We’ve probably all experienced this: someone needs time, attention, affection, ministry, or something else from us right when we feel we have nothing left, yet we don’t feel we can refuse.
I’m not talking about a people-pleaser who is drowning in obligations because she doesn’t want to disappoint anyone. We can’t say yes to everything. We all have legitimate limitations, some more than others due to physical conditions or other obligations.
But sometimes you’re a mom with three sick children, and you can’t stop giving them what they need. Or you’re looking for a few minutes of quiet respite after a busy day, when your poor husband, who is supposed to come first and has been sadly lacking in the attention department, needs you. Or you’ve been pouring into a work or ministry project, and the other person on the project falls ill or forgets or just doesn’t do their part. Or you’ve prayed about something someone requested of you, and you have every reason to say no, but you just can’t shake the feeling you’re supposed to say yes.
Recently when I was in one of these situations, God did give me grace to say yes and blessed my efforts. And as I thought over the whole situation, the Macedonians came to mind. What Macedonians? The ones in 2 Corinthians 8. Paul had been raising money to help the believers in Jerusalem. The Macedonians, though in “extreme poverty . . . overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (verse 2). They gave not only “according to their means,” but “beyond their means.” They didn’t have to be coerced; in fact, they were “begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (verse 4). They gave with abundant joy (verse 2). And, perhaps the secret to it all, they “gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” (verse 5).
Paul comes back to the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 9, pointing out that Christians are to give, “not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (verse 7). He reminds that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (verse 6). He shares that “the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” Their service not only helps meet others’ needs, but it brings glory and thanksgiving to God as they recognize that He’s the one who supplied through His saints. And Paul encourages that:
God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God (verses 8-11).
Though Paul is talking about financial giving, I have found the principles to apply in other types of giving as well. I think of the poor widow of Zarephath who was about to make the last meal for herself and her son and then prepare to die. Just at that point, the prophet asked her for food. She could have said, “Are you crazy?” But she did as the prophet asked, and “The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah” (1 Kings 17: 16). I remember a preacher sharing an experience when he got into a taxi after an exhausting stretch of traveling and preaching. He just wanted to enjoy the quiet and rest. But the driver wanted to chat, and the preacher was able to listen and then share truth from God’s Word. I think of the apostle Paul, who said at one point, “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.” But, he said, “that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10).
There are times God wants us to say “No.” There are times when we need to step back, perhaps to let another lead the way, perhaps to rest and recuperate. But when God calls us to do something, even when we feel depleted, we can lean on Him for grace and provision to give to others.