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Grace, Gratitude, and Joy

November 24, 2018 • Life for Leaders

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity… Thanks be to God…

2 Corinthians 8:1-2, 16

 

The Corinthians knew something about God’s grace. They had converted to Christianity out of their pagan context and struggled to let go of their former ways. The people of Corinth had a reputation in the ancient world as an unruly, hard-drinking, sexually promiscuous bunch of people.

The sun setting on flowers in a field.Paul spent a year and a half with this group of believers in Corinth and then left to plant other churches. Later, he got word that they had continued in their Corinthian ways. Paul didn’t say that they had become un-Christian, but he challenged them to remember the grace that they had received, so that they would be compelled to respond to that grace.

Paul was reminding them to fulfill their promise to give money to the hungry Christians in Jerusalem. He challenged them to be true to their word, to give their grace (their gift). He wanted them to embrace grace, not greed. He was reminding them that, in Christ, they had already received everything—everything they had came as a gracious gift from God—so they had nothing to lose. It all belonged to God in the first place!

Ben Patterson says: “Gratitude and joy are the twin children of grace, organically joined both theologically and spiritually” (He Has Made Me Glad, 16). Patterson goes on to say that these three words have linguistic connection through the root word “char,” in Greek which is related to health and well-being. Grace is “charis.” Gratitude is “eucharistia” (that’s why some Christians call the Lord’s Supper the Eucharist). Joy in the Greek is “chara.” Grace, gratitude and joy are connected linguistically and theologically, but I would also add that they are connected spiritually. Grace leads to gratitude, which leads to joy. And in this example that Paul gives, they all lead to generosity.

Paul knew that guilt from the outside can never change the inside. The Corinthians needed their insides transformed by the Spirit of God that lived within them. They never lost their salvation, but they seemed to have forgotten the grace that they had received. They were becoming greedy, and they didn’t know it.

When you forget who you are in Christ, you become someone you don’t want to be. You begin to hoard things in order to make yourself feel better. You won’t be able to live the generous life if you think that you need these things to make yourself feel worthy and in control.

The generous life is one that drinks in grace, leading to gratitude for the grace given. And joy is the experience of that gratitude. I realize that when I am slow to share with those in need, when I’m quick-tempered with a subordinate, when I choose to put someone down instead of lift someone up, I’m lacking, at my core, this grace-gratitude-joy connection that can only come from my relationship with Christ.

Something to Think About:

How have you seen this grace-gratitude-joy connection in your own life?

Can you say that you have “joy” in your daily work? Where do grace and gratitude fit into this?

When do you find it most natural to be generous?

Something to Do:

Giving Tuesday is coming on November 27. Perhaps you can reflect on a way to be generous toward an organization or movement that is meaningful to you. Look for something to support that touches on this grace-gratitude-joy connection in your life.

Prayer:

Father, you have given us grace freely through the gift (grace) of your Son, Jesus. Remind us to relish this grace, and help gratitude to flow more freely in our lives. I want to experience the joy of knowing all that you’ve given me and the joy of sharing these gifts (graces) with others. I thank you for being in my life and for the invitation to share in your kingdom work on this earth. Amen.

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