Saturday, June 4, 2016, 5:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 9 (ESV).
The Grace of Giving (summary 2 Co. 8:1-9:5)
Paul addressed the Corinthian church here in the matter of giving generously to fellow believers in Jesus Christ (See: 2 Co. 8-9). He told of how Jesus, although he was rich, for our sakes became poor, so that through him we might become rich. Now, here he was not speaking of financial riches, but of spiritual richness in Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ, although he was God the Son, left his throne in heaven, came to earth, took on human flesh, suffered like we suffer, and was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. There were those who followed him, but many rejected him. The religious leaders in the temple were jealous of him and they hated him, so they had him crucified on a cross, although he had done no wrong. But God the Father resurrected him from the dead.
When we are born into this world, we are born with sin natures, separate from God, without hope and destined to spend eternity in punishment. We all come up short of attaining God’s divine approval. So, that is why God the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ to the earth, to die on a cross for our sins. When he died, our sins died with him and were buried with him. When he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, Satan, hell and death. Only through faith in Jesus Christ can we be delivered from the curse of sin, be set free from the control of sin over our lives, and have eternal life with God beginning now and forevermore. When we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).
Because of what Jesus Christ did for us in giving up his life so that we could go free, we are to have this same attitude toward other people, especially in the family of God. We are to willingly give up not only our material possessions to help others in need, but we are to give our entire lives to God to be used for his purposes and for his glory. When Jesus died for us on the cross, he purchased us back for God with his blood. Because he redeemed us, we are no longer our own, to live life for our own purposes and glory, but we are now his servants and witnesses, and he is the owner-master of our lives. And, we are now to live according to God’s will for our lives, and to give up our own selfish desires in order to please our Lord in all that we do, including in the ministry of giving financially to the needs of others. The principle here is that we help others when we are given plenty, and then when we are in need, others will help us.
Sowing and Reaping (vv. 1, 6-9)
Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints…
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
I don’t believe that this is teaching that we give to others in order to get back. That, to me, seems like the wrong motive for giving. We should give to others, whether it be of our time, talents, gifts or finances, because we care about them, and because we want to help them, whether or not we ever receive anything in return in this life. Yet, I do believe God will bless us for our generosity, whether it be financially or spiritually, or whether in this life or the next. To me, one of the greatest blessings of ministry is first of all in knowing we are walking in obedience to our Lord, and then it is in knowing that we are making a difference in other people’s lives, whether or not we are able to see the results in this life. I enjoy blessing others, but not because I am hoping to get something in return, but because I see what a difference it makes in their lives, and what a blessing it is to them, yet I do so even when I can’t see what difference it has made. And, that brings me joy.
Yet, there is a principle here that states that if we invest little in other people’s lives we will not see much of a return on our investment. The main return I am interested in is seeing people’s lives changed by the power and working of the Holy Spirit in their lives. So, I want to obey my Lord by investing my time and talents and gifts in ministering to the needs of others so that other people can come to know Christ or so they can be encouraged in their faith and grow in their relationships with Jesus Christ to spiritual maturity. So, I know that if I invest little time and talents and gifts in other people’s lives I am not going to see much of a return on my investment, which means I will miss out on the blessing of seeing lives transformed by the power of God because of my obedience to my Lord, as well as I will miss out on the blessing of just knowing that I am following my Lord in obedience because I love him, and because I am so grateful for all that he has done for me.
A Harvest of Righteousness (vv. 10-15)
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
Yet, all this comes from the Lord, and not from ourselves. If we are operating in our own flesh, and if we are doing what we do for our own glory and praise, then it doesn’t amount to much, does it? The blessing is in knowing that we are operating in the power and working of the Spirit within us, and we are under his leadership and guidance, and so all we do is just follow his lead. He is the one who opens the doors and who presents us with divine opportunities in other people’s lives. We just have to be willing to obey and to do what he says when he says to do it. We also need to be walking in close communion with our Lord so that we can hear his voice speaking to us, and so we can be sensitive to his leading, so that we can walk in obedience and do what he calls us to do when he sends us.
I find this passage of scripture so encouraging to my heart. I don’t have to worry about where the resources are going to come from, or what I am going to do, or how I am going to figure it all out. If I operate in the power of the Spirit within me, and I am open to hearing my Lord’s voice, and to following his lead, he will present me with those opportunities, and then I just have to obey him, but only in his power and strength within me, and not in my own flesh. He is going to supply all that I need. Amen! And, he is the one who is going to bring the increase, and who will enlarge the harvest of my righteousness, which is really his righteousness credited to my account because of his death on a cross.
Not only will we be a blessing to others through our generosity, but they, in return, will give thanks and praise to God, as well as will others who witness God’s grace at work in their lives. Amen! And, they will praise God for our obedience to him, too. Yet, we should not do what we do to receive praise from men or even acknowledgment of what we have done for them, for we may not receive praise, or we may not even see people praise God or give him the glory, but we may, instead, be rebuked, mocked and rejected in return. That is why we have to serve God and others without expecting anything in return, and then we leave the results up to God, believing him to bring the increase.
The main thing to remember here, though, is to follow the lead and example of Jesus Christ. He didn’t do what he did out of selfishness, but he did what he did because he loved us, and he wanted what was the very best for our lives, which is himself, and it is salvation from sin. He did what he did for us whether we loved him in return or not. And, we should love and serve and minister to others whether they acknowledge or thank or appreciate us or not, and even if they hate, reject, despise and mistreat us in return, as they did to Jesus. We need to be completely unselfish in all that we do, thinking only of pleasing our Lord and of ministering God’s love and grace to others in its various forms.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.