“Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” 2 Corinthians 8:2 (NIV)
Today’s verse is one of the great paradoxes of our faith. You wouldn’t expect to read about “overflowing joy” following a “most severe trial” or “rich generosity” welling up from “extreme poverty.” Yet, that was the ironic description of the young churches in Macedonia. How could they respond to obvious hardships in such a contrary way? Could their example provide a means for us today to experience the same “overflowing joy” in this challenging time that threatens our wellbeing and cripples our economy? What made the difference in their lives?
Verse one gives us the answer. “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.” Grace made the difference! It was a grace given to them that enabled them to have both the power and the desire to do God’s will despite the harsh circumstances they were facing. Having experienced the grace of God in their lives, nothing would ever be the same. They would never see their present circumstances as limiting or dictating their response of faith. It was as if this world and all its troubles no longer had control over their lives. They were living for another world! Worry and fear were replaced with joy and generosity. Grace transformed trial into triumph and sorrow into joy!
Throwing caution to the wind, they responded in the grace they had received and experienced joy, overflowing joy out of the most severe trials. I don’t know what those trials were, but the Bible says they were severe. How do you respond to trials? Maybe you’re facing some severe trial today and wondering how you will make it. You feel like your world will never be the same, and you don’t know what to do. The natural tendency is to worry and fret. The last thing you may feel is overflowing joy. Then comes grace! The Bible tells us we can either receive God’s grace or resist it. I may not have the answer. I may not know what to do, but grace will see me through! Remember that old hymn:
many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
Open your heart to receive His grace for whatever you’re facing. Like those Macedonian Christ followers, your life will become the living evidence of the paradox of faith and the power of grace!