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Dionysius of Alexandria: Persecution and Plunder

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

[Here is the opening of a letter “To Fabian, Bishop of Antioch” from Dionysius of Alexandria. Though undated, scholars locate it in the days of the Decian persecution. In 250, Roman Emperor Decius issued an edict that everyone in the Roman Empire offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods and the well-being of the Emperor or face death. Havoc raged throughout the empire in 250-251. This correspondence gives us a glimpse of what followers of Christ endured in Alexandria.]

“The persecution did not begin amongst us with the Imperial edict; for it anticipated that by a whole year. And the prophet and poet of evil to this city, whoever he was, was beforehand in moving and exciting the heathen crowds against us, rekindling their zeal for the national superstitions. So they being aroused by him and availing themselves of all lawful authority for their unholy doings, conceived that the only piety, the proper worship of their gods was this — to thirst for our blood.

First, then, they carried off an old man, Metras, and bade him utter impious words, and when he refused they beat his body with sticks and stabbed his face and eyes with sharp bulrushes as they led him into the outskirts of the city and there stoned him. Then they led a believer named Quinta to the idol-house and tried to make her kneel down, and, when she turned away in disgust, they bound her by the feet and hauled her right through the city over the rough pavement, the big stones bruising her poor body, and at the same time beat her till they reached the same spot, and there stoned her.

Thereupon they all with one consent made a rush on the houses of the believers, and, falling each upon those whom they recognized as neighbours, plundered, harried and despoiled them, setting aside the more valuable of their possessions and casting out into the streets and burning the cheaper things and such as were made of wood, till they produced the appearance of a city devastated by the enemy. But the brethren gave way and submitted and accepted the plundering of their possessions with joy like unto those of whom Paul also testified. And I know not of any, save possibly a single one who fell into their hands, up till now has denied the Lord.”

Dionysius of Alexandria (d. 264) in “To Fabian, Bishop of Antioch” (c. 250) in St. Dionysius of Alexandria: Letters and Treatises, ed. by Charles Lett Feltoe (London: SPCK, 1918).

Today I have introduced the fifth key early church father from Alexandria (though not in order). Here they are in chronological order: Clement (150-215) came first, followed by Origen (185-254), then came his student, Dionysius (d. 264). Some time later God raised up Athanasius (296-373) and then Cyril (376-444). Of course there were other prominent Christians in this city but the memory of these doctors and theologians stands out based on their written contributions for the larger church and their surviving correspondence.

Again I have chosen the theme “Advent in Alexandria” as I will spend half of Advent there in service to God’s workers there. I am researching along these lines with the aim of learning how these fathers might help us from their writings to prepare us for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So far, I am struck by the fact that all of them endured many difficulties. Some battled against heresy that threatened to destroy the church from within. Others faced fierce persecution from outside. I believe God has led me to mine their writings to inspire us as we encounter varying difficulties. The message is clear: do not lose heart! Their generosity soars to unthinkable levels and stirs our hearts as we see them giving their lives in Christian service.

In the excerpt of the letter of Dionysius posted above, consider the torment that the old man Metras and the believing woman Quinta endured. With the “old man” label, we surmise that Metras was an elder and an influential guy. Likely the mob thought that if they could get him to renounce his faith others would follow. Are you Metras? Though up in years, might your greatest tests of trust in God be yet ahead of you?

And what about Quinta. She is clearly known for her faith, and remains true despite suffering horribly. Are you Quinta? Are you known for your faith and willing to stay true no matter the watching world throws at you?

Notice that their possessions were plundered too. We can only imagine the losses they endured though yet the gains that awaited them in the eternal kingdom are inestimable. What helped them to persevere and to not lose heart? Likely they remembered what that Dionysius (or Origen before him) had undoubtedly taught them about humble obedience and perseverance. Those who are persecuted have the hope of the kingdom as a reward from our generous God! As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 5:10, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Would you be able to endure? Do you count yourself blessed when you suffer? I am learning that suffering drives me to my knees in prayer and dependance on God. Then, over time, I discover that’s the posture for navigating every day and every challenge. So, wherever you are and whatever you face today, remember the hope that we have because of Jesus Christ our Lord, whose coming we await with great anticipation. Take heart in what we have learned this week: that we can give all we have and endure persecution and plunder because Jesus has promised us the kingdom. What gain!

Whenever I face a trial, my daughter Sophie sweetly reminds me, “You got this, Dad, because God’s got you.” I can think of no more generous gift that we can give those who are enduring hard times than to encourage them lovingly to not lose heart. Before the great cloud of witnesses, Metras and Quinta shined like lights for Christ and their legacy lives on to this day. What will you do when your moment comes? Come alongside anyone you know who is suffering. Give them the generous gift of love and encouragement, and remind them, “You got this because God’s got you.”

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Cyril of Alexandria: Difficult to put into practice

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:27-31

All perfection is in Christ, and His precepts. “For to him that striketh thee. He saith, on the cheek, offer also the other.” In this there is pointed out to us the pathway to the highest degree of patience. But He wills besides, that we pay no regard to riches; so that even if a man have but one outer garment, he must not count it a thing unendurable to put off with it also his undergarment, if it so befall. But this is a virtue possible only for a mind entirely turned away from covetousness: for “do not,” He says, “ask back whatever any one taketh away that is thine: but even give to every one that asketh of thee:” a proof indeed of love and willingness to be poor; and the compassionate man must necessarily also be ready to forgive, so as to show friendly acts even to his enemies.

It was probable however that the holy apostles would perchance think these things difficult to put into practice: He therefore Who knoweth all things takes the natural law of self-love as the arbiter of what any one would wish to obtain from another. “Show thyself,” He says, “to others such as thou wishest them to be towards thee.” If thou wouldest have them harsh and unfeeling, fierce and wrathful, revengeful and ill-disposed, show thyself also such: but if on the contrary thou wouldst have them kind and forgiving, do not think it a thing intolerable to be thyself so. And in the case of those so disposed, the law is perchance unnecessary, because God writes upon our hearts the knowledge of His will: “for in those days,” saith the Lord, “I will surely give My laws into their mind, and will write them on their heart.”

Cyril of Alexandria (376-444) in Commentary on St. Luke, Sermon XXIX (From the Syriac. MS.12,154) 113.

Cyril is widely known as a “pillar of faith” for his influence as the patriarch of Alexandria in a time when the church experienced Christological controversies. He would receive the label “doctor of the church” for his prolific writing. We have some of his commentaries on books of the Bible that give us a glimpse into the preaching and teaching of the early church.

When we work through challenging texts in the Gospels at the feet of Cyril, notice his tone and wisdom on how we should relate to money: “But He wills besides, that we pay no regard to riches.” From there he adds: “But this is a virtue possible only for a mind entirely turned away from covetousness.” Keen communicators help people discern sins that can lead us astray.

From there he reminds us that we must be willing to let go of everything and even do friendly acts to enemies. Since Cyril had real enemies, he’s teaching the good and right way from experience. Then, in case we think he’s crazy, he says: “It was probable however that the holy apostles would perchance think these things difficult to put into practice.” What a perfect way to put it!

Then Cyril reveals to us the brilliance of the command of Jesus in how it points to self-love. In plain terms, Jesus tells us to do ourselves a favor. Be kind, generous, and forgiving to everyone because that’s how want like to be treated! In the end, we become merciful and generous like our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus, as we wait for Your coming, help us treat others whether they are friends or enemies with the kindness, generosity, and forgiveness that we want them to extend to us. While this may be difficult to put into practice, help us remember the kindness, generosity, and forgiveness that you have so graciously and mercifully shown to us. Amen.

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Clement of Alexandria: True Luxury

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19

“God brought our race into communion by first imparting what was His own, when He gave His own Word, common to all, and made all things for all. All things therefore are common, and not for the rich to appropriate an undue share. That expression, therefore, “I possess, and possess in abundance: why then should I not enjoy?” is suitable neither to the man, nor to society. But more worthy of love is that: “I have: why should I not give to those who need?” For such an one — one who fulfills the command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” — is perfect. For this is the true luxury — the treasured wealth. But that which is squandered on foolish lusts is to be reckoned waste, not expenditure. For God has given to us, I know well, the liberty of use, but only so far as necessary; and He has determined that the use should be common. And it is monstrous for one to live in luxury, while many are in want. How much more glorious is it to do good to many, than to live sumptuously! How much wiser to spend money on human being, than on jewels and gold! How much more useful to acquire decorous friends, than lifeless ornaments! Whom have lands ever benefited so much as conferring favours has? It remains for us, therefore, to do away with this allegation: Who, then, will have the more sumptuous things, if all select the simpler? Men, I would say, if they make use of them impartially and indifferently. But if it be impossible for all to exercise self-restraint, yet, with a view to the use of what is necessary, we must seek after what can be most readily procured, bidding a long farewell to these superfluities.”

Clement of Alexandria (150-215) in Paedagogus (The Instructor) 2.13.

In Paedagogus, Clement sets forth a distinctly Christian ethic. For him, the real instructor of life is the incarnate Logos (Word), that is, Jesus, from whom we learn how to live. Notice how he confronts cultural narratives like “I possess, and possess in abundance: why then should I not enjoy?” which is to rationalize in modern terms, “I earned this wealth, it’s mine, why should I not enjoy it.”

Three expressions stood out to me as I read him. Firstly, notice the profound truth that “[God] gave His own Word, common to all, and made all things for all.” Sit in the reality of that. God made air for all of us to breath. He made water for all of us to drink. And what do we do with creation? We wrongly try claim aspects of it as our own. The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it!

Secondly, his comment that the true luxury is not merely enjoyment, but rather having and sharing: “I have: why should I not give to those who need?” With this statement he demonstrates obedience to the command of today’s Scripture to enjoy and share God’s abundant provision rather than squander it on foolish lusts. Remember this when you are thinking about Christmas shopping.

Thirdly, let us join him with this perspective: “How much more useful to acquire decorous friends, than lifeless ornaments!” The early church fathers proclaim in unison to spend money on people rather than possessions. So friends, this Christmas, let us show self-restraint and focus not on accumulating more sumptuous things and consider whom we may bless richly in the name of Jesus.

Soon we will celebrate at Christmas that the Word has become flesh and made His dwelling among us. He not only came to make the way for us to have life but to have it abundantly. To grasp this, we must resolve to live in a distinctly Christian manner in every generation. God, give us keen minds to identify the false cultural narratives and live in a way that reflects your truth to the world.

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Origen of Alexandria: Universally

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. Matthew 6:1-2

“If you give alms to men with thought of being charitable before men, and if you desire to be honored because of our generosity, we receive only the reward from men. If fact, universally, everything that is done by someone who is conscious that he will be glorified by men has no reward from Him who beholds in secret. For He renders the reward in secret to those who are pure.”

Origen of Alexandria (c. 185-254) 9.444, in A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, ed. David W. Bercot (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1998) 10.

Origen is known widely as the “father of Christian theology” because of the role he played in a tumultuous time in the early church. Christians faced persecution from Rome and attacks from heretics. He is most widely known for his philosophical work, First Principles, which set forth doctrines like the Trinity, and his thoughtful response to pagan attacks in Against Celsus. God worked through him to help people think clearly in crisis.

“Universally” we need to think rightly about the glory side of generosity. In the ancient Mediterranean world, “love of honor” (Greek: philotimia) was a cherished value. The cultural patterns prescribed that people should give glory and exalt people who do good. The thinking prevails today, perhaps just with different forms pomp than we find in antiquity. For example, we don’t see many trumpets in streets, but we do hear a lot of horn-tooting.

Considering the context, which was both self-absorbed and antagonistic to Christianity, his universal counsel could not be more relevant for us today. The world may be watching what we do, because our generosity should be other-worldly, but our focus must not be on what they think of us or any praise they give us, but on God’s glory alone. Origen’s desire for followers of Christ and mine today is that we live for the praise of God and focus only on what He thinks of us in secret.

Jesus, cleanse us of impure motives related to our living, giving, serving, and loving this Advent as we wait for Your coming.

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Clement of Alexandria: Don’t judge who is worthy or unworthy? Give mercifully!

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Luke 6:30

“How then does man give these things? For I will give not only to friends, but to the friends of friends. And who is it that is the friend of God? Do not judge who is worthy or who is unworthy. For it is possible you may be mistaken in your opinion. As in the uncertainty of ignorance it is better to do good to the undeserving for the sake of the deserving, than by guarding against those that are less good to fail to meet in with the good. For though sparing, and aiming at testing, who will receive meritoriously or not, it is possible for you to neglect some that are loved by God.”

Clement of Alexandria (150-215) in Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? XXXIII. Translated by William Wilson, from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2., edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.

Clement was a Christian theologian who taught at the Catechetical School of Alexandria. His three major surviving works are Protrepticus (Exhortation) which exhorted pagans to adopt Christianity, Paedagogus (Tutor) which presents Christ as our Teacher and calls people to respond authentically and personally to the love of God, and Stromata (Miscellanies) which, as it sounds, contains miscellaneous teachings.

In Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? Clement grapples with the hard teachings of Jesus directed to the rich. As this treatise relates directly to generosity, we will explore a number of statements from this classic work this Advent.

In this post, Clement addresses the striking statement in today’s Scripture reading and urges listeners to obey because we should not judge lest we be mistaken but to be generous to all. Think about the implications of this as we await the coming of our Lord during Advent. Were any of us worthy of the salvation accomplished through the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Of course not. In the world givers judge who is worthy and unworthy. We must adopt higher thinking. I am praying this Advent that God’s people will unleash rich generosity following the instructions of Jesus and not anyone’s claims of merit. While Clement calls us to do good even to the undeserving, notice where he gets this idea, the verses that follow today’s text.

Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:31-36

Don’t judge who is worthy or unworthy? Give mercifully!

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Athanasius of Alexandria: A welcome in the land of the humble

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:32-34

“When we die we will leave [temporal riches] behind to those we do not want to have them. Why then wouldn’t we give them up for righteousness’ sake in order to inherit a kingdom? Don’t let the desire to possess things take hold of you. For what do we gain by acquiring things we cannot take with us? Why not get the things we can take with us instead — namely wisdom, justice, self-control, courage, understanding, love, kindness to the poor, faith in Christ, freedom from wrath, and hospitality? If we possess these things, they will prepare a welcome for us in the land of the humble.”

Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373) in Life of Anthony, 17, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, second series, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980) 200-201.

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent. My theme will be “Advent in Alexandria” as I will spend 12 of the 24 days of Advent in Egypt and post meditations from saints from this key city in the days of the early church.

Athanasius was one of the four doctors of the Eastern Church. He got that title for significant contributions in theology and doctrine in his teaching and writing. He was prolific and influential in combating heresy. This guy was the model of perseverance and endurance in suffering. He was exiled five times by order of four different Roman Emperors and served as bishop for some 45 years, from 328-373.

Why start with this quote from him? Advent is about preparing for Christ’s coming. We prepare by following His explicit instructions, and regarding possessions He said to share them with those in need. Don’t let “the desire to possess” stop you. Remember, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid.” Store them securely as a welcome in “the land of the humble” as instructed. With whom will you share this Advent in preparation for His coming?

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James Bryan Smith: Abundance and Compassion

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him! Isaiah 30:18

“Generosity happens when a person is living from a condition of abundance or when a person is moved by the needs of others. If I have three hundred tomatoes, it is easy for me to give dozens away. I have more than I need. I am giving out of my surplus… But I can also be generous even when I have a little. I may have only one tomato, but if I see a poor woman who has none, I may very well be moved to give my last tomato to her. Generosity then flows either from a sense of abundance or a feeling of compassion. God is moved by both. God is generous because He lives in a condition of abundance — His provisions can never be exhausted — and God is moved with compassion because He sees our need.

Love and forgiveness, acceptance and kindness, are not commodities that diminish in their giving. When we offer forgiveness we do not have less of it, nor do we diminish in our capacity to forgive each time we forgive. So why do we so seldom live generously. We live from a condition of scarcity. We never got enough love from our parents, enough toys on our birthday and enough affirmation from those who know us. Our checking account is limited, and often our money is spent before we earn it. Living from a condition of scarcity, we learn that we must protect what we have. If we give it away, we might end up in dire straits… Our God, however, is constantly generous. Everything we have is a gift…the unearned provision of a lavish and loving God. We do not deserve anything we have been given. We have earned nothing. Yet God continues to give.”

James Bryan Smith in The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows (Downers Grove: IVP, 2009) 84-85. Tomorrow I will start a meditations series called “Advent in Alexandria” as I will spend half of Advent serving in Egypt.

On the eve of Advent, in order to prepare ourselves, let’s resolve together to shed any elements of scarcity thinking in our minds. Instead, let us determine to be people who wait on God and trust in His abundant provision and are ready to extend compassion.

To renew our minds, let’s revel in His matchless love. We do this so our hearts are full of gratitude and compassion and so we have eyes to see and hands to serve with justice and righteousness. Cleanse our minds and hearts while we wait for you, Jesus.

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Dallas Willard: His incarnation model

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Romans 12:16

“So, the main cause of uneasiness in the hearts of many well-provided Christians today is that inadequate vision of the Kingdom of God that prevails in Christian circles and that produces anemic faith. But once, through adequate preaching and teaching, we vividly understand our relationship with the poor we will find there is much to be done and our anemic faith gets a healthy transfusion. Opportunities to serve people of impoverished and weakened conditions will come to us every day. The cup of cold water we’ll have always ready, for our vision of the Kingdom realities will make us much more sensitive to occasions to help and give. It may also lead us to make a point of discovering need, rather than always waiting for it to be thrust upon us… Remember, Jesus did not send help. He came among us. He was victorious under our conditions of existence. That makes all the difference. We continue on his incarnation model when we follow the apostle’s command to “associate with people of low position” by unassumingly walking with them in the path of their daily affairs, not just on special occasions created because of their need.”

Dallas Willard in The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (New YorkL HarperCollins, 1988) 212-213.

As we draw near to Advent we start to envision a Messiah that comes to the poor. As Willard put it, “Jesus did not send help. He came among us.” Advent is the time we prepare for His coming. It begins on Sunday. We also realize our role to humble ourselves and to go to those who are in need. How will you do that this Advent and in the new year?

I must testify how an unnamed friend helped me yesterday. We had lunch and near the end he asked if I had any needs. I spoke of computer troubles. On the spot, he said, “Let’s go get you a computer.” I was stunned. We walked to the Apple store and he bought me a new computer. The best part, he said, “Don’t thank me, thank God.” See my post on Facebook.

This Advent the Lord has led me to go to Egypt to serve brothers and sisters there from 11-23 December 2018. God supplied an airline ticket, food, and lodging. Since I will spend about half of Advent there, the theme of my meditations this Advent will be: “Advent in Alexandria.” I will introduce you to early church fathers that God stationed there.

Where will you go this Advent? I urge you this Advent to “make a point of discovering need, rather than always waiting for it to be thrust upon us.” I will never forget how my friend helped meet my need. Let us leave our comfort zones, discern needs, and associate with people in need and serve them generously following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ who did precisely that for us.

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Richard J. Foster: Asking and Authentic Dialogue

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24

“Do you know why the mighty God of the universe chooses to answer prayer? It is because His children ask. God delights in our asking. He is pleased at our asking. His heart is warmed by our asking. When our asking is for ourselves it is called petition; when it is on behalf of others it is called intercession. Asking is at the heart of both experiences…

God desires authentic dialogue, and that as we speak what is on our hearts, we are sharing real information that God is deeply interested in… Just as we long for our own children to share with us the petty details of their day at school, so God longs to hear from us the smallest matters of our lives. It delights Him when we share.”

Richard J. Foster in Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (New York: HarperCollins, 1992) 179-181.

It seems like the older I get the more I pray. In reading a chapter on petition and in Foster’s classic work on prayer, I was reminded of the generosity of God related to our asking and how He welcomes authentic dialogue.

When we need anything, big or small, God wants us to ask and wait patiently. That’s petition. When others are in need, we get to lift them up to the Father. That’s intercession. We get to engage in both and there is no limit to what we can request.

The irony is that our Heavenly Father knows what we need before we ask but wants the conversation with us. I can relate as I age as a father. The older I get, the more I cherish conversations with my grown son and daughter. Authentic dialogue is rich.

So what’s the lesson for us today related to generosity? Tell the Father what you need: wisdom for life’s challenges, provision for each day, strength for a task, relief from pain or suffering, or anything else. No request is too big or small.

Also, Jesus said to keep it simple and real (Matthew 6:7-8). Engage in authentic dialogue on big and small matters. That means share your joys, sorrows, frustrations, and exasperations. And, rest in the generosity of the God who longs to hear from us and care for us.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Give thanks daily for little things

Whoever is faithful with very little will also be faithful with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. Luke 16:10

“Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious. We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary we only keep complaining to God that everything is paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for all of us in Jesus Christ.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) in Life Together (New York: Harper & Row, 1954) 29.

Years ago I posted part of this quote as a meditation. I returned to it because Bonhoeffer came to mind and the full thought ministered to my soul. I pray it blesses you as well.

I find myself waiting on God for provision for big things, and yet that has distracted me from the little things He has already provided. Perhaps at times you have become similarly distracted? What can we do to maintain our focus?

Bonhoeffer points the way. We must give thanks daily for the little things. It’s how we got to the point we are at, but our gaze goes to the great things we can imagine rather than to the step-by-step journey that got us here.

So as you think about your generosity journey, don’t imagine all the things you will do for God if and when He supplies. Do great things for God with whatever He has supplied and He will continue to resource you.

That has been my experience, and hopefully yours as well. This is yet another one of those paradoxical components of the Christian faith that we only figure out as we live it out. Let us give thanks daily for the little things.

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