Sufficient in Christ
Do you ever feel an overwhelming sense of incompetence?
I don’t know about you, but I have times when I feel totally incompetent in my service to God. True, I am able to serve God in many wonderful ways; yet, I have great concern that my service is all about “doing stuff.” I know that my desire is to serve God and to be His faithful servant. But that doesn’t stop me from wondering if my motives are pure.
This past week was one of those weeks when I found myself wondering if I was really doing what God wants me to do. Am I following God or am I working in my own power? Do I really trust God for the results? What does God want or expect from me?
These are the sorts of questions that have been popping up in my thinking. Perhaps you have similar notions. If you do as I do then we can be assured that we are not alone. The Apostle Paul had similar thoughts. Consider the following passages:
I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:21–24)
Paul learned from his experience…in this passage he recognized a principle at work in his life. The principle is the reality of evil in the individual whenever he wants to do that which is good. Paul’s delight was doing what was good in the sight of God (see Psalm 1:2; 119: 16, 24, 47). Even though Paul was regenerate and had the capacity for loving spiritual truths Paul recognized the facts of experience; he recognized “another law in [his] members.” This is the principle of sin, i.e. the sin nature. The sin nature always does two things:
- It makes war against the law of the believer’s mind
- It makes him a prisoner of the law of sin at work within his members
A believer can identify fully with Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection; in fact, he can guard himself so that all of his efforts in life are based on Christ-honoring attitudes and actions, but he cannot in his own power resist his indwelling sin nature. In and of himself Paul repeatedly experienced defeat and frustration. Paul’s ultimate response was to cry out, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
The answer to Paul’s dilemma is found in Rom 7:25, “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” Any triumph we experience is only because of our identification with Jesus, the Christ. Only when we identify with the death and resurrection of Christ can we ever have assurance that what we do will be to the glory of God.
Paul could have taken all the credit for the life that sprouted in the life of the Corinthian Church, but he didn’t. Paul’s confidence was not in the human actions, but rather in divine actions.
And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:4–6)
Paul could be confident in the Corinthians because the Holy Spirit had worked in them; it was not because of his activities in the church. This is important because above all we must trust in God for the results of our work. We must identify with Christ and then become ministers of Christ’s new covenant. Only then will we know that we are sufficient as bond servants of Christ. Only then can we stop trying to do the ministry in our own power and rely on the power of Christ.
How do I cope with these feelings of insufficiency?
I find that I often feel insufficient in my service to God. There are two disciplines I go through to work through the issues. I first recognize who I am in Christ and then I trust God to accomplish His purpose through me.
- Identify with Christ
The first thing we must do in our lives is to make sure we understand who we are in Christ. I am so thankful for the Freedom in Christ Ministries of Neal Anderson. Every few months, I review the list of “Who I Am in Christ” as presented by Dr. Anderson.
I am the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13)
I am the light of the world (Matt. 5:14)
I am a child of God (John 1:12)
I am part of the true vine, a channel of Christ’s life (John 15:1, 5)
I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)
I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit (John 15:16)
I am a slave of righteousness (Romans 6:18)
I am enslaved to God (Romans 6:22)
I am a son of God; God is spiritually my Father (Rom. 8:14, 5; Gal. 3:26, 4:6)
I am a joint heir with Christ, sharing His inheritance with Him (Rom. 8:17)
I am a temple—a dwelling place—of God. His Spirit and His life dwell in me (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19)
I am united to the Lord and am one spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17)
I am a member of Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 5:30)
I am a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17)
I am reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18, 19)
I am a son of God and one in Christ (Gal. 3:26, 28)
I am an heir of God since I am a son of God (Gal. 4:6, 7)
I am a saint (Eph. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:2; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2)
I am God’s workmanship—His handiwork—born anew in Christ to do His work (Eph 2:10)
This is an incredible list of what we have in Christ. Few of us live our lives in full realization of all of these, so it is a good discipline to go over the list frequently so we can REMEMBER who we are in Christ. After all, it is not about us; it is about Jesus. It is about our relationship with God that was made possible by the sacrificial work of the Christ on the Cross.
Rely on God and not my own abilities
It is our job to do what God asks us to do. Then He is responsible for the results, not us. Far too often we do ministry for our glory and not to bring glory to God. For that reason we are our ministries may look successful in the eyes of men, but they will not find a reward at the judgment seat of Christ. There’s an old saying that we should “pray as if everything depends on God and then work as if everything depends on you.” This proverb has been attributed to Ignatius (though there’s no evidence that he said it), and many think it captures the Ignatian spirit: turning it all over to God in prayer and then working tirelessly and urgently to do God’s work.
- Our prayer: make certain we trust in God for any all aspects of the ministry and understand that He is responsible for the results. Our pray must recognize that we are bond servants of God and that we can do nothing in our strength. Certainly, we cannot add to what God can accomplish. The ministry is not about us and what we can accomplish. We need to stop taking glory from God by claiming that we accomplish the work of the ministry. This is what Moses did that displeased God to the point of barring Moses from entering the Promised Land. God was going to provide water to nation and He commanded Moses to “speak to the rock” and water will spring from the rock. Instead, Moses stole the glory from God. “And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.” (Numbers 20:10–11). His sin was that God told him to merely speak to the rock, but Moses said, “Must we bring water…” If Moses intended to give glory to God for this action, he would have said, “Must God bring water…” We are far too eager to take credit for the work of God. When we do that we are attributing to ourselves the glory which is due to God. God will not bless such ministries, so we must be certain we always, through prayer, ask God to work through us and then to give Him the glory (again through prayer) for the results. Thus, we must pray as if everything depends on God, because it does.
- Our work: we must work with all of our strength to accomplish the tasks for which God has equipped us to do. We are reminded in Eph 2:10 that we “…are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Since God has commissioned us to do His handiwork, we must do so with all of our being. God has uniquely gifted each of us to participate in the ministry. Thus, we are to work as if everything depends on us, because it does.
Are you praying for you place in ministry and then giving God the glory for the accomplishments?
Are you working with all of your heart, soul, and mind so that God can be glorified from the results?
If you are, then you need not be concerned about your sufficiency…you will be sufficient because God will make you sufficient.