In the second letter to the Corinthians Paul dedicates two chapters (8, 9) to persuading the Corinthians to complete their collection of funds for the needy Saints in Judea before he arrives. For the purposes of this study I would like for us to focus our attention on what Paul writes in 2 Cor 9:2.
“for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority.”
In this verse you can see that the Corinthians possessed a willingness to collect money for the Saints in Judea. As a matter of fact, they were more than willing; they were zealous with such zeal that other churches were stirred up by the Corinthians willingness and zeal. But sadly a year had passed; their willingness and zeal had waned and the collection had not been completed. Paul is writing to them urging them through persuasive statements to get their act together, be ready for his coming and finish the work they had so zealously started.
Times have not changed. As Christians today we are prone to begin a work with all willingness and zeal to only find the task not completed after a year or more. How many good works have you started that were never completed for one reason or another? I would suspect the reasons the Corinthians did not complete their work would apply to us today. Such reasons as losing heart, letting life get in the way, or growing weary in doing good do not only apply to the Corinthians but to us as well. How then can we overcome these obstacles to completing works we were so willing and zealous to complete “a year ago”?
“Do Not Lose Heart…” – Four times in the epistles of Paul he tells his readers “do not lose heart” (2 Cor 4:1, 16, Gal 6:9, Eph 3:13 NKJV). How many Christians, then and now, need to heed those same words, “do not lose heart?” Think back to when you were baptized into Christ. When we “put on Christ” (Gal 3:27) we were like the Ethiopian Eunuch who went “on his way rejoicing” ready to take on the world. Who didn’t feel “ten foot tall and bullet proof” but somehow and somewhere along the way our stature shrank back down and we didn’t feel so invincible so we lost heart.
When we first become Christians we possess a willingness and zeal to work for the cause of Christ and the Kingdom but we meet with some disappointment or failure and we lose heart. I think about what Paul endured in his travels and especially the physical beating he endured at Lystra (Acts 14:19, 20). The Jews had stoned him, dragged him out of the city and supposing him dead leave him outside the city. Can you see Paul bruised and bloody; knocked down and beat up and left for dead? But he doesn’t “lose heart”; he gets up, dusts himself off, and goes back into the city to complete his work. We know from Acts that his willingness and zeal never faulted but grew stronger as he worked for the Lord. We too must not lose heart even when we face disappointment, or we get knocked down. The price for losing heart is too great; our soul’s salvation is dependent upon our willingness to serve God with zeal.
Life Got In The Way – Another reason for the Corinthians delay in collecting the funds could be that life got in the way. Other responsibilities took precedent over the work of reliving the needy Saints of Judea. When you read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians you can see they had a lot of work ahead of them if they were to be a sound church. There were divisions to heal, a sinful brother to rebuke and bring back, lawsuits to settle, and doctrines to teach on marriage, idol’s meat, head coverings, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts and Christ’s resurrection. Essentially life got in the way because of the mountain of work in correcting the problems the church faced.
Jesus taught about similar people his Parable of the Great Supper found in Luke 14:15-24. When these people were invited to the great supper, life got in the way of their attendance. One could not come because of the obligation of a land transaction, another because of his livestock and the last because he had just married. These three thought that the necessities of this life took precedent over the call of the Lord. Their soul’s were damned because the let life get in the way of setting at the table of the great master. May we never let life get in the way of serving our God. He and his work must be first and foremost in our lives.
“Do Not Grow Weary In Doing Good.” – Let’s face it; doing good can be tiresome at times. The Corinthians were willingly and zealously preparing a “generous gift” (2 Cor 9:5) for the needy Saints in Judea. The text seems to imply that some may have grown weary in doing this good work; tired of the sacrifice they had to make in order to complete the work. Paul tells them that he doesn’t want them to give “grudgingly or [out] of necessity” but instead he wants them to give cheerfully “for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9:7)
Do you grow weary in doing good? We start a good work with all willingness and zeal; only to find “a year” later that we are doing our good work “grudgingly [and out] of necessity.” Our good works can take on many different forms; teaching, preaching, visiting, preparing meals, etc. It could also extend to attending worship services, singing certain songs, leading prayer or other acts of worship. When we find ourselves working (attending, singing or praying) with a grudge full attitude it’s time for us to remember 2 Cor 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” Paul says that God will provide an abundance of grace for every good work. We have all that we need to stay focused on the task at hand so that we can work for God with a willful and zealous attitude.
As we continue to work for God and the Kingdom we should tackle each and every task with a willingness to work and zeal to carry us through its completion. We will be tempted along the way to lose heart, to make other responsibilities priority, and to grow weary in doing good. But we must be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor 15:58) Great is the reward for those who persevere.