Today’s reading is so challenging yet so right at the same time. It’s a radical idea that hard times and persecutions are used by God to change are hearts and bring us into lives of deeper joy. “As trials descend on us and unexpected financial strain leaves us sleepless at night, we must be aware that God is drilling holes in the hardpan of our materialism to allow the joy, the life-giving Spirit, to gush out of us……… Not only do the trials make us see eternal values but give to us the sensitivity needed to allow God to use us as channels of His infinite resources in ministering to the needs of others.” Pg.230
When I think about it, some of the people in my life who have been through the toughest of challenges have also been the most sacrificially generous. I know, because I have been the recipient of their generosity. It wasn’t the actual magnitude of the gift that made it exceptional but rather the sacrificial nature and that it flowed out of people who did not appear to have much to give.
Dawn and I were married about 5 years when we went to seminary. Dead broke is the best way to describe our financial situation. I was a full time grad student and she was a new mom. God used many people as rivers of grace into our lives – my Aunt Florence and Uncle George are at the top of the list. On their own they recruited their adult children to commit to sending us monthly checks as financial support for us while I was studying to be in ministry. My aunt and uncle were among the most generous and they had the least to give. You see, they were also a ministry couple – but he was called into areas of ministry that were never at the top of the economic food chain. They began ministry in the 1950’s as missionaries in Hong Kong, then came stateside and began decades of ministry to the deaf. My uncle completed his fulltime ministry career as a prison chaplain. If you wanted to design a ministry career that was the “least” financially lucrative it would probably look something like that. They didn’t get rich but they walked the path God laid out for them – they and their seven children (plus a foster child or two) being raised along the way.
So from this family who knew extreme poverty comes overwhelming generosity to our family as we head off to seminary. They could sympathize with the challenges we were facing. Their example of sacrificial generosity is forever embedded in my heart. Their story reminds me of the Macedonian church Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 8. I am moved as I reflect on all this to open my heart to deeper levels of generosity – even when I feel like I am in extreme poverty. I also get to look at trials in new way. God is always on the move – especially in tough times – growing me to greater levels of generosity for His purposes.
God is so cool! He does things His own way! Life is so exciting and never boring following Jesus!