I know some of you are like me and launching into uncharted territory of ministry this year. Maybe it’s leading a small group or even teaching for the first time. Maybe you are taking some neighbors or friends through a study. Personally I am teaching with two really amazing and strong women. I am so excited, but I am also terrified. What if I mess it up? What if I don’t meet the expectations? What if I become the weak link? Will I be good enough? Will anyone care about what I say? Should I just go back to bed and never leave my house?
At the core of all these questions is “Am I sufficient?” So for all of us wrestling with these nagging questions, I want to encourage you to take them to the Lord and let His Spirit answer those questions for you. I also wanted to share a passage of scripture that I cling to when I’m tempted to run and hide….II Cornithians 2 and 3.
“But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession…” I am truly grateful to have a God who leads me. He isn’t leading me into doom and destruction. He is leading me into a battle where He has already secured the victory. We will be triumphant!
“…through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge to him everywhere.” Through me! I’m his chosen air freshener, his chosen scented candle to spread the knowledge of him everywhere he puts me.
“For we are the aroma of Christ [which exhales] to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing…” Here we discover that we are the aroma of Christ to two different groups of people. It’s interesting that the same fragrance can be pleasant to some and repugnant to others. During pregnancy, the smell of tuna fish in a can made me want to hurl. But to my husband it was the smell of a good lunch. I also love the picture of the aroma being breathed out from Christ and going to God. It rests and floats where the wind carries it.
“to one as a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” Now this is where it gets serious. To some, I smell like death. The gospel I preach and the words I share are death to them. They will choose to reject it. But to others, I smell like life. My presence in their lives could bring joy, freedom and a knowledge that leads to eternal life. How do I know who is smells death and who smells life? What do I do when someone rejects me and pushes me away?
“Who is sufficient for these things?” Am I sufficient?
“For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s Word…” We are not selling the Word for our own gain. We don’t have to sugar coat the gospel to make it easier for people to swallow. We don’t have to speak half-truths so that people will like us and not reject us.
“…but as [women] of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” The Amplified Bible says we are sincere and with the purest motive. We are not motivated by selfish gain. We have been commissioned and sent by God. Did he really pick me? He did! Everything I say and do is done in the sight of God and in the strength, wisdom, discernment that comes from Christ. This is very good news! I don’t have to seek to please anyone but my heavenly Father in what I say and do. His pleasure is the only pleasure I seek.
Paul goes on in II Corinthians 3:4-6 and says, “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God…” The confidence that I have does not come from myself or my own ability. It comes from Christ!
“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us…” I know this is true. I know that if anyone gets anything from what I teach this year, it won’t be because Joy Patton is so awesome. I know that I am not sufficient because I know all the evil, fleshly thoughts that constantly war within me. I know that if I were left on my own to teach a Bible study or lead a group, the only thing that would come out would be ugly and gross, full of pride and arrogance and without compassion. It would be a very dim picture of His glory and quite insufficient.
“…but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant…” I know this is true. If there is any possible way that I am remotely sufficient to do what God has commissioned me to do, it comes from Him. In other words, if He is going to be crazy enough to call me to do it, then he has to figure out a way to make this broken, messed up person competent. Trust me…that’s a big job. But He is a big God! After all, His new covenant involved raising a man from the dead, so if He can do that, then He can do anything He needs to in order to make the insufficient and incompetent, sufficient and competent.
“…not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” I have to remember this as I teach and lead! If I bring women the letter of law, I will kill their spirits, their hunger for God. If I bring them a list of do’s and dont’s and should’s, they will walk away thirsty and dry. But if I bring women the Spirit, by resting and trusting and abiding, then the Spirit will bring life. The Spirit will bring about the fruit and the harvest. I need to trust the Spirit to do the work that only He can do. The law of the Spirit is love and this is how I need to move out when I teach and when I lead. It’s amazing to me that people will listen to difficult things if they are convinced that you love them.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” In verse 17, I am reminded that I am free. I am not bound by the law, not judged by my successes or failures. I would even go so far as to say that I am free to fail, which is good because I probably will. But I can trust the Spirit even in my failure to be at work. I don’t have to be perfect. Now that’s freedom!
“And we all…beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” This reminds me that I am on a spiritual journey with other women. We are all in a transformation process this year and who can say how the Lord will accomplish it? One thing I know…that He will be glorified. As I behold the glory of the Lord in my life, in the lives of the women around me, we will be changed. It won’t be the same or happen in the same way. Every story is different to the glory of God. Remember that I am not transforming myself. I am simply being transformed by one who is greater than I. I am the passive receiver; God is the active initiator.
May we all embrace with confidence the journey God has for us this year. O Lord, when I feel insufficient and incompetent, remind me that you alone are my sufficiency and my competency. You are my strength! May I never forget! Move me where you want me to go! I do not seek my own glory, but Yours alone. May I forever be changed by Your Spirit!