Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant.2 Corinthians 3:5-6
God’s purpose for His people in every age is that we will depend upon Him entirely.
This dependence does not come naturally to us because one of the great idols of every age is that of power. Its allure is strong, its ability to corrupt even stronger. And what’s true now has always been so: those who obtain power are those bold enough to pursue it, and they tend to be marked by characteristics like charisma and strong personalities. This is how many measure strength and usefulness. Tragically, even within the church, leaders have often been given authority and influence because of their magnetism rather than their character and because of their ambition rather than their humility.
Paul was well acquainted with such miscalculations. In fact, he even spent portions of two letters instructing the Corinthian church not to evaluate spiritual leaders by worldly standards. On some occasions, the Corinthians were tempted to align themselves with their favorite orators and to cherish worldly wisdom. On others, Paul had to combat the influence of so-called “super-apostles” whose strength, gifting, and power were observable in a way which the Corinthians found appealing (2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11).
By contrast, Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). He knew that the power of Christ was put on display in his weakness, and he readily confessed that he was not adequate for the work entrusted to him: “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2:16).
We may not be “super-apostles,” but we can relate to the temptation of worldly thinking. We are all prone to rely on ourselves—on our personalities or on our gifts. What we must learn is that spiritual usefulness isn’t found in such things. Instead, it is discovered when we humble ourselves before God, when we acknowledge that we are wholly inadequate. Paul’s confession must be ours: weakness is actually strength. The very nature of the “new covenant,” made by Jesus in His blood and to which we bring nothing but our sin, should be all we need to remind us that we do not have what we need but that He does. God is at work to bring us to that point—to convince us that He alone is adequate. Do we want to grow in boldness? Then we must embrace our weakness before God, and He will lead us to faith-filled boldness before others. Do we want to grow in usefulness? Then we must embrace our inadequacy in private, and God will prove His sufficiency through us.
Have you considered the possibility that one of the greatest barriers to your usefulness in serving God may actually be your own sense of personal adequacy? Be sure to commit time to prayer and ask God to show you whether the delusion of self-sufficiency has seeped into your thinking in one way or another. Ask Him to take it from you, that you may serve in the freedom and joy of inadequacy—and watch Him do the work!