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The problem begins subtly, almost imperceptibly. But, once rooted, it eats away like a fungus in a garden.
Christian leaders are generous people. We've seen a need and have responded. We've received a call and have committed ourselves. We give. Generously. Substantially. Sacrificially.
The giving brings Joy. Fulfillment. Satisfaction. The fine rewards of a life invested well.
But somewhere along the way something gets out of whack. Wounded and weary, the joy of giving slips away. Or entitlement sneaks in and steals away what once was thriving in your heart.
The causes? Demanding people who are ever difficult to satisfy. Work demands that leave no margin. Overseers who don't appreciate the sacrifice or see the good intent. An inner world dependent upon the feedback of others, hungry for affirmation, gratitude, rewards.
When the giving gets tough, it's time to take a look at what's gotten out of whack. The Apostle Paul's words to the Corinthian church about giving financially are equally applicable to the giving of oneself. If you identify with this issue, plan a time to pull away, to pray and reflect. Print off the following exercise and consider your situation and the condition of your heart in light of 2 Corinthians 8 & 9.
See that you excel in the grace of giving. (2 Cor 8:7)
Take a look at your heart. How are you doing in this grace of giving of yourself?
You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Cor 8:9)
Consider once again Jesus' selfless posture, and how this speaks to you today.
Decide in your heart what you will give, not reluctantly or under compulsion. (2 Cor 9:7)
How would you describe your posture of giving of yourself these days? Do you realize that you have permission to decide to what extent you will give? Take a look at the things you have said yes to, and what things truly have your heart. Is it time to consider God's current call on yourself investment in the Kingdom? Tending to healthy boundaries might be a solution for the unwelcome, disabling undergrowth that's eating away at the soul.
God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9:7)
God loves you even if you are not giving cheerfully, but your cheerful giving does give him considerable joy. How does this statement connect with your heart today?
As I did my own self-reflection, the principle of 'sow generously and you'll reap generously' (2 Cor 8:7) tugged at my soul. I recognized that an unhealthy pattern had caught me in its trap. As I considered Jesus' generosity and all he did for my sake (2 Cor 8:9) and the grace-filled gift that God's desire is for me to abound in every good work (2 Cor 9:10-12), I faced what had been robbing me of generous giving. Then a beautiful thing happened. I found my way to break free and become a cheerful giver once again.
A prayer that you may want to adapt to your own
Lord, what grace! With all you gave up for me, with your strong desire that I would abound, how can I not give my all unreservedly back to you? You know that I long for a fruitful life. I thank you that your desire is to prosper me, that I may abound in good works as I sow and reap in ways that bring you joy. Lord, less of me, and more of you!
Do you have a mentor or spiritual director with whom you can process the fruit of your reflection? How has this been helpful to you?
Importance of Paying Attention
Conversations about the inner life
A Simple Prayer
with Troy Cady