By Andrea Lennon

Daily we have the opportunity to recognize and meet the needs of others. This process requires us to be intentional in the way that we live. We have to purposefully slow down. It is important to note that getting involved in the lives of others requires time, energy, and resources. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, the Apostle Paul encouraged the believers in Corinth to live generous lives. Paul used the Macedonian churches as models in giving. 2 Corinthians 8:5 records the formula for recognizing and meeting the needs of others. "They (the Macedonians) gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us." (New International Version) Let's examine this verse and see what we can learn.
"They gave themselves first of all to the Lordâ¦" Have you ever wondered what it looks like to give yourself to the Lord? For those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, we understand the first important step of giving our lives to Jesus. But what does it look like to give our lives to Jesus each day? 2 Corinthians 8:5 answers this all important question. The word Lord that is used in verse five carries the meaning of ownership. When we give ourselves to the Lord we give ownership of our daily lives to Jesus. This means that our time, resources, and talents belong to Him, not us.
"â¦and then by the will of God also to us." Giving ownership of our lives to Jesus leads us to discovering God's will. Discerning God's will requires daily communication with the Lord. Good communication involves two components-- talking and listening. We talk to the Lord when we present our praises, confessions, questions, needs and struggles to Him. Pouring out our heart to Jesus always leads to a deep sense of peace and helps us to clear our mind of the busyness going on around us so that we can sense the move of God and respond in faith.
When we are in the daily habit of talking to God, we find it easier to listen to Him. Listening to God is hard. We have to learn how to hear His voice. Too bad listening is not as simple as receiving a text message, a phone call, or a handwritten note. Then again, we would have little need for faith if listening came in such tangible forms.
Listening to the Lord involves discerning God's direction for our life. Listening is the ability to know when to move and when to remain. In the context of recognizing and meeting the needs of others, we can know that God willingly directs our lives based on His plan in the midst of each situation that we face. Do not miss this point as written in 2 Corinthians 8. Once the Macedonians gave ownership of their lives to Jesus, they were able to know the will of God in regards to their level of involvement in the life and ministry of Paul.
The bottom line question is this: How do we know God's will in regards to recognizing and meeting the needs of others? God willingly speaks to us in at least three ways. First and foremost God speaks to us through His Word, the Bible. The Bible is not just a book. The Bible is God's living and active Word. As we read and study God's Word we are equipped for life. The more we interact with the Bible the more we learn how to hear God's voice and respond to His call.
Second, God speaks through the circumstances of life. God uses every day occurrences to lead us including hardships and triumphs as well as victories and defeats. Through life experiences we learn how to be sensitive to the needs of the people around us.
Third, God uses the encouragement of others to help us know how to live a life of faith. Have you ever noticed that other people can see strengths in you that you cannot see in yourself? I know from experience that God uses the encouragement of others to challenge me to step out in faith even when I think the step is impossible to take.
Today give ownership of your life to Jesus. Take time each day to read the Bible. Examine your life and see how God has worked through your circumstances. Finally, listen to the input of others. As you take these important steps, God will show you how to recognize and meet the needs of others.