Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (II Corinthians 3:4-6)
Throughout my 35 plus years of ministry, I have experienced “success.” My first pastorate was in a small church in a small town. Yet God did a new work there during my ministry among those special people. I recently preached at the church and the love the people have for me after all these years amazed me. I saw people who told me how God used me to minister to them. A similar thing happened in my second pastorate in a middle size church in a little larger town. I had the opportunity to go back last year and preach. I again was amazed at the love the people still have for me.
And then in my last pastorate, it was truly remarkable what happened — growth from a middle size church to a mega-church, several successful building projects, expansion of ministries, development of a continuing care retirement community, a growing sports ministry, a Christian school, a music and arts academy and a foundation to name a few. I have every reason to be filled with pride. You see, I have been a “successful” pastor.
To be honest, there have been times when I believed this. I would walk around our campus and think, “Look what I have done.” When any of us do this, God will humble us. You see the truth is — I didn’t do anything. I was simply an instrument used by God to accomplish His will in the pastorates I have served. Never take credit for any success you have in life! As I said, God will humble us. I know this from experience. His hand has been heavy on me several times. The problem with pastors and really anyone is that we start believing all the nice things people say about us. We take the credit and easily forget that it is God who gives us the ability, competence, and opportunities to accomplish these things. God sternly warned the Israelites:
Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His rules and His statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and ware full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God…Beware lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.” You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may confirm His covenant that He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 8:11-14,17-18)
Our problem, not unlike that of the Israelites, is pride. We take the credit. We think we are sufficient and competent in and of ourselves. Not so! Our sufficiency is from God who makes us competent to fulfill His calling in our lives.
Christ alone is our sufficiency. His death and resurrection alone are sufficient to enable our salvation. His Word alone is sufficient to be our only rule for faith and practice. His Spirit alone is sufficient to grant us gifts and abilities. We have nothing in which to boast but Jesus Himself.
He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 1:30-31)
Who is sufficient to have the power to forgive, comfort and love someone who offends us? Who is sufficient for ministry to God’s people? Who is sufficient to have fulfilled marriages and to raise children to love and serve God? Who is sufficient to have a successful job or ministry? None of us is. Jesus alone is our sufficiency. And He will give us all we need to live our lives to His glory.
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