Scott Sanders launches our Advent series by getting lost in the bush and finding the humble path - at expense of his pride.
Ross Piper is based in Sydney and is the CEO of Christian Super. He is passionate about the intersection of faith, finance and development needs in Australia and around the world.
Today's reading is 2 Corinthians 9:1-15
Advent is a season where the message of generosity is all around us. We see examples in the purchase of gifts for family and other loved ones, reaching out and connecting with community around Christmas events, or providing hospitality at home. But the deep truth and joy of abundant generosity, the type described in 2 Corinthians 9:1-15, can be lost in the rush and demands of the season. We are challenged in the 2 Corinthians passage to sow generously, and to plan our giving with cheerfulness. But sometimes fear and busyness can get in the way of this. Rather than adopting an open-handed posture that everything we have and own belongs to God, we hold tightly to these things.
The concept of surrender sits at the core of this tension. When Jesus said he came in order that we may find ‘life in all its fullness’, He was not speaking a narrative of half-measures. The journey of generosity begins with surrender, an absolute and total giving back of all that we have, all that we are and all that we aspire to be, to God. This can be challenging concept. I know that I personally struggle at times with the issue of control, pride and fear to truly surrender all that I am and have to Jesus’ Lordship.
But the most amazing part of surrender is that is results not in sadness or a sense of loss, but in freedom and joy. The type of peace described in 2 Corinthians and in many other parts of scripture. Generosity is an expression of the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10).
So, instead of letting fear and busyness drive you this season, be encouraged to take up the challenge of abundant generosity as you journey through Advent. Look deeper than the peripheral giving gifts or hospitality and ask ‘where is my heart in this, and am I surrendering all that I have and am to God?’. 2 Corinthians tells us that in doing this, you will be enriched in every way, so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
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2 Corinthians 9:1-15
The Collection for Christians in Jerusalem
I really don’t need to write to you about this ministry of giving for the believers in Jerusalem. 2 For I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving.
3 But I am sending these brothers to be sure you really are ready, as I have been telling them, and that your money is all collected. I don’t want to be wrong in my boasting about you. 4 We would be embarrassed—not to mention your own embarrassment—if some Macedonian believers came with me and found that you weren’t ready after all I had told them! 5 So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly.
6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 9 As the Scriptures say,
“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”
10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.
13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. 14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.15 Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!