“And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago.”2 Corinthians 8:10
I love the specific wording of this verse. Paul is carefully choosing his words to exhort the Corinthian church. The tone of this writing sounds much the same way you would if you sat down kneecap-to-kneecap with someone and said, “Let me give you a piece of advice…”
The Holy Spirit is using this verse to review your life today. The Bible says, “not only to do, but to be forward a year ago.” To be forward means to be willing, and to have made advances toward achieving. This verse is a specific yardstick to measure spiritual growth by steps of faithful obedience.
Serious goals should be smart: S.M.A.R.T.- specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timed. All five of these principles are found in 1 and 2 Corinthians. Paul delivered this church needed instruction, and then followed up with a second letter to review their progress. Paul was a great leader and writer in addition to being a great preacher and teacher.
The neglected virtue: giving.
This chapter deals with one certain issue: the calling, sending, and supporting of Gospel missions. In the First Corinthian letter, in chapters 9 and 16, Paul detailed the church’s responsibility for giving. Among other topics (pride, fornication, marriage, tongues, idolatry, spiritual gifts, doctrine of the resurrection), giving was a neglected part of the ministry of that local congregation. For the most part, the Corinthian leadership corrected the other issues.
But the Corinthians were slow to give. This was a virtue in them that needed stirred up. Paul had seen their progress in other ways; he now wanted them to get active on this front.
Giving- an expedient exercise.
Not everything that you CAN do is good to do. In 1 Corinthians 10:23, Paul wrote, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, all things edify not.” Freedom in Christ does not grant a pass to every endeavor.
Paul demonstrates this in 2 Corinthians 12:1a “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory.” There the Apostle transitions away from telling what he did for the Lord, into telling what the Lord did for him. It wasn’t wrong to write about what he accomplished for Christ, but it wasn’t the best. It wasn’t expedient. It was better to glory in Christ.
On a scale with good, better, and best, giving would tip the balance to “best.” It is a Godly expression (John 3:16), it is a Spiritual operation (1 Corinthians 12:8), and it is a Christ-like attitude (2 Corinthians 8:9). Giving is always expedient.
Giving- a constant need.
The world will never not need givers. Generosity is a virtue that sculpts a character, but cannot satisfy the demand. Jesus said, “Ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good:” (Mark 14:7) The end result of giving will not be to eliminate people with needs. If you give once, you will have to give again. But in doing so you will be learning charity- the greatest of all virtues.
Giving- a present responsibility.
The Corinthians understood the expediency and the constancy of giving. It had been well-explained, its virtues extolled and its precepts underscored in Paul’s teaching. Yet a whole year had gone by, and they had lost track of their progress. They needed to quit talking about it and ‘put their money where their mouth was.’ This good and continual opportunity was one they needed to take up in the present tense– today.
“Forward a year ago.” I’ll bet that stunned them much the same way it did me. Could it be that something SO needful and SO good had been tabled for an entire year? Where did the days go? How had time got away from them?
Now, how is your year going?
This charge applies to every spiritual pursuit. We may intend, plan, and worry over Godly goals, and still find ourselves a year later, right where we started.
Make someday today.
Some goals the Lord had in mind when he said, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” may take MANY years to be fulfilled. You will meet resistance. You will backslide. You will be distracted. How can you keep going forward in your Christian walk?
- Think: NOW. Some of your biggest goals can be accomplished today. Really, Christians fail to follow Christ for two reasons: first- they never ask the Lord what He wants them to do. Second- they hesitate to do it. Do you know? Then don’t wait- go. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)
- Seek the uncomfortable. Fact: Humans don’t generate their own motivation- our catalyst must come from the outside! So, welcome the entrance of conviction to get busy. It is childish to reject all personal criticism. The children that do, remain children. Accept the sharp admonition of a tract, a letter from a friend, a sermon, or a Scripture. You need encouragement, yes, but sometimes you need en-spur-agement! “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance.” (2 Corinthians 7:9)
- Take a weekly self-test. The Corinthians failed because they forgot. Imagine the forehead-slapping when they read this verse! “How could we forget!” they might have thought. Make self-examination an unavoidable part of your life:
Make self-testing a weekly appointment. God set aside one day of the week for us to worship Him. Sunday is a perfect day to look backward to check your progress. It is also the perfect day to look forward to new goals. Sunday is the perfect day for a self-test to keep you from looking back at a calendar year– and wishing you had it back.
"Keep walking with the Lord all the way, Keep trusting in His Word every day. Keep looking for the Son, watch and pray- Keep working, trusting, all the way, Looking, watching, praying every day." - Frank Garlock (1930-2023)
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