begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints–and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. [2 corinthians 8:4-5]
i’m so blown away at these two verses. even as i sit to write about them, i’m convicted of how attached to comfort i am, sitting on my back deck, in the sunshine, in a comfortable chair, watching my kids play with the neighbors on the trampoline. living the american dream.
so as i read about the churches of macedonia, who weren’t guaranteed to safely step out their front door, had next to nothing, facing physical, mental, and spiritual battle to the utmost, but who couldn’t wait to take part…actually BEGGING to take part in God’s gospel work among the saints, giving beyond what they were humanly capable, i wonder how much more satisfied in Christ they must have been than i. to the world, this must have seemed insanity. to me, it seems overwhelmingly radical.
but i do believe wholeheartedly that this kind of radical living is what God is calling us to as believers. even as believers in western culture. so in looking at these churches, what do we see that we can translate to this day, and in this culture, to live in this same radical joy? there are a lot of things, but three specifically jump out to me.
1. humility before God- but they gave themselves first to the Lord
before we will ever be able to lay down our things, our time, our energy, our resources, we have to first give Him our hearts. as we seek to be satisfied in him, our satisfaction in other things will diminish, and we will hold them with an open hand.
humble yourselves, therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time, He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. [1 peter 5:6-7]
Father, i lay myself down at your feet. you delight to give me your presence. i praise you for your great mercy toward me. take my fear of losing control of my own comfort, and give me comfort in you alone.
2. overflowing joy- begging us earnestly for the favor
when we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, we crave more. walking in step with the Spirit will cause the fruit of the Spirit to pour out in joyful obedience to his prompting.
the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. [matthew 13:44]
Father, you are the greatest treasure. fill me with awe of your glory that pours out in radical generosity, knowing that you are my portion forever.
3. wisdom- and this, not as we expected…[but] by the will of God to us
the macedonian churches didn’t just want to do what was humanly or socially expected. they wanted to give according to God’s calling. when we seek wisdom from above, we can give generously of our time and resources, not out of duty or routine. we can give from the heart, beyond man’s expectation.
for whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. for what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? [luke 9:24-25]
Father, you have gladly given me the kingdom, and all that i have is yours. show me how you would have me use it. show me how to loosen my grasp on this world, to be filled with grace in your presence, to the praise of your glory. amen.