Lesson Two • Devotion #4: Blessings of a Cheerful Giver

I have a long-time friend who was involved in a ministry position for more than 40 years. I was asking him how he had made it financially over all these years. He said that he earnestly believes that God has blessed him in that many of the “big bills” that a household would typically have, he had not experienced them. He said that he had not had many medical bills, furnace, refrigerator, or car repairs. “God has allowed me to live better on 90% than on 100% of my income.” He was able to own a home, drive a car, and raise a family of two children on a small income. However, he did not claim that it was his abilities, but God’s blessings. He is a servant of God who was able to give generously.

In a survey of the book of 2 Corinthians, a reader will find a lengthy discussion from the Apostle Paul on giving. Paul was collecting funds for the needy followers of Christ that remained in Jerusalem. The Corinthians had promised to give a large amount, but because of some false teachers trying to turn the Corinthians away from Paul’s instructions, the Corinthians had not sent the promised gifts. Paul, in chapters 8 and 9, appeals to the Corinthian Church to keep their promise. Moreover, in his appeal, we receive a divine principle in giving.

 In 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, he writes, “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.”

God is not concerned with how much you and I can give back to His work, but He is concerned with the attitude that we have toward giving. He reveals the principle that if you give “sparingly,” then we receive “sparingly.” However, the principle works in both directions. If we give “bountifully,” then we can receive “bountifully.” Again, sparingly and bountifully are more of our attitudes toward giving. In today’s culture, we are taught to try to get as much as we can. On the other hand, I love the teaching that each one of us can give cheerfully, “Having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

Lesson Two • Devotion #3: Lean on Me

The book of 2 Corinthians serves as a letter written by Paul for the Church of Corinth. In this letter, Paul elaborates and clarifies different things that he had written in 1 Corinthians, as well as giving the church new instructions to follow. These instructions are still relevant in our churches today. This is one reason why these letters are so crucial for us to be discussing and learning from today. By reading and studying the history and downfalls of the Church of Corinth, we can grow and avoid the same shortcomings within our own church. While this is something to look for in 2 Corinthians, it is something we should be looking for throughout the entirety of the Bible. One of the most prominent themes you will come across throughout 2 Corinthians is the idea of needing to lean on Christ in our times of suffering. We are unable to do what is needed to be done out of our own strength. Only through Him can we find the strength needed.

Another reason for this letter to be written is that there was another group of people on the opposition with Paul’s instructions, which he refers to as false apostles. Paul even goes as far as to refer to these false apostles as servants of Satan (11:14-15). Paul spends a good amount of time calling out those who are doing wrong and their need to change their ways. This should serve as a warning to us as believers that the enemy is trying to put people in our paths who are trying to persuade us that their way is right, but in reality, they could not be further away from God and His plans. We need to use discernment when listening to others and make sure it aligns with the teachings of God. We do this by praying to God and asking for Him to show us His paths. 

Paul closes this book, in chapter 13, warning the Church of Corinth of his third visit. Paul tells them that if their ways are not changed, he will deal with them with the power of God Himself backing him. This idea of Paul’s third return is terrifying if you think about it. He is not coming alone but instead with the wrath of God alongside him. We need to realize that judgment day is coming. We do not know when that day is. The book of 2 Corinthians serves as an excellent layout for how we should be living our Christian lives. The wrath of God will be upon those who do not follow His teachings on that day as well. We should start living our lives for Him now rather than later because later might be too late.

Lesson Two • Devotion #2: Reconciliation

Part two of books, movies, or albums, can often be very troubling grounds. More often then not, the only reason for doing a part two or a follow-up is simply for the money. If the first book enthralls the readers, then we will make a sequel. If this movie captivates the audience, we will make a sequel, or we will follow the sequel up with a prequel to make up for the awful sequel. The opportunities are endless. However, one sequel or part two that I do truly love, is 2 Corinthians. The letters from Paul to the church in Corinth have always been a staple for me, and I will often read over them when I am looking for a refresh. Yet, there is one particular theme that has always stood out to me in Paul’s second letter, reconciliation.

In Paul’s first letter, he is imploring the church to turn from their sin and misguided ways, so that they will ultimately grow in their faith and knowledge of Christ. As he begins this second letter, he thanks them for heeding his words and for the change that he has heard is taking place within the church. Why is this so important to Paul? He understands that Jesus is in the business of reconciliation. Therefore, he is imploring that the church in Corinth do the same and make it a priority in their lives, so that they may be able to attest and be witnesses of Jesus Christ. 

In 2 Corinthians 5:17-20, Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Paul reminds the church of the new life they have in Christ. He explains this new life, by teaching them how they were redeemed and reconciled to God the Father, through the sacrifice of Christ. 

As we begin this study on the book of 2 Corinthians, I want to encourage you to view it through the lens of reconciliation. Paul reminded the church of Corinth, and us as followers of Christ, that we are ambassadors for Christ. Therefore, as ambassadors of our Risen Savior, I want to encourage you to heed and remember the words of Paul. Not only have we been reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Christ, but we have been given the call and ministry of reconciliation. I pray that as you continue in your study of 2 Corinthians, this theme and continual reminder of reconciliation will challenge and encourage you as it does me.

Lesson Two • Devotion #1: “They”

“They” is a dangerous word. One would think that is a silly statement, but over the years, this truth is proven again and again. As we embark on our journey in this series in 2 Corinthians, let us be warned of the dangers of they. This warning carries over into any book of the Bible we read. Why? It is because “they” quite often becomes “we.”

They can; I cannot.

One of the dangers of “they” is looking at what others did and thinking we cannot do the same. The thought comes that “we” are lesser than “they.” The Bible is written by real people, to real people, with real struggles, and for real reasons. The Bible is not a book of fairy tales, but of history and theology merged into a color portrait to help us grow. “They” were just like us. “We” are just like them. What is also the same is a loving God striving with them just as He does with us.

They should not; I would not.

The other danger of “they,” is thinking “we” would not do what “they” did. During my Bible reading on sabbatical a few years ago, this truth leaped out at me. We often see ourselves as the heroes in the Bible, but not as the wavering crowds. We see ourselves as the disciples (minus the “o ye of little faith”) and not as the Pharisees. Do not look down at what “they” did, because “we” do the same things.

They were growing.

The church of Corinth is a church of growth, not problems. This goes against what we often hear for preachers, but growing in Christ is a messy task. Seeing our sin and gaining victory over it often lacks the smoothness of a well written movie. They were called out on their sin, made changes, and also harbored some bitterness. They, however, grew and changed. They were scared or exhausted to restore one they removed in sin, and were quick to look down on Paul. Despite all this, they were growing.

We struggle too.

We do the same things they did. When someone calls us out on our sin, we resent them, even when we changed for the better. We often harbor bitterness, resentment, and emotional exhaustion when it comes to restoring someone who sinned. Simply put, we want to save face instead of embracing grace. Rather than viewing the Corinthians as problem people, embrace the freedom of grace to say, “We struggle with that too.” 

“They” is a very dangerous word indeed, for it excuses of us working on the same things we struggle with too. When “they” becomes “we,” it frees us to live out this truth: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Lesson One • Devotion #6: Bible Verse Buffet

As we get ready to jump into a chapter-a-week, verse-by-verse look at the Book of 2 Corinthians, I thought I would remind you of these familiar verses from 1 Corinthians:

1:18 – “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

2:9 – “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”

6:19-20 – “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

9:24 – “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.”

10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

11:26 – “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

12:12 – “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”

13:4-8a – “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.”

13:13 – “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Did one verse catch your attention more than the others did?

Write out the verse. Take it with you. Memorize it. Meditate on it.

Please pray that the next 18 weeks will be fruitful as you and the church study 2 Corinthians.

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