“But thank God! He has given Titus the same enthusiasm for you that I have. Titus welcomed our request that he visit you again. In fact, he himself was very eager to go and see you. We are also sending another brother with Titus. All the churches praise him as a preacher of the Good News. He was appointed by the churches to accompany us as we take the offering to Jerusalem —a service that glorifies the Lord and shows our eagerness to help. We are traveling together to guard against any criticism for the way we are handling this generous gift. We are careful to be honorable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to see that we are honorable. We are also sending with them another of our brothers who has proven himself many times and has shown on many occasions how eager he is. He is now even more enthusiastic because of his great confidence in you. If anyone asks about Titus, say that he is my partner who works with me to help you. And the brothers with him have been sent by the churches, and they bring honor to Christ. So show them your love, and prove to all the churches that our boasting about you is justified.”
2 Corinthians 8:16-24 NLT
Titus was being sent back to Corinth to receive the collection for the Jerusalem saints. Along with him were trusted men who were appointed from the churches who had also contributed to the cause. Having more than one man handling the generous amount of funds that had been collected brought integrity to the situation. This offered security, accountability, and honor to the process. There were no electronic transfers or "checks in the mail". Everything had to be hand delivered. This was a risky responsibility, especially if they were attacked and robbed. Complete trust had to be given to these men. What if one of them decided to embezzle some of the money? Great care of the money had to given. Each man on this very important mission had to be trusted to the max. Paul was offering his endorsement of these trusted men. He encouraged the Corinthians to receive Titus as his partner in ministry. He also expected them to accept the men with Titus with the same love and respect. Paul had been boasting about the Corinthians love for Christ and their willingness to help. He didn't want to be disappointed and he expected them to do what they said they would do.
God wants us to conduct the affairs of His church with honor and integrity. We must not be careless about our part in its furtherance. Can God count on us to do His business with honor and integrity?
Prayer for today: Father, in Jesus name, thank you for letting me be a part of Your Church. Please help me to do my part in Your Kingdom work with honor and integrity. Help me honor You in all my ways. May others find me trustworthy so that I may bring glory to You.
“Here is my advice: It would be good for you to finish what you started a year ago. Last year you were the first who wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it. Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. As the Scriptures say, “Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough.”” 2 Corinthians 8:10-15 NLT
We should always keep our commitments and finish what we start. The Corinthians had apparently started to receive a collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem the year prior. They had intentions to do this kind deed but had not fulfilled their intention. It is so easy to get caught up in a moment and respond with great enthusiasm. In those moments, we have lofty intentions but, somehow, we get distracted and lose our zeal to perform what we had committed ourselves to. I read a statement years ago that said: "One kind deed is worth a thousand grand intentions". I've also heard the statement: "Hell is full of great intentions".
The need of the suffering saints was real and needed prompt attention. The Corinthians had the means but they lacked the follow through. Paul reminded them of the exodus. In Exodus 16:18 the children of Israel were provided for by God. Each day they would gather the manna that was placed upon the ground by God. They could not be selfish and gather more than they needed for each day except on Friday when they could collect enough for the upcoming sundown to sundown Sabbath. Trying to heap up treasures and stockpile supplies is not God's intentions for us. We must depend upon God one day at a time. Sure, there is nothing wrong with prudence and preparation. We must not, however, become dependent on our resources. We must depend on His. He is the provider of all that we know and enjoy!
How many good intentions of getting in church, giving a tithe, or reaching out to others in need get sidelined by our unwillingness to do what we know is right. We live in a country that has known the greatest prosperity in world history and yet we have "Christians" that say they identify with the church and they do not fulfill their duty to give. We absorb ourselves in comfort and pleasure while God's Church and His people are left to simply try to survive. This is disgusting and outright sinful. How can we say we know and love the God, who saved us from eternal damnation, and not be committed to furthering His kingdom? How can we see our brothers and sisters in need and do nothing about it? (See I John 3:16-18). These questions cry out for answers from the depth of our souls. Do we recognize the grace of God upon our lives that has saved us and provided for us so we can fulfill His kingdom work or do we think He has prospered us so we can live in luxury and self absorbed pleasures until we die? This idea of "The American Dream" needs to change in the heart of every Christian. It isn't about "living the life" here in America, it is about "living to live again" in eternity. Let's give what we can't keep to gain what we can't lose. The rich man walked away sorrowful because his heart was in his riches rather than in God. (see Matthew 19:16-24). He was a religious man but void and empty spiritually. Where are you today? Are you pursuing a dream of retirement at the beach, in the mountains, or somewhere else? Why don't you simply stop and ask God what He wants you to do and where He wants you be. Has that ever occurred to you?
Much like the Corinthians, we are blessed in so many ways, yet we have lost our purpose in the midst of our prosperity. Our prosperity in this temporary world is not meant for us to hold onto. It is given to us, by God, to do His ministry while we are here and invest in the eternal life that awaits the born again child of God. Will it take a tragedy, a near death experience, or even a financial earthquake to shake us to our senses? God is calling us to trust Him and obey Him. Are you one of those who is "all in"? Can God trust you with His resources? After all, it's not yours. It is all His!!!
Prayer for today: Father, in Jesus name, help me to understand that all I have is Yours. I am just a manager of Your resources. Help me to honor You with what You put in my hands.
“So we have urged Titus, who encouraged your giving in the first place, to return to you and encourage you to finish this ministry of giving. Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us —I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches. You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:6-9 NLT
Corinth was one of many churches who had received the challenge to help the needy saints in Jerusalem. One major advantage they had was their financial ability. Corinth had a booming economy. It was a wealthy city. Its population was approximately 600,000. It was a prime mission field because of its mythology. The culture was steeped in sexual perversion. It had a temple to the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, which also had prostitutes available to those who wanted to participate in their lewd acts of worship. Amidst all of this was a church. This church obviously had multiple challenges. God placed Paul in oversight to this church and the other churches in order to establish, instruct, strengthen, and settle them in the things of righteousness. This particular church, Corinth, was blessed with spiritual gifts, natural talent, as well as monetary means. Paul was reminding them to do what they started to do but had not finished - to give out of their abundance to help the poor saints in Jerusalem. He used the example of the churches in Macedonia to challenge this prosperous church. They weren't being forced to do so but were being reminded of their commitment. They had the means to do so better than most. The churches around the known world were concerned with each other's well being. Corinth was a part of those churches. Sometimes we can get wrapped up in our own needs and pursuits and forget that we are a part of something bigger than us. We need to remember that we are the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! He gave his life to rescue us from the slavery of sin and it's awful poverty. Shouldn't that be enough to motivate us to give as He gave? After all, where would you be without Him??? Is there anything you are holding back from God? Perhaps your giving is one of those things.
Prayer for today: Father, in Jesus name, thank you for purchasing me from the slave block of sin through Your redeeming work on the cross. Help me to never forget the price you paid for me and may it always move me to give sacrificially. May I withhold nothing from You.
“Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.” 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 NLT
The churches in Macedonia (area of modern Greece) were under severe persecution and were also suffering under harsh economic conditions. Although this was the case, their generosity was not affected. Their love for God and their fellow believers was evidenced by their desire to give of their meager resources to assist the suffering Christians in Jerusalem who were enduring very hard times. The Jerusalem church was recognized as the epicenter of Christianity among all the churches. To be able to help the Jerusalem saints was an honor. No matter how difficult it was for the Macedonian believers, they knew that they were connected to these believers as part of God's family. The original Greek language clearly states that the Macedonian believers were "rock bottom" poor. They didn't even have sufficient means for themselves yet they were more concerned about other believers who were suffering more than themselves.
Earlier, this morning, I read a story concerning Charles Spurgeon that, I thought, was very applicable to this passage. Charles Spurgeon was asked to come speak at a rural church to help raise funds to pay off a debt. The man requesting his coming was a wealthy man that suggested he stay at either his country home, town home, or seaside home. Charles Spurgeon replied to the man that he should sell one of the properties and pay the debt himself.
In America, we are blessed in so many ways. Even the poorest in this country are blessed more than they realize. The sad thing is that most of us are blessed more than we truly realize. We live in homes with electricity, we have running water, indoor restrooms, heat and air conditioning, we drive automobiles (usually more than one), we have grocery stores on almost every corner, and much more. With this being the case, you would think that we would be more generous than we are, especially to God and His church. We say things like "I can't afford to give a tithe". How can we say such a thing when we treat ourselves with such luxuries.
No matter how poor the Macedonians were, the fact is simply this: They gave themselves to God. They gave because they loved God. They had experienced God's grace in salvation and they wanted to share God's grace in giving. When you give yourself to God, everything else will come along with you, including your giving.
Prayer for today: Father, in Jesus name, thank you for blessing me so bountifully. Help me share this grace by giving to Your Church and Your people.
“Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right. My purpose, then, was not to write about who did the wrong or who was wronged. I wrote to you so that in the sight of God you could see for yourselves how loyal you are to us. We have been greatly encouraged by this. In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was about the way all of you welcomed him and set his mind at ease. I had told him how proud I was of you—and you didn’t disappoint me. I have always told you the truth, and now my boasting to Titus has also proved true! Now he cares for you more than ever when he remembers the way all of you obeyed him and welcomed him with such fear and deep respect. I am very happy now because I have complete confidence in you.”
2 Corinthians 7:11-16 NLT
Paul was delighted to see the response from the Corinthians. Not only did they respond to the letter and do what was right, they also accepted Titus with godly respect and hospitality.
How heartening it is when those in the church decide to be submissive and supportive to godly leadership. Paul was, indeed, a godly leader. His place of authority was given by God Himself (see Acts 9:15&16). Paul wanted to see the Corinthian believers stay under that authority and leadership because he knew that anything less would not be God's will for them and the results would be disastrous. Satan knows how to lead us astray. The way he does this is to get us to listen to the wrong voices. Sheep are very defenseless creatures. They must depend upon the voice of a shepherd. Their hope of security and safety is to stay in a sheepfold and follow a shepherd. A shepherd's duty is to care for and protect the sheep from ravenous wolves even if he has to defend them against the wolf with his own life. Jesus speaks of this in John chapter 10. There He says that He is the Good Shepherd. Jesus is the One we are ultimately following!!! That is without question. It is important for us to recognize that God has placed men as spiritual shepherds (pastors - the word pastor means shepherd) over His sheep to help them get to the heavenly sheepfold where we will all be with the Great Shepherd (Jesus). No, these earthly shepherds are not God!!They are sheep that have been born into this fold just like the rest. However, there is a distinct call and authority in their lives that has been placed there by God to help care for and tend the flock while on this journey to heaven. In John 10, Jesus also refers to hirelings. Hirelings want only one thing - pay day. When a wolf comes, a hireling takes the easy road out. A true, committed shepherd stands and fights. Until we reach our eternal home, we must listen to and follow earthly shepherds that are under God's direction and authority. This doesn't mean that we are worshiping these leaders or that they don't have their own human faults. It simply means that God has designated them as our overseers (see I Timothy 3). The main thing is this: Are they godly? If they are godly shepherds, they should be respected and trusted especially if they have fought faithfully to protect the flock over the years. Any earthly shepherd who loves God will love the sheep and desire to see them stay under the Good Shepherd's direction. This is their hearts passion.
Prayer for today: Father, in Jesus name, help me to seek to please You, the Great Shepherd, and help me submit to godly, earthly shepherding until I get home to be with you.
“When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside. But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. His presence was a joy, but so was the news he brought of the encouragement he received from you. When he told us how much you long to see me, and how sorry you are for what happened, and how loyal you are to me, I was filled with joy! I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” 2 Corinthians 7:5-10 NLT
Discipline of any kind isn't pleasant. Paul had written a strong rebuke to the Corinthians concerning their allowing someone to undermine his authority. The letter was so strong that he was concerned that it may have been too harsh. He knew that it was necessary to set things in order, but he also loved these people. He didn't want to hurt them, he wanted to correct them. Any parent who has had to impose discipline on a child when they have blatantly disobeyed what they know to be the standard can relate to this. I have heard parents say to their children "this hurts me as much or more than it hurts you" when they were administering punishment. When a parent genuinely loves their child it can be painful to have to punish a child but the purpose of the punishment is to help the child recognize their violation and change their ways. Through the temporary pain of punishment we see the long term benefit of obedience and the added benefit of future blessing. Hebrews 12:10-11 says it this way "For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” NLT
At times, in the church there are episodes of misconduct. Dealing with the issues isn't pleasant, but necessary. When there is genuine love involved in any matter of the church, it can be deeply painful to endure the anguish of heart that is involved. However, when we endeavor to do the right thing, God will honor it. The results will be determined by the hearts of those who are the recipients.
Paul received word from Titus that the letter had, indeed, set things in order and caused an outpouring of love and support for him from the Corinthian church. Oh, how every pastor longs for the same in every circumstance. Let us strive to bring peace and harmony as we submit to the Lord Jesus Christ. When we truly want to please Jesus, we will desire healing through repentance and seek to be in submission and unity with those who are over us. It is always refreshing to leaders when we experience unity in the church. The pains that come from disunity and disciplinary issues can be deeper than anyone, except God, can even know.
We need to ask ourselves this question: Are we in submission to authority and are we actively working to bring ourselves in line with God's Word? When we do, unity will always result.
Prayer for today: Father, in Jesus name, I ask You to search my heart and see if there is anything that is out of line with You and Your Word. Please purge me and place me in correct standing with You. Help me to submit to those You have placed over me. May my life bring them joy.
“Please open your hearts to us. We have not done wrong to anyone, nor led anyone astray, nor taken advantage of anyone. I’m not saying this to condemn you. I said before that you are in our hearts, and we live or die together with you. I have the highest confidence in you, and I take great pride in you. You have greatly encouraged me and made me happy despite all our troubles.” 2 Corinthians 7:2-4 NLT
Paul was pleading with the church at Corinth to open their hearts to him because his heart was open to them. He loved these people so much that he was willing to confront their wrongs. In doing so, he knew there was opportunity for them to misunderstand and mistake his intentions. He had written a very straightforward letter to them concerning their error and he wanted to follow up with them to assure them of his love. His motive was pure and his method was necessary. He had to put some things in proper order to keep the church on the right path. He knew that it was his responsibility to do so. God had called him and placed him as the apostle overseer to the church. Despite the controversy, the church as a whole had encouraged him through the whole situation.
There is always risk involved in doing the right thing. There will always be those who misunderstand or mistake the intentions of a responsible leader. Decisions on what to do in a matter of the well being of the church should always be made with the conviction of scriptural principal and the direction of the Holy Spirit. Doing the right thing amidst turmoil is difficult, yet necessary. It requires discipline, commitment, conviction, resolve, and godly character. These traits seem to be so hard to come by in our time.
No matter what happens, we must remain resolute that we will walk in the love of God and pray that God will be pleased in our actions. We cannot control the behavior of others, but we can control our own behavior. When we truly love Jesus, we will have a genuine love for our fellow believers. If we are seeking to please God, then our hearts can be in unison. Only when we walk in the flesh (carnal, depraved nature) do we see destructive behavior. When we walk in the Holy Spirit, we will find correction, direction, and reconciliation. That is what God wants! After all, isn't that who we are trying to please?
Prayer for today: Father, in Jesus name, help me to walk in the Holy Spirit so I will please You. I want to be a part of the solution in any situation, not part of the problem.
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 KJV
In chapter 6 we just read that God wants us to "come out" from among the darkness of the society. He promises to receive us and call us His children when we determine to separate ourselves from unrighteousness and live righteously. We know that our birthright is in Jesus Christ our Lord. We are accepted by God in Jesus Christ. Now that we are His, He calls us to obedience. We are His children and should portray the likeness of our Father and seek to please Him. He is Holy!!!We should behave like we are His because we now have His spiritual DNA. We are called to lay aside actions and involvements that are not pleasing in His sight. We should desire His blessing upon our obedience just like a parent honors a child that strives to do as they are told. God knows that our positional righteousness is in Him but expects our practical righteousness to be worked out in our choosing. We are not robots or puppets. We have a free will. We must choose to obey just like a child that is born into a family chooses to submit to the principles and practices of its parents. When a child walks in obedience, peace, harmony, and favor are the result. When a child walks in disobedience, contention, division, discipline, and disappointment result. A child who doesn't do their chores shouldn't be honored with the keys to the car or other privileges. There are expectations in a home. Since we are God's children, we are expected to clean our room (spiritually, morally, socially) and walk in obedience. Is your room clean? Are your actions acceptable to God's principles?
Don't you think it's time to please our Father? After all, He gave His life to save us. The least we can do is live our lives to please Him!
Prayer for today: Father, in Jesus name, forgive me for my disobediences and help me to seek to please You in all my ways. Holy Spirit, purge me in spirit, soul, and body. Let all that I am honor Your name!
“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty. ”” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 NLT
Quoting from the Old Testament scriptures of Leviticus 26:12, Ezekiel 37:27, Isaiah 52:11, Ezekiel 20:34, and 2 Samuel 7:14 Paul makes a clear message to the Corinthians that God wants His children to be representatives of Him. We cannot claim to belong to Jesus and live like we belong to the devil. We must carry the gospel into the darkness so the light can dispel the darkness. We must get the salt out of the shaker so it can be placed upon what needs to be preserved, seasoned, and healed. Light is no good if it isn't exposed to darkness and salt is no good if it stays in the shaker. However, we must remain salt and light. We cannot become flavorless salt or powerless light (see Matthew 5:13-16). We are called to be God's ambassadors. We cannot claim to be on our way to heaven and live like we are going to hell. Our lives are to be a testimony of who we belong to and where we are headed. Without question, we live in a sinful, fallen world and we will be exposed to the corruption that sin has brought. However, We must not allow ourselves to be caught up in the deeds of wickedness while professing ourselves to be representatives of the righteous Lord! Yes, we are saved by the atoning work of Jesus. Our character and conduct should reflect that.
“But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: “The LORD knows those who are his,” and “All who belong to the LORD must turn away from evil.”” 2 Timothy 2:19 NLT
Prayer for today: Father, in Jesus name, fill me with Your Holy Spirit so I may be empowered to represent you to this dark world.
“Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you. There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us. I am asking you to respond as if you were my own children. Open your hearts to us!” 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 NLT
Paul was a caring and loving spiritual father to the Corinthian church. He had addressed them honestly about their allowing someone to undermine his authority and reputation. His address to them was strait-forward. He rebuked them and set the record straight concerning the matter. He did so, not to harm them, but to keep them from being misled. His interest in them was genuine. He truly loved these people.
Apparently, their response to him wasn't as loving as was appropriate. Paul had done nothing except what was right and he must have felt a cold shoulder from some in the church. Paul was willing to give his life for Christ and for His church. Paul's character and conduct was trustworthy.
In ministry there are times when issues arise and action is taken by the leader that is necessary and difficult. In those moments, things can get easily misunderstood. Often, it is a lonely place to be. However, the well being of God's family (the church) is the most important consideration. Our trust in the leader and our love for one another should reach beyond the uncertainties and cause us to move forward under God's pleasing. No matter what is going on at any time in the life of the church, we can identify our true devotion to Jesus by our love for one another. Jesus said it like this: “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”” John 13:34-35 NLT
Prayer for today: Father, in Jesus name, help me love others like Jesus!
Rev. Curtis Norris