Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Out of the Abundance of Joy

One last bit of backstory before we get into Paul’s letter to the Jesus followers at Philippi.
Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5)
Earlier we saw how Paul received a course correction by the Holy Spirit. It was a dream of Macedonia, a vision of a man of that region who stood before him and pleaded, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Paul and his team set sail for that region and began preaching the good news about King Jesus at Philippi, then on to Thessalonica and Berea. Though there was resistance to the message of the gospel in all those places, and persecutions, those who came to the Lord Jesus there were very excited about following Him. So going to Macedonia at that time proved to be very fruitful for the gospel.

Now, about six years later, Paul was taking up a collection for the followers of Jesus who were at Jerusalem, and in economic need. It would be a show of solidarity between the churches that were composed mostly of Gentile believers to the church at Jerusalem, which was mostly Jewish believers.

In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul encourages the Jesus believers at Corinth to give bountifully in this undertaking. He begins with the example of the churches in Macedonia, who did not have an abundance of material resources. Quite the opposite, they had very little. “Deep poverty,” Paul calls it. On top of that, they were being severely persecuted for following King Jesus.

But there was one thing they did have in abundance, and that was joy. They loved the Lord Jesus and what He was doing in their lives and in the world, and they wanted to be part of blessing the saints at Jerusalem. Their joy and excitement would let them do no less.

So they begged Paul to receive their offering — apparently Paul was reluctant about accepting such a gift from those who were in great need of it themselves. But they would not take no for an answer, so Paul relented. And what they gave was far beyond what Paul expected. Out of the abundance of their joy, they dug down deep and brought up an amazing wealth of generosity, giving with open hands.

The secret to the joy of their generosity was that they “first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.” Jesus taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). When we give ourselves to the Lord, we are freed up to give to others, knowing that the Lord will take care of us. That’s what happened with the Macedonian believers. First, they gave themselves to the Lord, then they gave themselves to assist Paul however the Lord led them.

This was the grace of God that was bestowed on them, the grace of giving generously and without reserve. And it came forth out of their abundant joy in King Jesus.

Focus Questions
  1. Can you imagine this kind of joyful, sacrificial giving apart from the grace of God?
  2. Do you suppose that this grace was just for the believers at Macedonia, or does God have this same grace available for all His people?
  3. How do grace and faith and love and joy work together here?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Size Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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