I think often about my insufficiencies, and they are many. I am humbled at the fact that God continues to multiply His own ministry through me. Every time I teach and every time I write something that is published, feelings of insecurity and insufficiency surround me. As I mentioned previously, this is expounded by the fact that so many people are so willing to point out everything they believe to be wrong with me, what they perceive my insufficiencies to be, and what they believe I am wrong about. More people believed me and liked what I had to say when I wasn’t preaching through the Bible expositorily, when I merely used the Bible to say something I thought was profound. That is when people smiled and said, “Good message, today!” It was so shallow and, many times, just wrong.
Do you still have your notecard? I still have mine. It remains tucked in the front cover of my preaching Bible so that I am reminded of my own insufficiency every time I peel through the pages of God’s holy word to preach or teach. If you don’t know what I am referring to, go back and see the previous part of this series. Look over those things you consider to be your insufficiencies once again.
In Hebrews 11, the author(s) describes several Old Testament figures. He describes Abraham, who was a pathological liar and old, Isaac, who was legally blind, Jacob, who played favorites among his children, Joseph, who was prideful, Moses, who had anger problems and made up excuses and couldn’t speak eloquently, Rahab, who was a prostitute and a Canaanite, Gideon, who was a coward and became bloodthirsty, Barak, who was also a coward, Samson, who was addicted to women, Jephthah, who sacrificed his daughter, David, whose insufficiencies are innumerable, and Samuel, who was displeased by God’s will.
In Hebrews 11, the author(s) describes that despite the insufficiencies of these figures, they “conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were make strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (v. 33-34) by faith. In fact, by faith these imperfect and insufficient figures won God’s approval (v. 2). The Scriptures are careful to point out the imperfection, insufficiencies, and weaknesses of every major biblical figure. It is not because of what they do or who they are that they earn favor with God. It is simply by faith, which is a gift of and from God.
In chapter 12, verses 1-3, the author(s) continue,
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfected of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
This cloud of witnesses serves as an example of God’s glorious work, not ours. Despite the insufficiencies and weaknesses of people, God has set a race before us. Like the cloud of witnesses, we also lay aside every encumbrance and sin. We endure through our own weakness and sin. Why? We are not the authors or perfectos of our own faith. Jesus is. He endured the cross and endures our own hostility against Him as He sanctifies us for the joy set before Him. So, no matter our insufficiencies, weaknesses, or sin, we consider Christ. We consider Christ so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.
Now, take you card from last week. We are going to add to it. On the front, we listed our insufficiencies or weaknesses. On the back, list some sins that you have endured or are enduring. Here are some of mine:
- I don’t care for people as deeply as I should.
- I have cared too much about self-advancement in the past.
These cards that we are holding, you, yours and me, mine, represent only some of the reasons we should not be in ministry; preaching, teaching, serving, counseling, church-planting, discipling, evangelizing, leading music, leading charitable and missions organizations, serving as elders, leading ministries, organizing events, running video or audio, etc… Like the cloud of witnesses, we are insufficient and sinful.
Also like the cloud of witnesses, our approval is not won by anything of us but by faith, which is authored and perfected by Jesus Christ alone. Take your card. What weaknesses and sins did you list? These have no bearing on your place in Christ’s kingdom. You are not that powerful. I am not that powerful. With a red permanent marker, write Jesus’ name in large letters across both sides over your insufficiencies and sins. Despite our insufficiencies and despite our sin, we can endure in service to Christ because of His grace. Ministry, like salvation, is by grace alone. This truth is encouraging. Here, recently, quite a few guys have departed from the ministry because of their sin. In reality, if we believe that the Gospel is of grace and ministry is by grace, then the proper course of action is repentance and not departure. Don’t believe me? Consider this cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11-12.
I don’t know about you, but I am returning this card to the inside front cover of the Bible I use to preach and teach so that I am always reminded of why I shouldn’t be in ministry… and why I should. I will take it out and set it in front of me before every sermon and every lesson as a reminder. I may stutter or stumble over my words, but the Father created the human mouth through Christ Jesus.