My friend and colleague Ron Dozier, who has served on staff at Good Shepherd since 2007, delivered the message yesterday. Called “Embrace The Grace” and coming from 2 Corinthians 8, here it is:
2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 9
“Turning Obstacles into Opportunities”
I just finished preaching at a church in Kenya located in the heart of the Kibera slums. Well, to my amazement, the church announced they were taking up an offering to give to me. The people celebrated as they brought forth their gifts. The worship didn’t stop me from thinking to myself; there is no way I am going to accept that money. I thought, how can these people who are living in extreme poverty afford to give me an offering. I was relieved when they informed me that the offering wasn’t for me. I was to give it on their behalf to the orphanage our team was going to next, the House of Hope.
Still, I was amazed at their generosity despite their poverty. I allowed their poverty to block my view of their opportunity to give. I saw an obstacle. They saw an opportunity. Yet, that is precisely what obstacles do; they block our view. The opportunity is there, yet we cannot embrace it because we have chosen to embrace the obstacle instead. It’s the couple who have decided not to pursue a Beautiful Marriage; because they have embraced the obstacle of irreconcilable differences. It’s the teenager who chooses not to let their light shine; because of the obstacle of peer pressure or the desire to be popular. It’s the believer, regardless of color, who decides to do nothing to fight against injustice—choosing instead to embrace the obstacle of the fear of man rather than the will of God.
We are facing multiple obstacles in the form of pandemics. They are obstructing our view of joy, peace, love, patience, and even unity within the Body of Christ. It’s hard to see beyond the obstacles, even though every obstacle is an opportunity in disguise. The very obstacle you face just creates space for something extraordinary that God provides.
Take it from someone, me that has allowed obstacles to get in the way of opportunities. So, listen, I’m there. I love to walk. My wife Sanya and I walk together, but we have a different pace. I have to overcome the obstacle wanting to walk my fast pace so we can walk and talk together. Sometimes, okay many times, okay most times I miss the opportunity of togetherness, yet God has so much better for us.
Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, writes to encourage them not to allow an obstacle to get in the way of an opportunity. This is the most autobiographical of Paul’s letters. In it, he bears his heart. He is open about suffering for the sake of Christ. Paul writes to remind them to follow through with the opportunity to help the church at Jerusalem, who were suffering financial hardship.
So, turn with me to 2 Corinthians chapter eight, verse one, I will read. “And now brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.
Paul used a tactic that other speakers and writers employed, which is appealing to a positive model for imitation. He did so by lifting the example of the Macedonian churches, which were located in the northern part of Greece. The Corinthians were in the South. His overall purpose was to make sure they put aside the money they promised to help the church in Jerusalem. Despite the agony that has come between Paul and the church after his first letter, he encourages them to complete the task. They allowed the obstacle of relational indifference to keep them from doing what they promised. In first Corinthians, He challenged them to live differently.
So, Paul encourages them to do what’s right by talking about the gift given by the Macedonians, whose contribution is a visible expression of God’s grace.
GRACE is one of Paul’s ‘big’ words that he often used to describe the undeserved and unearned gift and kindness of God. God’s grace enables us to overcome the obstacles we are facing. Grace is the supernatural power of God. God’s grace provided the Holy Spirit so that we can be all that he wants us to be and do all that he wants you to do.
He says, I am talking about the gift, but I am pointing to the grace that is available to you too!
That Grace, if embraced, allows us to live differently than the ordinary. Instead of being intimidated by the obstacle, we turn to God, allowing Him to empower us by His grace.
Turn to chapter eight, look at verses two and three. “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.
They gave despite their conditions. You have severe trial yet that had produced overflowing joy. They had extreme poverty, yet they gave generously. How do you get this, out of that, it just doesn’t add up? Pain doesn’t equal joy, and poverty doesn’t add up to generosity. That’s not natural.
The different response by the Macedonians provides direction.
Paul said they went “OUT OF” and “INTO.” Let me just pause to say that just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean that God can’t do it.
Has the obstacle has blocked your view of figuring out your circumstances? Move out of and into.
Exchange your wisdom for the wisdom of God.
Exchange your strength for the strength that God provides.
The Macedonians went from merely trying to trusting all of this made possible by the Grace of God.
They let go of the obstacle and embraced the opportunity to help someone else. They went beyond themselves to benefit others.
In other words, they “Embraced Grace to help others.”
The concept of Grace became concrete through their actions.
They allowed the power of God to penetrate their lives so they could help someone else. It is the same truth that I am passing on to you.
Embrace the Grace so that we can help somebody.
“Embrace the Grace” Grace to us, and through us for the benefit of someone else. Don’t embrace the obstacle, “Embrace the grace.”
Don’t underestimate the impact of grace; embrace the opportunity, you will help somebody tangibly. Grace empowers us.
David Lindvall went for a procedure that required three long needles. The last needle would cause him unbearable pain. During the set-up, he overheard two nurses in the room, talking about how hard it was going to be to do virtual school at home and work. One nurse paid for child care, and the grandma helped with the older child. The second nurse could barely pay bills, much less afford to get help. While David was praying for pain relief, the Holy Spirit told him to start praying for the two nurses, so he did right then. The Dr. noticed that he stopped moaning and asked, are you okay? David said, yes, I was praying for you and the nurses’ situation.
Afterward, the Dr. said he could not remember the last time someone prayed for him. Being prayed for by someone in pain touched the doctor and the nurses.
Although he was experiencing the obstacle of pain, he embraced the opportunity to help through prayer. He walked away with a list of people to pray for. They walked away with an example of what happens when we embrace the grace to help others.
Embracing grace opens our eyes to the privilege of extending grace
Take a look at chapter eight, verses four and five “They urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in the service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.
The Macedonians saw the offering as an opportunity to share with their family in Christ. It was an act of fellowship that pointed to the unity between Jew and Gentile. Don’t miss what Paul said they did. They first gave themselves to the Lord. That truth helps us overcome the obstacles that get in the way. We place ourselves into the hands of God, who moves us by grace past the obstacles that get in the way.
Grace is on the Move.
• Grace is headed in a direction to help somebody.
• While moving, Grace gathers up the people of God to accomplish his purposes.
• Grace knocks down the obstacles like Fear.
• Grace is on the move to help with injustice. Only my affiliations are getting in the way. Grace knocks down those affiliations as we embrace “Thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth just as it is in heaven. Grace is on the move, so feelings get out of the way. We walk by faith, not by feelings.
Grace takes us over the insurmountable, reaches right through the impossible. It requires dependence on God daily. We must follow the instructions of James, the brother of Jesus, who directs toward God’s grace in James 4:6. “He gives more grace. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Do you know what the biggest obstacle to the work of God’s grace? You guessed it, our pride. We must let go of pride so we can embrace grace.
Embracing Grace takes us beyond individual achievement.
Grace will guide us into partnerships so that as a unified community, we can make a Kingdom Impact.
Having been gathered by Grace, we can unite to see our church’s vision for beautiful Marriages. We can allow grace to gather us up like someone single in our congregation.
Jennifer Drovie is a single mom committed to our beautiful marriages’ strategy. She is on the strategy team dedicated to building up marriages while tearing down the divorce rate in the five zip codes around us.
Grace gathered up two teachers. Leslie Eaton and Joy Russell are both teachers at different schools who previously didn’t know each other but said yes to us, connecting them to encourage each other this school year mutually.
Having been gathered by grace, we can unleash empathy towards those facing injustice. We can reach out to say I love you, and I am here to listen. I am here to serve because you are not alone. We may be different, but Jesus made us one. Let’s be an example of unity.
God is creating space for us to be an example of His grace. By God’s grace, we can help somebody. Grace will not just be a concept. Your action will make it concrete. We must embrace the Grace to help others.
Empowered by God’s grace, you can help somebody. I recall the words of Dr. Martin Luther King when referring to how he wanted to be eulogized. Dr. King said:
“If I can help somebody as I pass along, If I can cheer somebody with a word or song, If I can show somebody, he’s traveling wrong,
Then my living will not be in vain. If I can do my duty as a Christian ought, If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,
If I can spread the message as the master taught, Then my living will not be in vain.”
Paul pointed out in chapter eight, verse nine, that when we embrace grace, we follow in the footsteps of our founder. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sake, he became poor so that through His poverty, we might become rich.
Jesus helped us so that we can Embrace the grace to help others.
Let us pray.