“Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians. This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives.That’s what prompted us to ask Titus to bring the relief offering to your attention, so that what was so well begun could be finished up. You do so well in so many things—you trust God, you’re articulate, you’re insightful, you’re passionate, you love us—now, do your best in this, too.” 2 Corinthians 8:1-7 (MSG)
Have you ever experienced a setback? You thought you were following God’s will, but it didn’t end up like you thought it would. In those moments, it can be easy to give up, because it doesn’t make sense. But the setback might be a divine redirection that is going to result in something more beautiful than you could have imagined.
Paul was writing to the church in Corinth in order to spur on their faith in generous giving. He used the testimony of the churches in Macedonia as a model for generous giving for the Corinthians. The churches in Macedonia had their heart set on helping those in need. Paul’s connection to the churches in Macedonia came about in a rather unconventional manner. In Acts 16, Paul had experienced a setback. His plan had been to go to Asia to preach the gospel. But, the door was closed. It seemed like he was trying to do God’s will and make a difference. Why would there have been a closed door? In Acts 16:6-10 (MSG), it says, “They went to Phrygia, and then on through the region of Galatia. Their plan was to turn west into Asia province, but the Holy Spirit blocked that route. So they went to Mysia and tried to go north to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them go there either. Proceeding on through Mysia, they went down to the seaport Troas. That night Paul had a dream: A Macedonian stood on the far shore and called across the sea, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us!’ The dream gave Paul his map. We went to work at once getting things ready to cross over to Macedonia. All the pieces had come together. We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the Europeans.” Paul went to minister to the Macedonians by God’s direct plan; the Macedonians heard the gospel, and their life transformation resulted in generous giving. From that point, Paul used them as an example to the Corinthians. Since the Macedonians gave sacrificially, Paul wanted to spur the Corinthians on in their faith to give generously. Yet, the churches of Macedonian might not have even existed if Paul had not been wiling to take a closed door to go to Asia as a divine redirection. Sometimes we have limited perspective and forget the trickle down effect of our decisions in following God. We stand at closed doors wailing, wishing God would come through for us. We look at the facts, and it doesn’t make sense. We prayed, sought counsel, and thought we were walking in God’s will. But, the divine redirection represented by closed doors opens new opportunities that only God can see. As a result of Paul’s work in Macedonia, the people were in the right place at the right time and willing to respond to a physical need. I wonder if Paul contemplated that closed door as he wrote to the church in Corinth. Looking back, he could see how God was working all along. It was the people that Paul had never met, that originally had never heard the gospel, who were able to act as an example of generous giving to others. God is intertwining your story with others not just for your benefit but for their benefit. So, when it doesn’t make sense today, don’t let setbacks discourage you. Let faith rise in your heart that as you follow God, He is able to interject divine redirections into your story in order that many might know Him.
Scripture taken from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.