“And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” (2 Corinthians 3:4–6, KJV)
Have you ever felt overwhelmed with a task? I know I have. When I was working in field engineering for a German company that made printing presses, I would often be called at all hours to service their equipment. It would go something like this. I would get a phone call sometime at the end of the day from one of our customers. Their printing press was down and that needed someone immediately. I was the only one in the United States available. So, I would schedule a red-eye special for the next morning, wake up at 4:00am and get a plane to wherever the machine was located. All this was the easy part.
When I got to the press, in many cases I had to work on a subassembly that I never saw before, about which I knew very little. However, the plant felt that I was the expert and should be able to get things going immediately. Well, this meant that I was under a ton of pressure. So, I would pull all the documentation, study it, and even then, often discovered that the documentation was insufficient. I would then call the supplier of the subassemblies. Well, I praise the Lord that by some miracle of His grace, I was able to take care of every issue. Sometimes it would take some time, but eventually I was able to figure out what was wrong and remedy the problem.
That is in the secular arena. Let me just say, that I often went into the factories feeling insufficient to do the work. Yet, I discovered that I could always get phone help and somehow negotiate the problem.
Later in life, when I entered the pastoral ministry, I ran into the same thing. Though I did not realize it until sometime later. I started into the pastorate with a feeling of being sufficient. However, sometime later, came to a conclusion that I was truly insufficient to the task. Yet, it was when I realized my insufficiency that I realized my sufficiency. Does this sound like I am speaking in circles? Let me explain.
I hear a story of a young pastor who preached his first sermon. He used all the seminary skills he learned in preparing the sermon. He had received outstanding grades in Homiletics while in the seminary. He entered the pulpit feeling fully sufficient for the task at hand. But then, after preaching, he stepped down from the pulpit feeling completely insufficient, as if he had failed. A wise man spoke to him after the service. Here is what he told the young preacher. “Young man, if you had stepped into the pulpit feeling the way you left it, you would have left it feeling the way you entered it.
There is a very important truth that Paul presented to the church at Corinth. It is one that every servant of the Lord must get. There sufficiency to do works of ministry is not found in human effort. Our sufficiency is of God and not of ourselves. It is the power of His Spirit working in us and through us that is sufficient to such a task. We all are servants of the Most High. Unfortunately, we often think too highly of our selves. What is needed is godly humility, realizing that we are weak but He is strong. Let us humble ourselves under His mighty hand and do the work with complete dependence on Him. It is then when we will see a mighty movement of His Spirit accomplishing great things for His glory.