2 Corinthians 9:7-8
Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver.
These words stand in the heart of a chapter which is almost entirely occupied with instructions about giving. It is a habit of our apostle, in the discussion of a particular subject, to lift himself up suddenly to a higher level, where he can grasp some more general principle and command a wider outlook. The language of the verse is like that of Ephesians 3:20.
I. "GOD IS ABLE" — a very simple proposition. A self-evident one to those who really believe in God. Is not the opinion of many something like this? — "God is not able to do much specifically. Granting His personal existence, He can only act along the line of the laws, and in conformity with the great forces of the universe." "God is able" is our answer to this. Whatever He has done, He can do again. Is He not the Creator still, every day? Every morning He says, "Let there be light." Every year He says, "Let the earth bring forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind."
II. THEN SURELY HE IS ABLE TO RULE THE WORLD HE HAS CREATED, AND STILL CREATES. He is the Lord of Creation, and not its servant. The "laws" of the world are but the methods of God. Nature is God's way of acting to-day. If He acts differently to-morrow, that will be nature too. It will be another nature, another method of God made known. He can act behind all the points that are visible to us, and without altering the "order of nature" He can produce what change He desires.
III. WE MAY THEREFORE ASK HIM TO GIVE US WHAT WE THINK WOULD BE GOOD FOR US. There are limits to prayer as to everything else. Every one is bound to say with the Master Himself — "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt." Still there is room for prayer.
1. Take, e.g., "Give us this day our daily bread." That scarcely any would object to. Even sceptical people wish to be fed. Even the richest of men need bread. But that simple prayer is an appeal to the all-ability of God; and if answered, as it is continually, involves supernatural considerations.
2. We pray to God also about the weather. But there are some who are almost afraid to pray about it. The feeling is: "We had better to leave it; God knows best what to do. We are under physical laws. If we pray at all, let it be for the spirit of submission to them." This shadowy phantom that men call law, which is nothing but the present amount of their own knowledge of God's methods of action, disappears for a while when the great Presence is realised, and then it comes stalking in again and makes for the throne, and its worshippers stand around with formula and definition, with records of discoveries, with catalogues of sciences and arts, and say, "Law is king."
3. Thus we reach the solemn dread issue — "God or no God!" For if I may not ask my daily bread from God, if I may not tell Him what I wish about the weather, then what may I speak to Him about? "About spiritual blessings"; but are they not also given according to law? If God is bound to act invariably in the material sphere, He is equally bound to act invariably in the spiritual sphere; and if we may not pray to Him in the one, we may not pray to Him in the other. It is God or no God.
IV. PRAYER SPRINGS FROM THIS FAITH THAT "GOD IS ABLE." For what is prayer? "Our Father which art in heaven" is the answer. Prayer is the child speaking to the Father — asking anything that seems good and needful.
1. Prayer is asking. It is not dictation. If it were, it would be liable to the objections urged against it.
2. Answers come in many ways. They sometimes come by denial of the particular request, in order that a greater blessing may be given.
3. Do you say, "I am not so much concerned about the outward things of this life, but I am borne down by a sense of guilt: I see no way of escape, for it is written, "As a man soweth, so shall he also reap'"? I answer, "God is able to forgive."
4. Do you say, "My nature seems strengthless. I can wish, but I can do nothing"? I answer, "God is able" to make you all that He designs man to be.
5. Or do you say, "I hope I am forgiven, and yet I am in fear. The heart is deceitful, temptation is strong. What if after all I should make shipwreck of faith"? My answer is, "God is able" to guide you safely through.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.