means, “of their own accord,” and even “begging earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints.”  This was something they voluntarily did despite their external circumstances of severe affliction of persecution and their extreme poverty.  Despite their extreme lack, they joyfully and generously partook in giving as they saw this as an extreme privilege and a step of faith in trusting their God.

I can “excel in this act of grace” not only financially but also in giving of myself to whatever need the body of Christ has.  I must remember that the Macedonian church was going through a severe test of affliction and extreme poverty, yet on their own accord went beyond their means even begging earnestly to partake in the “relief of the saints.”  Thus to excel in this act of grace, I must seek opportunities to provide relief for my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.  And such seeking doesn’t happen when I am wrapped up with my own issues or problems.

  • Apostle Paul says that the genuineness of the Corinthians’ love will be proved by comparison to the earnestness of other churches.  How true is it that the authenticity of our love for God can be measured by objective criteria (such as financial giving, concrete sacrifice of time and energy, etc.)?

It is absolutely true that the authenticity of our love for God can be measured by objective criteria.  James states in 2:19-21, “19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?”  Abraham was not called father of faith by words he spoke.  When the test came, he was willing to offer up his one and only son that was born to him at age 100—his one and only heir and descendant, the very promise of God.  The authenticity of our love for God can be measured by what we sacrifice day in and day out for the sake of the Gospel.

  • Meditate on the fact that “for [my sake Christ] became poor, so that [I] by his poverty might become rich.” 

My Lord Savior gave up His position, power, and status in Heaven and descended to this world as a helpless babe.  He purposely became poor so that by His descending I might become rich by gaining eternal salvation and co-heirship with Christ.  As I was holding baby Audrey yesterday, I was struck with how utterly helpless a baby is.  She is under the mercy of the parent to take care of her.  Jesus humbled himself to the most powerless position of a baby, and a baby born in the lowliest corner of earth—in a barn and placed in a trough.  Why did Jesus do such a thing?  It is so that through His poverty He gave riches of salvation to every man who desires to have it.

Father God, thank you so much for descending so low for my sake.  Thank you for giving me salvation and not only salvation, but granting me dignity and honoring me to be co-heir with Christ.  You have bestowed on me a new identity, even though I am so broken and warped.  I know that in Heaven I will be given a new body and I will be done with this body of sin.  O how I long for Heaven where there will be no more sin and I get fellowship with my Holy God without any baggage.  Thank you for becoming poor so that I can become rich.  May I follow and imitate Your descending love to those around me.

  • Who are the people in my life I can enrich through my life?  

God has given me so many people in my life to enrich them through my life:  my ministry team members, students in the ministry, the sophomores in class discipleship to name a few groups.  Through this body of Christ, there are so many different types of people who can be enriched through my life and the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ—the elderly, the children, middle school kids, high school kids, college students, the visiting scholars, the harried moms, etc.  God has given me such abundant opportunity to enrich others even through my broken life. 

Lord, thank you for giving so many people to love, to enrich them through my life of giving.  Please keep me faithful to You and to these precious people.  I also lift up my sister who she is going through surgery next week.  May this be an opportunity for me to enrich her by serving her.  In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.

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