Finish What You Started

Billy Mills crossing the finish line at the 1964 OlympicsAnd in this matter I give my judgment this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.  For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not haveFor I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. The Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 8:10-14, ESV

I came across the above passage a few days ago and, though it would make a good New Year’s Resolution blog, I couldn’t wait. These verses are set in the middle of a passage whose theme is entitled, Encouragement to Give Generously, in the ESV; Great Generosity, in the NASB, and, The Collection for the Lord’s People,” in the NIV.  If you are interested, a more detailed explanation of the context of this passage, along my summary and takeaways of the verses preceding vv. 10-14 above, can be found in the Endnotes section of this blog.

What did Paul expect believers to finish?

Paul wanted Corinthian believers to complete the collection that would relieve the suffering of Jewish believers.  What were they collecting? My immediate, and I think the most logical, assumption is money. Money would be the most reasonable thing to collect because Paul was going to have to transport the collection a long distance, and money would be easier to transport than other things.  Also, once received, money could be exchanged for essential items to meet diverse physical needs. The sensible principle to takeaway from these verses then is “Give money generously.”

A Confession

But “give more money” is not how the passage landed on my heart.  What landed on my heart was harder for me to do than to give more money. You see, I started a project over a year ago that to this day remains unfinished. It is a project that I readily desired to; it was a project I started to meet a need that was expressed to me by a fellow Christian.  (You can see the description of the project on this website- Living Life from Theology. You can also see that the release date was set for Spring 2012.)

Though I’m over halfway through, substantial chunks of time, along with money, are needed to finish this project that will be given away to whoever wants and needs it. I want to finish. But, excuses aside, I just haven’t, and I feel really bad about it.

Encouragement for me and for you:

Perhaps you are like me. You know of believers who have a need. Maybe they have expressed that need to you.  You have a desire to meet that need and have even started (perhaps by thinking of an idea or perhaps by actually beginning to do something) to meet that need. Now all you need to do is finish. Here’s Paul’s encouragement to you:

  1. It will benefit you to finish.
  2. Your eager desire to help will be satisfied by completing what you started.
  3. You can use what you have now to finish; don’t keep waiting for something more.
  4. What you do with what you have now will be acceptable to God if you are eager to do it.
  5. Other believers need what you have.
  6. One day you may have a need, and fellow believers will be able to help you because you were able to help them.

How does finishing what you started relate to God’s glory?

To answer this question, I will just quote what Paul says in the following chapter:

For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 2 Cor. 9:12-13, ESV

Praying that you and I will believe the gospel and finish well what we’ve started.

Endnotes:

Background of the Passage

On his way to Corinth, by way of the churches in Macedonia, Paul writes the letter of 2 Corinthian and sends it ahead of himself. One reason Paul is going to Corinth is to gather a collection to help relieve the suffering believers in Jerusalem. Paul wants the believers at Corinth to be ready to contribute to this collection. Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthian believers to contribute to this collection is the focus of Chapters 8 and 9.

My Summary of 2 Cor. 8:1-9

So far in Chapter 8, Paul has encouraged the Corinthian believers in 4 ways:

  1. Paul told the Corinthians about the extremely impoverished and abundantly joyful Macedonians who begged to take part in the collection and exceeded in generosity – even beyond their means. He implied that they were able to do this because they gave themselves to God first, and afterward, they gave themselves to help others believers. In a nutshell Paul told the believers in Corinth that Extreme Joy (from God) & Extreme Poverty → Extreme Generosity (to others) (1 Cor. 8:1-6).
  2.  Paul pointed out that the Corinthians already excelled in so many other things, and urged them to excel in giving too (1 Cor. 8:7).
  3. Paul equated the Macedonians’ giving to genuine love.cHe told the Corinthians that he would use this same measure (Generous Giving = Genuine Love) to determine the genuineness of their love (1 Cor. 8:8).
  4. Paul reminded the Corinthians that Christ gave up his riches and became poor for their sake, so that by his sacrifice, they could become spiritually rich (1 Cor. 8:9).

My Three Main Takeaways:

  1. If I love God it means: (1) I will want to be generous; (2) I can be generous; and (3) I will be generous – even when it seems impossible.
  2. Excel in generosity!
  3. I am only rich (Eph. 1:3-14) because Jesus was generous to me.

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