Wherever you are today, whatever your circumstances may be, God’s work in your life has some definite characteristics. You can be sure that part of what He is doing is uprooting the thought that you are sufficient in yourself. He is willing to take us through many experiences to teach us that we cannot depend on ourselves for one iota of goodness or power. The Apostle Paul had received this revelation so thoroughly that he writes, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves or consider anything as coming from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 3:5). For all the glorious things God had done through Paul and his companions, they refused to see even an ounce of it as coming from themselves. God had convinced them that they were insufficient for even the smallest detail of the things to which He had called them. Has He convinced you and me yet? In order to raise up the good fruit of His enduring work in and through us, God has to first create the fertile ground of complete disillusionment with self. Our deep hopelessness in our own ability becomes the fertile ground where His active work can take root, because we know it is not from us.
Paul does not stop there; his life and ministry did, in fact, have a clear, definite adequacy about it. He was not a “failure,” neither morally nor evangelistically, nor in his ability to endure or to lead. His life bore the outward fruit of strength, not of weakness, but it was the product of a weak man in the hands of a mighty, all-powerful God. The adequacy was “from God,” who alone was able to make Paul adequate (3:5-6). A Christian once came to me and said, “I cannot seem to find the courage to tell others about Jesus.” I knew I would be a hypocrite if I told him to pull up his bootstraps and try harder. And such a response might interfere with God’s plan to free this individual from all trust in self. Peter had to go through that school. God allowed him to deny Jesus three times by the fire, so Peter would forever know that adequate strength was not found in himself. Pentecost changed all of that, as the Holy Spirit brought a wellspring of boldness and power. Only the Spirit is sufficient. How then could I tell this man to grit his teeth and just do it? Only through time with God does boldness come. Jesus never said, “Do witnessing,” but He said, “Be My witness.” We cannot be a witness of the One we never see. But if we are drawing close to Him, “we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
Our point of falling short should not be an occasion to rouse ourselves with a pep-talk. What if these moments became holy ground where we built an altar to the one true God? Am I aware that I can lay hold of Him, in dependence, in honesty, in sincere faith that the adequacy of my life comes from Him, not myself? This is the new covenant we ought to live in – not “of the letter” which “kills.” When we hold ourselves or others to the letter of God’s command, looking to the created thing to perform it, we are operating in old covenant; we are still believing that adequacy can somehow be found in us. But the new covenant is “of the Spirit” which “gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). When we exalt the Holy Spirit, when we call ourselves and others to dependent seeking of Him, there we find the life and power that is able to perform God’s will. We walk in a way that pleases God, but we do not see any of it as coming from ourselves.
The Rock Church