Verse of the Month- Psalm 126:2-Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
I want to share three Scriptures about three different people with you, and I want you to listen for what they have in common.
Exodus 4:10 10 Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
Judges 6:14-15 14 The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” 15 “But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
Jeremiah 1:4-6 4 The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” 6 “Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.”
Moses, Gideon, and Jeremiah, three men that were mightily used of the Lord, three men who changed the course of history, all felt inadequate. Anyone in this room ever felt inadequate? Do you struggle with confidence? Does your self-evaluation totter between, “I can and I can’t” or between “I can’t and I never will?” Do you find yourself easily intimidated in a crowd or intimidated by a task? Do you ever feel like you don’t have what it takes? Do you find yourself shrinking back and taking your talents off the table because you don’t think you can measure up?
I know I have and do at times. Believe it or not, even though I am comfortable up here in front of you, there are plenty of places and spaces where I feel like I can’t contribute, and I am in over my head. Thom will tell you it’s true. Motherhood was something I wasn’t sure about from the “get-go.” I still question myself a lot. Homemaking isn’t my forte’, and nurturing isn’t exactly the word most people think of first when they look at me. I often wonder if I have said enough, taught enough, modeled enough, encouraged enough, prayed enough, done enough, and just been enough. Am I alone this morning as I wrestle with those kinds of questions?
Feeling inadequate is a game-changer and can limit us and eliminate us from opportunities God has designed for us to embrace. What causes us to feel inadequate? Sometimes we look at our past; either the way we were raised or the mistakes we’ve made, and we feel disqualified or not good enough. Other times it’s our status, our social standing with whoever we think is the “in” crowd that causes us to doubt our worth. Sometimes we feel inadequate when it comes to intellectual knowledge or life experience. Don’t ask me to fill out a form online where there are multiple screens that I have to advance through. That freaks me out! Technology and I have a love-hate relationship. I love to hate it! ? (Maybe I’m not quite that bad, but it’s a struggle.) When people start talking about refreshing browsers and clearing cookies they might as well be speaking Greek to me. ? The only cookies I know how to clear are Girl Scout Thin Mints. Just sayin’. Maybe we feel inadequate because of some rank or standing or because we don’t measure up to society’s definition of picture perfect.
Perhaps feelings of inadequacy creep in when we feel we can’t do something as well as we used to be able to do it. I know Mandy and I have both commented to each other that neither of us sings like we used to. We are both pretty highly trained singers, her even more so than me, and neither of us has the same confidence or assessment of our voices that we had twenty years ago. It can be intimidating for people to put themselves out there in some spotlight if they feel like people will compare them with their former selves. Life in general can cause our confidence to wane. There are many reasons to think low thoughts about ourselves. It is human nature for most people. A few people have the opposite problem, but that’s a sermon for a different day!
The answer for Moses, Gideon and Jeremiah’s feelings of inadequacy resided not in any of them, but in God who promised to be with them, to give them the words to say and the strength in which to stand and lead. Learning to rest in God and learning to trust Him means we learn to rest in His adequacy when we feel inadequate.
We can feel inadequate when we look at ourselves.
We all do have real limitations. I remember growing up hearing I could do anything I wanted to do and be anything I wanted to be. Not true, friends. Not true. I could never have become a pole vaulter had I wanted to. Just sayin’. We know what our weaknesses are. We know there are things we aren’t wired to do, things we aren’t especially good at doing, and things we struggle to understand. I will never be able to drive a stick shift or play minesweeper. My brain doesn’t compute either tasks. My family can testify. That’s ok. If we were all truly adequate, we wouldn’t need God and we wouldn’t need each other. It is a good thing to lean on God. On one hand, our inadequacy is a gift that causes us to look to Him. It is a good thing to learn from others and to lean on others. Our inadequacy helps us to build meaningful relationships with others who can help fortify places in our lives where we experience weakness and need. It is ok to need God and others. We were created to have those needs.
But what is not ok is when we let our feelings of inadequacy keep us from obeying God.
God doesn’t bless adequacy. He blesses obedience. It has never been about us, or our abilities, or our talents, or our contribution anyway. It has always been about God’s agenda and plans and about God getting glory and credit here on the earth as He does in heaven. We can’t let feelings of inadequacy keep us from the will of God.
II Chronicles 20:12 is such a powerful verse because it expresses inadequacy and dependency on God so eloquently in the same verse. Here we see Jehoshaphat crying out to the Lord because the Israelite people are about to be invaded by several different groups and here is what he said, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”
It is alright to express that you feel powerless. It is ok to admit that something isn’t in your wheelhouse or that something is beyond your know-how or that you don’t feel up to a certain challenge, but you need to move from yourself and your limitations or perceived limitations to God’s ability and adequacy in a hurry if you are going to be able to go anyway, to speak anyway, and to conquer anyway. Listen, if you will get and stay God-centered, you will live a supernatural life. You will go places you wouldn’t have thought you could go. You will do things you never dreamed were possible. Why? Because it will be God the Father leading you to do things in the power of the Holy Spirit that you can’t do but you will do because of His power at work within you.
Moses, Gideon and Jeremiah were all quick to find reasons why they couldn’t do what God was asking them to do. Listen, if God is asking you to do something it isn’t about what you can do, and it never will be. He doesn’t tap you on the shoulder because you have the goods to carry off some big exploit. He uses you because when you obey Him in spite of your fear and frailty, He gets the glory. It isn’t a miracle if it is something you can do on your own. You only experience the miraculous when you allow God to take you places you can’t go on your own.
But often, we are so self-conscious we miss out on the miracle. “I could never go up to a stranger and talk to them about Jesus.” Maybe you couldn’t, but if God is directing your path, and He asks you to approach a stranger, you can go with the assurance He will help you and speak to you so He can speak through you. “I could never go on a mission trip out of the country.” In your natural self, you may not be able to be that far out of your comfort zone, but with God’s help and in His strength you can go and make a difference in the lives of people you have never met whether you speak their language or not.
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
Now, is that just a verse to use as a bumper sticker when we are facing a tough time, when our schedule gets overly crowded, when we have to study for three tests that are all on Friday and keep all of the information straight or does it also apply when we feel inadequate to go where God is leading and to do what God is asking?
I have come to believe that sometimes people won’t come to church or won’t respond to the Lord during an altar invitation or when He asks them to get involved in serving some way because they don’t feel like they could be a good enough Christian or a good enough children’s worker or good enough at sharing their testimony or whatever. Feelings of inadequacy about how they pray or how much they know about the Bible keep them from moving closer to God and keep them from serving Him. I need you to know that the devil is always looking for ways to shake your confidence and cause you to doubt yourself because he doesn’t want you making a step toward an altar. He doesn’t want you making a step toward a Sunday School class or a small group. He doesn’t want you to volunteer to help in the life of the church.
Let me remind you again, your salvation isn’t a result of your adequacy because you can’t save yourself. Your salvation is the result of Christ’s sufficiency, His adequacy. He paid the price for your sin. You can’t add anything to His accomplishment. When He said, “It is finished” it was. You just accept it by faith.
As for being the perfect Christian or the perfect volunteer, transformation is a step-by-step process. It isn’t overnight, and even people who walked and ate and stayed with Jesus every day for three years got it so wrong they denied Him and deserted Him at one point, so don’t let worry that you might fail keep you from growing as a Christ-follower. Let me just relieve you this morning. You will fail. You will. And the same mercy that is given to you when you become a believer will be available to you when you fail. Just go to God and start over. The Christian life is really just a series of do-overs, you know? No, we don’t sin to keep sinning just to test the grace of God, but when we fail, we have an Advocate with the Father. Jesus will stand between us and Father God, and the same blood that saved us will prevail for us in moments of failure.
I do know this: The more you respond when the Holy Spirit tugs, the more you get into environments where the Bible is being taught, the more you surround yourself with Christian influences, the more you serve in the life of the church, the less failing you will do. That is just the way it works.
We can also feel inadequate when we look at life’s challenges. Numbers 13
Sometimes as Christians we may shy away from engaging in ways that God wants us to because it just seems like it will cost us more than we can pay, that it will take more than we have to give, and that at the end of the day, we won’t be able to be successful due to obstacles in our way. Sometimes we look at what is ahead and we conclude there is just too much red tape to weed through, too many politically correct rules to follow, or too many people to please. We look at the difficulty of what God may be asking of us and we conclude some challenge is bigger than we are.
We aren’t unlike the negative spies Moses sent out to survey the Promised Land. God had already promised the Israelites they would possess a certain territory, a good territory, a bountiful territory, a beautiful place in which to live and thrive, but when the 12 spies went into the land to check things out, even though it was as God had promised in terms of quality and beauty and fruitfulness, and even though they knew God had said it would be theirs, ten of the twelve came back saying there was no way they could possess it because of the people groups who lived there. They saw how strong those people groups were, they saw how vast their cities were, they saw how tall their walls were, and they saw how huge the people themselves were. When they saw the people living in the land 10 of the 12 spies said, “We can’t attack those people; They are stronger than we are.”
If we are ever going to possess all God desires for us, we are going to need a conquering mentality, and a conquering mentality says, “No matter what, with God’s help, I will conquer this!” (whatever “this” is) I know sometimes you feel like you are facing a mountain. I know it is easy to feel small when you stand at the bottom of a mountain. Believe it or not, I like to hike. Not like Mt. Everest or anything crazy, but I like to climb (aka: walk up) a hill or mountainous terrain because of the sense of accomplishment when I can look behind me and see how far up I have made it. The further I get up the climb, the bigger I feel, and the smaller the ground below me looks. I think it gives me the perspective of a conqueror which is this: One step at a time, I can leave lower levels behind.
God is calling us upward in Him. Though obstacles challenge us, they grow our faith at the same time, if we will continue walking by the faith we possess. Tasks often are bigger than we are, but one step at a time, one day at a time, one experience at a time, with God’s help, we can tackle the biggest of giants in our lives. But, when we allow feelings of inadequacy to creep in, we are defeated before we start. Caleb was the only one of the 12 spies who actually spoke up and expressed a conquering spirit. He said, in verse 30, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
And only Caleb, the man with a conquering confession, the man with a can-do spirit, got to set foot in the Promised Land. We read in Deuteronomy 1:35-36 35 “Not a man of this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your forefathers, 36 except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the LORD wholeheartedly.” The last part of verse 36 tells us the key to Caleb’s conquering spirit. He followed the LORD wholeheartedly. Caleb saw the same thing the other spies saw. He knew the challenge was great. He knew the “deck was stacked against them” in the natural realm. He knew the Israelites were inadequate for the task of taking the Promised Land, but he was wholeheartedly resting in the adequacy of God to give them success.
Some of you are facing an uphill climb this morning. Some of you are facing roadblocks and hurdles. Some of you are being backed into a corner by life. Some of you have a long road ahead of you due to a health diagnosis, a relationship challenge, an addiction, or a financial calamity, and you don’t feel equal to the task. If you will exercise a can-do, positive confession of faith and fully rely on God, it won’t matter how inadequate you are, God will move you into the position and place of His choosing, and it will be a place where you can be established and thrive in your spiritual walk with Him. Don’t miss your Promised Land because you don’t feel strong enough to move forward in faith!
We can feel inadequate when we look at the needs around us. Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6
This world is in a mess. So many people are living in desperate situations. Families are broken. Hearts are broken. People are hopeless. Needs are great. Just think about the calamity from the hurricanes during these last several days. Where do you start when it comes to rebuilding any kind of normalcy? People are stealing to survive. They are drinking and drugging to cope. They are lying and cheating because they see no other way. There are hungry people, homeless people, and people who are helpless to help themselves. And it isn’t an isolated issue. It is everywhere and in increasing numbers. Can we really make a difference in people’s lives when the need is so great? When lives are so complicated?
As a pastor, I deal with these kinds of situations on an ongoing basis. You see evidence of some of the involvement when you read on social media that I am assisting a family that needs something. Sometimes it is easy for me to become overwhelmed by the enormity of problems right here in our own community because I really do “want to help.” I don’t want to put band-aids on people’s problems, although that is often what I feel is happening. I want to help people change their lives which does happen in many cases. It can be exhausting because it the reality is it is never-ending. There is always a need.
When you read Mark 6, you read about how the disciples had been sent out by Jesus and they had been working very hard. They came back to report to Him all they had done and taught. Verse 31 tells us they were hungry because they had been so busy they hadn’t had a chance to eat. Jesus said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So, they went to relax, rest, and reload for the next ministry assignment. However, when they got to their resting place, there was a crowd of over 5000 people. Jesus had compassion on them and their need to hear the Gospel, so He started teaching (And Jesus didn’t preach short sermons like I do).
I can just picture the disciples’ faces when Jesus all of the sudden made a change of plans. I think Jesus did so on purpose. I think He wanted to stretch the disciples at a time when they were already stretched thin themselves, at a time when they were less adequate than they had ever been because they were tired and hungry, because He wanted to teach them something. It will never be about our ability or adequacy. It will always be about His adequacy and sufficiency. We will never have everything we need on our own. We will have everything we need and everything we need to meet needs around us, however, when we have Him!
The disciples found themselves overwhelmed by the needs of the over five thousand people that had gathered to hear Jesus speak. The people were hungry. The disciples were inadequate to meet the need. The disciples’ solution was to send them away so they could go find food. Jesus had a different plan. He told the disciples to feed them all. How in the world? What was He asking? He told them to give them something to eat. Where would they get food for that many people?
A little boy appeared with lunch. (He probably had one of those amazing moms who always thought of everything, and thought ahead to pack him something to eat.) He had five loaves of bread (which I must say is a lot of bread to pack in one person’s lunch, so maybe he didn’t have a fabulous, healthy, carb-conscious mom!). He also had two fish. He offered his bread and fish for the feeding of the crowd. Jesus broke it and blessed it, and a miracle occurred at some point.
Jesus could have caused bread to fall from the sky as God had done hundreds of years earlier for the Israelites who were wandering in the wilderness. It would have been “easier” and more efficient had He chosen to do it that way. People could have picked up pieces for themselves. No one would have had to serve them. But Jesus wasn’t going for easy or efficient. It was going to take a long time to serve 5000+ people. 12 inadequate disciples had their work cut out for them.
When you read the story, you learn that the fish and bread multiplied miraculously and there were even leftovers. God made much out of little, but here is the thing: God used physically tired, emotionally drained and inadequate people to accomplish a miracle. Good news. If you are physically tired, emotionally drained and inadequate, God can use you.
Matthew’s account of the story records that Jesus asked for the fish and loaves to be brought to Him. That’s the key. We need to learn to take our inadequate resources to Jesus and ask Him for His miracle. We can keep living overwhelmed by the needs of those around us, or we can take what we have to Jesus and offer it to Him so that more and more needs can be met. In Christ, we can do more than we think we can, if we will surrender our inadequacy to His adequacy.
We need to get our eyes off of ourselves and get them on the God who can equip us to do anything. We need to develop a conquering, can-do mindset and start climbing some mountains and speaking to some giants by faith. We need to bring our inadequate resources to God and let Him do the miraculous in and through His adequacy.