Persecution and Grace – Part 2

1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;

2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;

4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 2 Cor. 8:1-4

I never cease to marvel at the grace that was given to the Macedonian church. It is, simply, indescribable. That is why we cannot say, ever, “Enough talk about these Macedonians!” I am sure their story will echo on into eternity.

The area of giving is one area in which nearly all of us struggle. The issue of giving is a real problem with many of us. Normally, when someone asks us for money or some material thing (but mostly money, since money is the god of this world), our immediate knee-jerk reaction is to feel something akin to an invasion. There is a certain privacy about our material possessions that we don’t like people intruding into.

But that is the flesh. When we are walking the road that Jesus walked, these attitudes are the kind of things that we battle against in the Spirit. And it is when we achieve victory over such attitudes that we can experience the joy of giving. In those rare – or not-so-rare – moments when God touches our hearts and we allow the grace of God to have its way in us, we receive that very rare blessing of giving freely and joyfully, and we come away much more fulfilled in our spirits.

But with these Macedonians there was so much grace in their lives that they gave as if with a primeval instinct – in other words, with a power that was not of this world.

Some time ago I read about some people in England or the U.S. (I can’t remember clearly where) who engaged in bitter brawls as they fought to buy discounted goods in shopping malls.

The Macedonians did the exact opposite. They fought to give! I believe it is not that they did not need the things that they were giving away, but they were overcome with compassion for their brothers in need. And, having an enlarged heart, they saw this as an opportunity to make very good use the power of the grace of God in their lives.

The Macedonian example is an illustration of the extremities to which God’s grace can take us. That these people had literally nothing; but when they heard that their brothers were undergoing a period of want, they gave out their hearts. “Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.”

That is a heart that we all need to have.

There are people who love talking about tithing. But in tithing one is trying to give to God in quotas! Can you imagine giving to God in quotas? It is the most tiresome exercise in the world.

And, pray, can you imagine trying to tell the Macedonians about tithing? At the very least, they would have regarded you with of utter confusion in their eyes! How can you talk to someone who has given away everything about now giving a percentage?

The Macedonians were so rich in grace that the ‘lesson’ of tithe would have have flown right over their heads.

But notice also that all this was accomplished at the time that this church was going through a period of “great trial of affliction” and “deep poverty”. It was in these difficult circumstances that their faith was tried and refined to produce these extremely fine examples of Christian-ity.

Whether through persecution or not, when we take the road that Jesus took – denying self, taking up our cross daily and following Him – we will always come up with this kind of life – a life of incredible grace.

[The Macedonians rejoiced greatly at the opportunity to give]

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