Out of the Most Severe Trial
And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.
— 2 Corinthians 8:1-5
“Sharon, your daughter is getting married in December. You don’t care about your house right now, but you will when wedding guests start arriving. Let’s start with your dining room.” Our son, Mark and his friend Kelly were in a fatal car accident in July and our daughter’s wedding was in December. My friend Diane was right. I didn’t care what the house looked like, so she took on the task of caring for me. Starting in September, every few days she showed up at our house with cleaning supplies in hand. Some days I couldn’t face the work, so she pulled together a crew of like-minded women who painted kitchen cabinets, created centerpieces and helped clean a house that had not been thoroughly cleaned in, well, a long time.
When you see a big need, do you conclude, “I have nothing to offer that can help this person.” Tears well up over 20 years later when I remember my dear friend taking me by the hand and walking me through the steps of picking paint and wallpaper. She was right. When Heidi’s wedding date grew closer, I was so grateful our home was clean and fresh. Diane could not fix the hole in my heart, but she could paint and bring her decorating skills into our home. She prayed and then offered what she had. Her ministry to me was priceless.
Paul addresses the conclusion that we have nothing to offer with a beautiful description of people who really had nothing to give, but through prayer realized the little they had was actually eternal in value. This is one of my favorite encouragement passages. Though it doesn’t at first appear Paul is speaking about encouragement, take a second look. God gave grace to a broken and hurting church. This very poor local church family experienced joy in the midst of their brokenness. Out of their poverty came rich generosity. They gave beyond their ability to another local church. They considered carefully and prayerfully what that local church needed (they gave themselves first to the Lord) and then they obeyed what they believed God wanted them to give. I wonder if they looked at each other with disbelief that the Lord wanted them to sacrifice the little they had. It appears their giving required emptying of themselves. These are people who are in love with Jesus and His community. Their theology drove their living. Their actions reflected their theology — God’s gift of community is priceless.
You may be facing an enormous encouragement assignment. It could be a friend whose life is so profoundly broken you have no idea where to start. Carefully and prayerfully give yourself to the Lord with these words:
“Lord, I don’t know what to do, but You do. I feel as though I have nothing to give, but I have You. Show me how to share my love for You with this broken friend. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help turn her heart toward You.”
He may ask you to go way beyond your comfort zone, but grace overflows in those who are willing to be risk-taking disciples and give beyond their own ability. Write in your journal one way you will offer help and hope to your friend today.
Father, I don’t have much to give out of my own reserves, but Your love compels me to dig deep, trusting You have equipped me to offer help and hope. I’m overwhelmed with the needs around me because I have so little to offer, but this Scripture reminds me I am rich beyond measure because I have You. Who needs a touch from me today?