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Abound In Everything!

06 Feb

     When God challenges us to rise up and be the people He has created us to be, we know it will not be easy but are assured it is His plan and we are not alone in the challenge.  He is right there with us providing everything we need each step of the way, encouraging, disciplining, leading, rebuking, teaching, and loving us.  Paul speaks an inspired word to the Corinthians about abounding in everything and then exhorts them to abound in giving as well.

      2 Corinthians 8:6-8 says “So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. But as you abound in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us – see that you abound in this grace also.  I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others.” 

     You might want to read the two previous blogs to this one which discuss keys to living in the grace gift of giving.  This Scripture reveals we are to abound in everything, a key to living in the grace of giving. They abounded in faith by believing what they heard and knew about Jesus and walking in His faith.  They also abounded in speech as they spoke the Word and walked out their faith.  They did not say one thing and do another. They abounded in knowledge yet did not allow it to puff them up or cause them to boast in their knowledge. They applied knowledge (wisdom) as evidenced in their proliferation of faith and speech.  They abounded in diligence, something we need more in the Church today.  They were diligent to apply knowledge by faith, speech, and in action.  They were persistent and hard working to assure they were walking and talking in faith.  They were sober and alert, not giving into trials, circumstances, or anything trying to dissuade them from faith in Jesus.  They abounded in love.  Interesting to note here, in the original language this love is “agape” the kind of love between God and us.  Paul is saying here the same love they have for God, they had for their leaders.  They knew how to cause this remarkable love to rise from their souls, letting it live in the souls of their leaders. 

     Then Paul tells them to abound in the grace of giving as well.  He would only say this if it was an area in which they were not excelling.  Giving is usually the first thing we stop doing when life gets hectic or circumstances change.  Even the Corinthians who abounded in everything were found to be lacking in the area of giving.  We would have to admit many of us in the Church are like these Corinthians.  We may excel in faith, speech, knowledge, diligence, and walk in extraordinary love, yet we withhold giving because we do not have enough, perhaps our job situation has changed, we cannot pay our bills, or whatever other pleas we must make.  But God would have us abound in giving as well.

     Paul says this is not a commandment but rather a testing.  God is testing their sincerity of love by speaking of the diligence of the Macedonians, who gave liberally even while suffering affliction and living in poverty. It is the “grace of giving” not the command of giving.  This provided the Corinthians  an opportunity to rise up to the challenge and pass the test. We are given the same test of sincerity in love.  We know when God tests us it is for our good and  will benefit others as well.  We also know when God tests us He provides the tools we need to pass the test.  He has a sincere heart, is giving and generous, and He is filled with grace!  Therefore as we are in Jesus, we will tap into the grace He freely provides to be the giving people He calls us to be.   

          This grace in giving liberally can be witnessed again when Jesus talks to the disciples about the poor widow in Mark 12:41-44 “Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury.  And many who were rich put in much.  Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.  So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”  This is a small lesson tucked in the Gospels of Mark and Luke and Jesus does not expound but simply makes His point rather assertively when He uses the word “assuredly”. To be “assured” is to be guaranteed.  This is a done deal.  Jesus is saying this widow put in MORE than all the others.  It is interesting because Jesus calls the disciples to Himself.  He does not address the widow or the rich people, nor does He suggest He is more pleased with one than the other.  He appears to be making more of an observation and then revealing a truth to His disciples.   It is obviously an important lesson for us to learn but do we understand what Jesus is saying?

     Most of us do not live in poverty.  We have shelter, clothing, food, and water. This widow most likely had these things but when it came to money, she lacked.  She obviously did not put in “more” monetarily than the rich men. I do not even think Jesus was saying she had put more in percentage wise. She only put in two mites, yet Jesus said she put in more than all those who had given to the treasury.  I believe He was talking about her heart, her hunger to hear the Word, her love for God, and her willingness to give all she had because she wanted to “give”. Jesus makes the point she gave even though she was in poverty and the rich people gave because they had extra. Just as with the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians where they gave liberally in the midst of poverty and affliction, this widow gave liberally in the midst of poverty.

     Jesus is exposing the true condition of the hearts of the givers in this story by telling the disciples what He had witnessed.  This lesson appears to be more about the motives of the rich who gave from their excess, not because of their love for God or people.  By only giving out of their excess, the insincerity of heart was exposed and when affliction would come, as it does to all, they would not give liberally. The woman’s motives were pure and natural because she wanted to be in the temple and giving her last two mites. She gave up her entire livelihood, trusting God for provision. It is important we give liberally all the time, in good times and in bad times, which reveals the true motives and sincerity of heart. This goes back to what we already discovered about giving being a test and not a command. God is testing our hearts and revealing our motives as we give.

     This parallels other lessons in the Word of God.  Take Cain and Abel for example. It was not the amount of Cain’s sacrifice making it unacceptable, it was his motives. He wanted to do it his way, not God’s way.  Think about Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac.  His motives and obedience were in perfect alignment with the Lord as he was completely willing to walk in faith, trust God, and give up his son.  He was tested in giving and passed.  Another example would be the rich young man who came to Jesus believing he had followed all the commandments and was wondering what more he had to do to be saved.  Jesus told him he had to sell all and follow Him.  The young man hung his head, walked away and Jesus let him go.  Jesus knew the motives of his heart were not pure and unfortunately he did not abound in the grace of giving.

     In these scenarios, God was concerned about the condition of the hearts of people.  It is important for us to pay attention to God because these revelations help us identify and understand what is happening in our hearts and minds.  The Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?  I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”  God is  looking at our hearts, intentions, desires, and willingness to abound in all things. Holy Spirit searches our hearts to find if there is anything unclean.  He knows our hearts better than we do, and reveals things to us in very real and painful ways.  Just like the rich men and the widow, today Jesus allows our true colors to be uncovered in “giving” situations. Will we give liberally with joy in poverty or abundance?  Do we believe for provision and abundant life from God? My prayer is that you and I will abound in everything: in faith, speech, knowledge, diligence, love, AND in the grace of giving.

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