Phrases etched in my memory nearly 40 years ago came back to me again recently: “…como propuso en su corazón…porque Dios ama al dador alegre.” In the small church I attended in Cuernavaca, Mexico, we quoted the verse these phrases come from every Sunday before the offering was taken.
The entire verse reads: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7, emphases mine).
I was surprised to remember this verse about giving. I was actually upset with myself, once again, for ignoring the Lord’s voice and losing my joy while “over-reading.” Like most types of overdoing, reading on and on for hours is hard on others besides myself. Neglecting people, chores, and rest — even for a delightful, wholesome book — is not ok. (There are times it’s ok to be spontaneous and relax; you just have to know the right times!)
It seemed the Lord had something to teach me from the principles of 2 Corinthians 9:7 —not only about giving, but also about living. Here are some conclusions.
Live like the giver
- We should decide ahead of time on a plan for an activity and stick to it. Will we persevere in what we’ve purposed?
- We should decide in our hearts. If we want to follow Jesus closely, our deepest desire will be to honor Him. Will we act on this deep desire or follow after a more superficial pleasure?
- We should do whatever we do cheerfully. Is the joy* of the Lord missing in what we’re pursuing? The Holy Spirit always wants to give us joy, but something in our lives may be preventing Him.
We may know when and why our joy has disappeared. If not, it’s a good practice to re-trace our steps and ask the Lord to help us figure it out. Most likely we’ll find something to confess. He’s faithful to forgive us when we confess our sin (1 John 1:9) and to fill us again with His Spirit if we ask Him (see Ephesians 5:18 and 1 John 5:14-15).
Greed or risk?
I wondered, why does God love the cheerful giver? One reason may be because the cheerful giver is trusting Him, and faith pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). The cheerful giver gives joyfully to Him, glad to be part of His plan to bless others.
If we follow the example of our Lord, who has given to us with vast generosity, we may be led to give outside our comfort zone. It’s thrilling to take a risk when He is leading. We can trust in His faithfulness to provide for us in the future; He will not fail us.
We don’t need to be greedy with our money, but give away all He leads us to. In the same way, we don’t need to be greedy — or overdo — in our reading, eating, screen time or anything else. We can risk giving away our time in serving others, for example, knowing our Lord will provide all that we need to be refreshed at the right time and in the right way. He is a loving Father.
Stay in the joy
It seems I have to keep learning about true joy and self-control from different angles. It will be a lifelong battle. I struggled to write this post, but it has helped me make stronger decisions about the use of my time. I experience more joy when I savor one chapter at a time than I do when staying up too late to rush through half a book.
It isn’t easy to live like the giver. But the Holy Spirit will give us all the joy and self-control we need when we yield ourselves to Him, in whatever area we struggle with.
The more we decide in our heart of hearts to trust in Him and depend on Him, the more cheerful we will be — and the more we will enjoy His breathtaking plan for our lives. I call that a pretty great deal.
Do you have a decision to make about some area in your life? Make the decision! Stay in the joy! That’s where I’m learning to be.
Pray with me?
Lord, help us draw on the power of Your Spirit to live as You lead us step by step, by faith. Help us keep on choosing Your joyful ways, we pray in Jesus’ name.
*Though the words are not completely interchangeable, “cheerfulness” and “joy” are each found in the definitions of the other word, as used in the original Greek of the New Testament (Blue Letter Bible).
See Cru.org for more information on being filled with the Spirit.
If you haven’t discovered life in Christ, don’t hesitate to check it out. Life is too short to miss His love and perfect plan for you. Read About “The Nearness of God” or see everyperson.com for more information. You can also read my story of coming to faith in Christ in: How My Song Began.