Summary: The Macedonians were used mightily by God through their offering. But what did they do before the offering that enabled such generosity?
A PRAYER QUESTION: How can God do “exceeding abundantly” great answers through me?
- [Put this passage in the outline] Ephesians 3:20 – that phrasing is from the KJV – “Now unto [H]im that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”
- The Ephesians 3 passage in your outline this morning is one of the most powerful in the New Testament on prayer. It contains a vision of amazing moves from God.
- We have largely lost the thought that such things are possible. We settle for little answers and think they’re sufficient.
A PRAYER ANSWER: We have to go all-in.
- 2 Corinthians 8:5 – “. . . they gave themselves first to the Lord . . .”
- This passage in 2 Corinthians 8 tells us something important about the Macedonians who were being used powerfully by God. Paul highly praises their generosity here, but he notes that they did more than just commit their wallets to the Lord. They gave themselves to the Lord.
- They committed their whole lives, not just one aspect. They committed their whole selves, not just part.
- Are we interested or invested? (Am I somewhat interested in it or fully invested?)
- Am I concerned or committed? (Am I merely concerned about God’s will happening or am I fully committed?)
- Am I going to do what’s convenient or do what it takes?
- Many Christians aren’t at all against what God wants to do. They see it as a good thing. They’re just not willing to sacrifice for it.
- This is somewhat like a good marriage.
- A couple stand before a congregation and commit to staying with each other “for better, for worse.” The idea there is of course a lot about love, but it’s also a lot about faithfulness. It’s a statement that I’m “all-in” with you. Even if there’s sickness. Even if there’s poverty. Even if there’s infertility. I’m with you “until death we do part.”
- Friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and neighbors may come in and out of our lives, but a true marriage vow is that we will be with each other no matter what.
- Or, in the language we’re using this morning, I’m “all-in” with you.
WHY IS THAT TRUE? Because God rarely does “overflow” things through “measured” people.
- 2 Corinthians 8:5 – “And they did not do as we expected . . .”
- “Overflowing” answers are ones that blow us away. We didn’t expect that great an answer. To quote an old song, we’re drinking from our saucer cause our cup has overflowed.
- It’s rare that God brings those type of answers through people who are “measured” in their commitment to Christ. By “measured,” I mean the things I shared a moment ago: that you’re all-in, that you’re fully committed.
- We need to hold onto this challenging truth from God’s Word: the amount of faith we have has an impact on what God will do through us. The person who has little faith sees few, paltry answers. The person who has great faith sees big, impressive answers. Faith is the condition of answered prayer that Jesus mentioned the most.
- We need to become someone God can do great things through. That begins with our commitment.
- Paul’s comment at the beginning of v. 5 is not a condemnation, but rather a statement of praise. The previous verses note that Paul was highly impressed with their generosity in the midst of arduous circumstances. Here in v. 5 he praises them: “. . . they did not do as we expected . . . .” Not at all – they blew right past the expectations that Paul had.
- Let’s go back to the verse we quoted earlier – Ephesians 3:20. God can do “exceeding abundantly” more? Here is an example of that. The Macedonians’ generosity enables them to exceed Paul’s expectations.
- Again, the key to that was that they gave themselves to the Lord first. They went all-in. And that enabled God to use them in such a powerful way.
- We wonder why we don’t see “exceeding abundantly” answers, but then we give God marginal commitment.
APPLYING THIS TO CHURCHES: An additional application concerns being fully committed to your church leaders.
- 2 Corinthians 8:5 – “. . . and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”
- Obviously there is application to churches simply in Christians being obedient to pray fully committed, but the second half of this verse points us to something else.
- After the Macedonians had fully given themselves to the Lord, Paul continues by saying that they gave themselves “then to us.” They believed that Paul and his companions were ministers of the true gospel, so they gave themselves to fully supporting them.