Stand by Me

Family responsibilities also apply to the household of faith.

Ben E. King’s 1961 chart-topping hit “Stand by Me” spoke to hearts all over the world through its expression of vulnerability and homage to loyal friends. As members of the body of Christ, we’re called to be those “loyal friends” who stand by each other in difficult times. Jesus said it’s not just important; it is an essential sign that we belong to Him.

 

Read

To get the most out of this study, read 2 Corinthians 8:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 9:10-15. But first, pray—asking the Holy Spirit to guide you into the truth available in these passages. Give yourself permission to ask questions that may not have answers. Wonder aloud, imagine the scene, and take note of anything that surprises, confuses, or even offends you. Remember, God is the best teacher.

Key Passage: 2 Corinthians 8:1-4

 

Background

We know we should care for the poor, right? Charity to others, no matter who they are, matters to God. But in the epistles, where the apostles lay the groundwork for how to be the church, it’s charity toward our fellow Christians that is especially emphasized.

 

Reflect

Paul is telling the Corinthians about a gesture of great love by the Christians in Macedonia for the believers in Jerusalem. Though poor themselves, the Macedonians gave generously for the needs of the other saints, considering it a privilege to help in this way.

  • Paul uses the words “abundance of joy” and “begging us with much urging” in describing the Macedonians’ wish to support the Jerusalem church in its difficulty. Think of a time when you had feelings like this in connection with helping someone. How would you describe the attitudes in your heart that caused this joy?

  • Helping one another in times of need is a special province of families (1 Timothy 5:8), and in Christ, we are part of God’s family, bound by love and duty. Read 2 Corinthians 8:13-15. Are you offended or pleased by the word “equality” here? Why?

  • The believers in Macedonia, Corinth, and Jerusalem didn’t know each other personally. But the love God instills in us bridges distances and unites us across great divides. Have you ever experienced this? In what ways? If you wanted to stand by your brethren across the globe, how would you go about it?

 

Continuing the Story

Taking care of needs is not the only thing accomplished when Christians stand by one another and share their blessings.

Glorifying God is a heart attitude that continually exalts the Lord through joy, thanksgiving, and service.

  • Caring for other believers results in glory to our heavenly Father. Verses like 1 Corinthians 10:31 show that glorifying God isn’t just a positive by-product of our righteous actions. It’s a heart attitude that continually exalts the Lord through joy, thanksgiving, and service. Think of times in your life when you’ve experienced this. How do you express it?

  • Providing for fellow Christians also causes thanksgiving to God, prayers of blessing for the church, and even more intense love in the body (2 Corinthians 9:12-15). And as Paul recognized, one church’s obedience to the gospel gives another great joy and encouragement. Is there a situation in your own life where faith and love were strengthened through mutual care in the church?

  • The Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were in desperate need. How do you think receiving help from another church was different for them than being helped by local nonbelievers? Try to imagine receiving such help yourself, and how you would feel, both about your reliable brothers and sisters and about God.

  • Verses like 1 Corinthians 6:5-6 make it clear that our Father wants us to keep certain things “in the family.” What might be some reasons that it’s good for the church when we help each other financially?

  • The Corinthian church had promised a monetary gift for the Macedonians, and Paul is writing to make sure that they follow through. Jesus Himself said it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), but sometimes we all need a little push. What helps you when your enthusiasm wanes?

 

Reflect

It’s interesting that Paul uses both pride (2 Corinthians 9:1-2) and shame (2 Corinthians 9:4) in trying to motivate the Corinthians about their offering. But in the end, it’s all about love. Maybe that’s why he finally says simply to “show the proof of your love” (2 Corinthians 8:24).

“Show the proof of your love.”

  • The apostle John told the early church that standing by our fellow Christians in their material need is proof that the love of God lives in our hearts (1 John 3:17-18). What’s more, the epistle of James says that failing to do this shows our faith is dead (1 John 2:15-17). Do these words cheer or alarm you?

  • Second Corinthians 9:12-15 points out that generosity itself is a grace—in other words, it is a gift given to us by God. Looked at this way, a generous heart and opportunities to use it are things to ask for and rejoice in.

 

Go deeper

In the coming weeks, use this section to reconsider the topics raised in the study and how its message applies to your life.

The church today is often concerned about caring for the poor. And no wonder, since to experience new life in Christ is, as Romans 5:5 indicates, to be flooded with love. The Spirit of God gives us hearts of compassion, and His blessings usually increase our ability to help others. What’s more, reaching out in love to meet needs is a great way to reflect God’s character and share the gospel.

The Spirit of God gives us hearts of compassion, and His blessings usually increase our ability to help others.

But the Word of God suggests that it’s a special privilege to provide for the needs of a fellow believer (2 Corinthians 8:4). Our heavenly Father delights in His children, and like any parent, He’s pleased when we care for each other.

  • Reread 2 Corinthians 8:1-4. What explanation can you now see for the “abundance of joy” expressed by the Macedonians about giving to the church in Jerusalem? Note Paul’s phrase “the grace of God which has been given” (2 Corinthians 8:1). Why do you think he’s so clear in explaining to the Corinthians that this brotherly generosity was from God? Do you have any reservations about sharing wealth within the church that are eased by these words?

  • Matthew 25:35-40 is a frequently referenced passage, but one that’s often misapplied. Read those verses, in which Jesus tells His followers that only those who take care of “the least of them” will enter the kingdom. Whom do you think the phrase “brothers of Mine” refers to? (Keep in mind that Hebrews 2:11 says the Lord calls those He has sanctified His brothers.) In what way does Matthew 25:35-36 give new dimension to your understanding of the Macedonians’ joy? How might this passage cause you to revisit your assumptions about helping others?

  • Standing by one another as Christians is more than simply an act of charity. It’s a family-building, church strengthening, God-glorifying celebration.

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

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What happens to my notes

1 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia,

2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.

3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord,

4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints,

10 Now 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;

11 you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.

12 For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.

13 Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all,

14 while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.

15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

13 For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality--

14 at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality;

15 as it is written, HE WHO gathered MUCH DID NOT HAVE TOO MUCH, AND HE WHO gathered LITTLE HAD NO LACK."

31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

12 For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.

13 Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all,

14 while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.

15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren,

6 but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?

35 In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, `It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

1 For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints;

2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the Macedonians, namely, that Achaia has been prepared since last year, and your zeal has stirred up most of them.

4 otherwise if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we--not to speak of you--will be put to shame by this confidence.

24 Therefore openly before the churches, show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you.

17 But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints,

35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;

36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'

37 Then the righteous will answer Him, `Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?

38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?

39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'

40 The King will answer and say to them, `Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'

11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,

35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;

36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'

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