I have a conviction that generosity and sacrifice are downstream fruits that come from upstream surrender of ourselves to God. He wants our hearts. We give ourselves to God and then he gives us to support his causes and gets the glory. Does God have your heart?
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
2 Corinthians 8:1-7
Pastor Brent spoke on the topic of giving at church this week. I have been reflecting on his words and the story of the Macedonian church, which was a model church in giving toward the Lord’s work and supporting other churches as they grew. I came away with the idea that the virtues of generosity and personal sacrifice for others are downstream fruits of upstream surrender to God, who sacrificed first for us.
Let’s swim upstream a bit. This church was generous, they were cheerful, they were eager, and they were even sacrificial. We might be tempted to write these things down and use them as our recipe to be good givers. I have used these elements myself in speaking to others and encouraging them in their giving.
I am convicted that these factors are downstream fruits of the upstream core values.
Upstream, we see that the Macedonians gave first the thing that God desires most: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord.
God wants you. He doesn’t want your money. Okay he actually wants both. But God is not a televangelist riding in a Bentley on your dime. No. Rather, we see what happens in reality through the truth in this story above.
God first received the hearts and lives of the Macedonians. They gave themselves to God before they gave anything else. That’s key. If you think you can please God or appease God by putting a $20 in the offering plate when you drop into church sometimes you have another thing coming. He doesn’t want your $20. God wants your heart.
And if you give him your heart – if you give him your life – God will reveal what you do next. Once he had the Macedonian’s hearts, we read above that by God’s will he gave them to the ministry of the church in that region. That’s when their generosity and sacrifice and cheerfulness spilled over in their giving. That’s downstream fruit of upstream surrender.
One more thing. Notice that when this happens in the right order, where we give ourselves to God and he gives us to support his causes, and he gets the glory.
Because God is the one making all this happen. It’s not you and me. We end up being the conduit of God’s hand and will working in the world. No glory for us. God gets it. The glory goes where it is deserved…
Does God have your heart? Fully? Completely? Start upstream. Surrender everything to God and then obey his will for your life and your finances.