"In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity." - 2 Corinthians 8:2
Dave Williamson shared in our staff chapel yesterday an interesting conversation he had with some Haitians on his recent mission trip last week. They didn't understand when he used the word "productive." While they have a word for produce, productive was a new one. The discussion got Dave to thinking about how important being productive is in our world, and yet a mission trip is a good time to remember that the most important work in our lives is what God produces in us-not what we produce.
That's often the case. When we go to serve, whether in another country or across the street, we often find that while we go intending to do something for others, we are the ones who receive. In his book, Waking to God's Dream, Dick Wills talks about taking a mission trip to South Africa that changed his life. He was pastor of a very affluent, largely white United Methodist congregation in Fort Lauderdale. What struck him on this trip was first the abject poverty everywhere he went-at least compared to the conveniences of his life in south Florida. But even more, he was amazed by the level of joy he experienced in people. Smiles and laughter everywhere he went.
He came away wondering what was missing "back home." We live with benefits more than 90% of the world does not have, yet he never experienced the level of joy he found in the remote places in Africa he visited.
I think about these things as we dig into this series on joy in the book of Philippians. Paul wrote this letter while in prison. He "rejoices" amidst harsh circumstances with his own life hanging in the balance. I suppose it comes back to what we believe about joy. Do we look to share joy or find joy in life? Do we believe joy is something we already have, and we experience it when we seek ways to share joy to others?
Could it be like the painting the tycoon William Randolph Hearst wanted? The story has it that he saw a portrait he had to have. He hired a private investigator to search for it. Weeks later the investigator returned with "good news and bad news." The good news was he found the painting. The bad news was Hearst already owned it. The portrait was in his private storage!
In second Corinthians Paul brags on the Macedonians. They were poor, but full of joy. They wanted to contribute to help widows in Jerusalem. Paul says in the midst of severe trial their overflowing joy AND poverty teamed up to produce generosity. Whatever else defines our condition, with joy good things can be produced.
See you Sunday!