Summary: Part 4 of 5

“Blueprints: A Study in 2 Corinthians”

Part 4 – Cost of Living

NewSong Church – 08/24/08

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:: Background [s.1]

2 Corinthians 8-9 // Teachings on Dedication and Endurance

Galations 6:9 [s.2]

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

2 Corinthians 8:1-2 [s.3]

Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.

• The churches in Macedonia were made up of believers in Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea. Life had been very difficult for the believers in those cities.

• What God has done in his kindness: translated “grace.” Paul does not credit the Macedonian church for their giving – he credits God working through them

• One theologian stated it this way: “Their giving was not of themselves naturally, but of God’s grace given to them, enabling them to be the extension of God’s “grace” to others.”

• Grace allowed the believers to experience God’s work and power within their extremely difficult situation:

o Poverty: ptocheia (pto-khi’-ah) beggary, indigence – their need was real

o Joy: chara (khar-ah’) cheerfulness, calm delight, gladness – their joy was evident

• This was not a superficial joy that tried to gloss over the pain of a difficult situation. This joy is not about “making the best of it” or “staying optimistic” or anything clichéd.

• This is a joy produced by God working in our lives – not necessarily expressed through happiness or smiles, but with an understanding that our trust and hope are in God, that he will be faithful to us regardless of our situation.

• When the doctors say, “It’s cancer.” When your husband tells you he’s had an affair. When you find your teenager comes home high or drunk or both. When you get laid off because your company is downsizing. When your questions about life remain unanswered. Whenever we ask that question “Why?” God is there, and his grace is real and powerful and will give us joy.

• Joy that provides us with peace, and strength and trust and hope and faith. Joy that doesn’t necessarily provide all the answers but allows us to endure our difficulties and then share grace with others.

** Where do we need to experience joy in our lives? **

:: Grace, Joy, and Generosity

• This God-work fills them with abundant joy, which overflows in rich generosity.

• There are three principles at work here that we can examine our lives by: [s.4-6]

o Working of God’s Grace – completely not of us or our ability

o Filling with Abundant Joy – we would usually stop here. I have experienced many problems and difficulties, but God is with me, his joy has filled me, and that’s that.

o Overflowing in Rich Generosity – when God is working in our lives, it not only blesses us, it blesses those around us because we are sharing God’s grace and blessing with them.

• Beautiful contrast: their poverty did not produce limited gifts but overflowing, rich generosity.

• 2 of the 3 principles at work in our lives is not enough – we need all three to be present, otherwise we miss out on what God is trying to accomplish in and through us:

o Grace + Joy – Generosity = Looking out for our own interest

o Grace + Generosity – Joy = Eventually will tire us out, resentment

o Joy + Generosity – Grace = Relies on our own ability and resources

2 Corinthians 8:3-5 [s.7]

For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.

• “Not only what they could afford, but far more” – When our generosity and giving is based out joy as a result of God’s grace, God is able to take what we give and multiply it, increase it and do far more than we ever could on our own.

• “Of their own free will” – when we feel forced to do something, we often do not experience joy; instead we become frustrated and resentful. However, when we give out of a desire to help someone, or to share blessing with someone, we experience joy and happiness.

• “Privilege of sharing in the gift” – God’s grace working through us allows us to see others as God sees them. NOTE: The believers in Corinth could have had cause to abandon the believers in Jerusalem to their fate; after all, the Jews had great animosity towards the Gentiles. But God’s grace and love working through them was greater than their emotional responses, their personal conflicts, their background differences, etc.

• “Give themselves to the Lord” – the word here is “dedication,” a complete and purposeful giving to a person or purpose.

Dedication to Jesus Christ is the first key to experiencing God’s grace, and opening the door for joy and generosity to be evident and active in your life. [s.8]

• If you are committed to Jesus in word only, you will find your faith lacking.

• If you respond to Jesus when it’s convenient, you will find your faith weak.

• If you acknowledge Jesus partially, your faith will never be realized fully.

• Unless we are willing to dedicate ourselves to Jesus Christ and to his Gospel, God’s grace will be limited, our joy will be limited, and our generosity will be limited.

• Jesus said, “I have to come so that everyone can have life, and have it to its fullest.” (John 10:10)

2 Corinthians 8:7-15 [s.9]

Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us — I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches. You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.

• Again, Paul points out that generous giving – whether it be financial, spiritual, physical, time-oriented, etc. – should be done out of 1) response to grace (God’s kindness) at work in our lives 2) genuine love for others and a desire to share blessing with them 3) and an understanding of what Jesus gave up for us so that we can receive his love and develop a relationship with God.

Here is my advice: It would be good for you to finish what you started a year ago. Last year you were the first who wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it. Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. As the Scriptures say, “Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough.”

• “Finish what you started” – The second key to experiencing grace, joy and generosity in your life is endurance.

• The Corinth church, upon learning of the need in Jerusalem, had immediately responded with a pledge to send financial aid to the believers there – but not long into the collection effort interest had waned, distractions had come along and the gift was never given.

• Olympic comparison: to have a chance to compete (not a guarantee for gold), just a chance, an opportunity to participate requires dedication and endurance.

• Dedication brings us to the point where we can begin the race; endurance helps us finish it. Both are the result of God’s work in our lives.

2 Corinthians 9:5-7 [s.10]

So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly. Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

• If grace is not fully and freely being experienced in our lives, then we are trading God’s work for our own ability and power.

• We must choose: to walk completely in God’s grace which results in joy and generosity, or to walk in our own power which can produce good things for a limited time but will eventually give way to resentment and frustration.

• Whatever we give – we have to give it completely away and find joy in the giving

• Jesus told his disciples, “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matt.8:8)

2 Corinthians 9:8-15 [s.11]

And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!

• When we are dedicated to Jesus and willing to endure for His sake, God responds with his blessing and faithfulness.

• By allowing God to work through us, others are also blessed and are able to respond to God.

• What do we hope to achieve when we give to God – are we focused solely on physical circumstances, or do we use natural resources to meet spiritual needs?

• Paul points out that the result of the Corinthian’s gift and ministry is not that the Jerusalem church will be relieved financially – it is that they will give glory to God.