September 18, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 8)

Submitted by Richard T. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 8:18-22

·       Think about the steps Apostle Paul takes to avoid “blame” and to aim for “what is honorable” in the “sight of man.”  Are there situations in my life that calls for this kind of forethought to do what is right and avoid possible criticism as a Christian witness?

Apostle Paul sent a brother of known and good repute to go with Titus, someone whom the Corinthians knew well and trusted. This brother was a public figure on account of his preaching the gospel and was recognized by the churches as trustworthy of a fiduciary appointment of the large offering that Apostle Paul collected. Apostle Paul is also sending another brother who was often tested and found earnest in many matters, which seems to imply that this brother was known for his integrity and honesty. He does this and explains his reasons for sending these men as security and assurance that the Corinthians’ gift will be well-taken care of. I think Apostle Paul also sends these men to show the sincerity of his invitation to the Corinthians for their participation. He knows that the collection is serious and wants to communicate to the Corinthians that their offering is being taken very seriously.

As I think about my life, there are many safeguards I need to put in place to do what is right and avoid possible criticism as a Christian witness and as a leader. Thinking about the situation Apostle Paul faced, he invested the thought, time and energy to safeguard this transportation of the offering because of the potential for controversy and criticism. In some sense, Apostle Paul’s ministry and reputation was on the line, but also the reputation of the church, which Apostle Paul indicates represents the glory of Christ. With this kind of entrustment, Apostle Paul was very careful.

There are many parallels in this regard with the stakes of my own life and testimony. As a leader of our church, my life is a testament to the gospel and represents God on the Berkeley campus and to the world. To the world, I represent the work of the gospel and God’s name because they look to my life to see the impact of the gospel. To the people I lead, I am a shepherd and an example, a spiritual example and a lifeline to what is right and true in this world. Every aspect of my life is open to public scrutiny, and this is a blessing as I can live fully available and surrendered for the most meaningful work. As we discussed in Sunday discipleship, the discipleship relationship involves a life-on-life approach to actualizing biblical values in successive generations. This is an entrustment from God that I need to steward and zealously guard against the effects of sin and worldly values.

To this end, there are specific safeguards and boundaries that I need to embrace. I need to have an open life that invites input and scrutiny from my leaders and peers to ensure that I’m living consistently with what I profess to believe and be. It means being in communication with the people who are watchmen to me in my life and giving open access to my life. It also means refusing certain influences, avoiding situations and being cautious toward things like media, and other outlets that invite non-biblical, worldly values. Although these things seem restrictive and can be characterized as extreme from the cultural norm, they are also part of a life that can thrive in loving other people. By being free from these potentially disastrous, and at minimum, distracting influences, I can fill my life with the work of loving people and bringing the gospel to those who are enslaved to their sins.  This kind of life is not bound and chained, but free to engage the most meaningful work of bringing God’s love to others.

2 Corinthians 8:16-24

·       Meditate on the qualities of Titus and these other brothers whom Apostle Paul sent to collect the offering.  

Titus – genuine, earnest care for the Corinthians, Apostle Paul’s partner and has genuine care for the Corinthian’s benefit.

Brother 1 – famous for preaching the gospel, trusted by the churches, messenger of the church

Brother 2 – tested and found earnest, messenger of the church

As I think about these brothers, one of the consistent characteristics of each of these is their authenticity and integrity. Their lives are marked as genuine, tested and found true, trusted while being in the spotlight, consistent in their character and heart. Their actions match what they profess and they’ve developed a reputation through actions that proved their consistency and authenticity.  Not only are these men exemplary, but God seems to have been able to use them in very specific and special ways because of their character. As I think about the role that God has placed me in and I realize again how much I need to grow in my character to take on the demands of life and ministry and to meet the needs of the people that God has placed in my life. Over the years, my life has grown and stretched to include more people, and I hope that God will continue to be able to use me to be a blessing to many, many others. But to do so, I need to be a man of character to take on all that is necessary to love others. One way to do this is to open my life and embrace suffering. It is through enduring suffering that my character can grow and I’ll be able to love more and more people. As we have begun a new year of ministry, this is something that I want to open my life to more by being earnest in loving others and raising up others.

Another aspect of these men was that their lives were known and open. The way that Apostle Paul describes these people you get the sense that he knows them, and because of this, can vouch for their credibility wholeheartedly. Someone like this is precious. In that way, I see how important it is to be known, so that my life can be pruned from all the effects of sin in my life. To be sure, this is a lifelong process that will never end, and it can be painful at times. But the end result is a life that can be commended and entrusted with God’s work.

Submitted by Albert L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 8:18-22

·       Think about the steps Apostle Paul takes to avoid “blame” and to aim for “what is honorable” in the “sight of man.”  Are there situations in my life that call for this kind of forethought to do what is right and avoid possible criticism as a Christian witness?

Apostle Paul goes through the trouble of sending a group of renowned and important brothers too handle this matter of financial responsibility and writing letters of commendation for them to the churches so that they would be trusted and above blame.  It was probably costly and not easy to send off these brothers who could have helped greatly in raising up disciples at any one church, but instead they were sent traveling together so that they could be kept accountable to the different congregations that they visited.  There are also situations in my life where both Christians and non-Christians are reading into what I do or say where my Christian witness is at stake.  If I really do obey God’s laws and care about how I’m reflecting on God’s character and holiness to others, then it does matter whether I’m a person of integrity and trustworthy character.  As a Christian, there are many things that are not strictly forbidden but I choose not to engage in like working for an industry or company capitalizing on people’s immorality or using unethical means, drinking alcohol because of the environment and vices associated with it, spending money ostentatiously on myself, treating women as objects or less valuable, and even cursing in frustration or to get an emphatic point across.  The list can go on and on, but it’s not about establishing a legalistic set of rules that Christians impose on ourselves to feel superior but a desire to see God honored in our lives and seen in the best light possible by others.  This Christian witness that tells the rest of the world that God is worthy and rightly deserving of these self-restrictions and right living in the sight of others is why we seek to live blamelessly and above reproach in private as well as in public.

2 Corinthians 8:16-24

·       Meditate on the qualities of Titus and these other brothers whom Apostle Paul sent to collect the offering.

Titus was commended as a brother who was earnest and cared deeply about the Corinthians such that he volunteered to go to them.  The second brother in the group was known for his preaching of the Gospel and must have been someone who handled the Word of God well and was qualified and trusted to teach others.  The third brother was one who had been tested and found earnest, a man of integrity who was earnest about his confidence in the Corinthians as well.  Apostle Paul commends these men as his partners and fellow workers, messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.  This high praise and the handling of large sums of money wouldn’t be given out without some evidence of their faithfulness, diligence, love, and integrity in some past capacity or work that they had done.  Those who are responsible with little will be given more just like in the parable of the talents, which is important to remember when looking for Christians to serve in the church and when appointing spiritual leaders.  It’s not worldly criteria like wealth or academic degrees or strength or good looks that qualify someone to be trustworthy or faithful but it’s their heart for others, integrity, Christian witness, and desire they’ve shown to be the best possible ambassador of God before others.  I hope to become such a person of higher character, someone who steps up and volunteers like Titus, someone who handles the Word of God well and with shares it with others, someone who earnestly does ministry and serves in the church out of love and concern for others, and someone who can be counted as a messenger of the church, an ambassador of God, and a prophet to the nations.  It’s a high calling and one that will demand every part of our lives to be lived blamelessly and above reproach, and we have chances to put this into practice with every decision and action that we make as it slowly builds or detracts from godly character in small ways.

Personal Prayer

Dear God,

I thank You for these examples of godly and devoted men of faith from the Bible and in my own life as well, Christians who can be counted on to have integrity and faithfulness in their Christian witness.  I pray for my character and integrity to become a reflection of Your character and Your will, being the best possible ambassador of the Gospel and able to take on greater responsibility and burdens for the church and ministry as I grow in humility and righteousness as well.  Let me not take the entrustment of the Gospel and ministry lightly, but feel the weight of being a prophet to my generation and act accordingly with love and zeal for what I do each day.

Amen.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Response