August 31, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 2)

Submitted by Michelle S. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 3:4-11

“The word ‘competent’ here is the same word used above in 2:16 in ‘… who is equal to such a task?’  The word might be better rendered ‘sufficient.’  Thus, 2 Cor 3:4-6 answers the questions posed there.” [David Guzik, Bible Commentary, online]

  • In 2:16, after noting the life and death stakes involved in Gospel ministry, Apostle Paul asked, “Who is sufficient for these things?”  Here he gives the answer.  What does this passage say regarding the true source of sufficiency?  How do I view issues of competence, what I can claim for myself, and my sense of inadequacy regarding tasks God has given me?

The task that God has given me is to be a fragrance of life for those who are dying without hope in this world.  To be a fragrance of life for people, that is a difficult task.  Who can claim that I am a fragrance of life for certain people?  Who can bring enough knowledge, enough technology, gifts, good will and charity to others to claim that I am a fragrance of life for someone?  The way I view competence is how much I can do or accomplish.  As we do ministry, I think about who is better at organizing events, at drawing people in with their charming personality, at having the right sense of what type of program is appropriate at which time.  However, the task that God has given us is so beyond what we can offer and therefore he himself had to get involved.  There is no way that even the best of what we can offer is sufficient for fragrance of life that we need to be for the people of the world.  Especially as we have had a busy week of doing many welcome week activities, it is easy for me to mistake competence in putting on these events for being a fragrance for life.  All that we do is done, so that we may build bridges for them to be able to open to the treasure really have to offer, which is the gospel.  The gospel is the fragrance of life that we can bring out when we have the right opportunity.

I think about this one particular person who is going through chemotherapy and is battling with cancer incessantly.  Because of her situation, many people show their love and care by showering her with affection and variety of gifts.  Although these are all very nice gestures of love, what she really needs is good news of life.  What she really needs is fragrance of life which is the message that there is hope for her because as Christians we have eternal life to enjoy and that there is hope in heaven.  She needs the message that she is more than her body and she is more than her life here on earth, that God is good and God is loving.  This truth about God and about life is what she needs and will give her hope and life.  These truths are the fragrance of life for her because it will give her proper perspective about her situation and her life.

Also the passage says that we are inadequate, but that the sufficiency comes from God.  Our competence and confidence comes from God.  Recently having visited Cambodia and seeing again the state of poverty, I was reminded of what Wess Stafford said about how the real vice of poverty is that it takes hope away from people.  Not only are they poor, but there is no knowledge or hope for a better future when you see these children who grow up in poverty stricken Cambodia.  As we were singing songs about Jesus and teaching them crafts and giving messages about Jesus, I was thinking about how anyone on our team is such a valuable contributor to this village and to the children.  Not everyone on our team was that competent or smart.  Some are more energetic and personable than others and some are more articulate or creative than others, however, on this trip, everyone had something to offer and just by the virtue of the fact that they are Christians.   We have seen and experienced how life can be different and how eternal life gives hope.  Just by the fact that we have experienced and know the good news and how that is lived out, all of us were valuable contributor to these kids who have never known or seen anything other than the life in their little village.  In the same way, the sufficiency that God brings and gives us is not because of our competence but because of what he is able to offer.  He is our sufficiency because he gives us the valuable thing to offer to the people who otherwise have no hope.  Praise God that he enables me to be his fragrance of life, to the college students, to the children in Cambodia, to the accomplished people in Bay Area.. God’s sufficiency is truly far more sufficient than what we little selves can offer up.

Submitted by Patrick L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

  • In 2:16, after noting the life and death stakes involved in Gospel ministry, Apostle Paul asked, “Who is sufficient for these things?”  Here he gives the answer.  What does this passage say regarding the true source of sufficiency?  How do I view issues of competence, what I can claim for myself, and my sense of inadequacy regarding tasks God has given me?

Apostle Paul says that only God can make us sufficient to the task of being his witnesses.  This is because we are not engaged in a ministry of just words.  If that were true, then all we would need to do is spend time learning and memorizing, and never praying.  We would never have to deal with God, just dissect his words.  To be sufficient, we have to let God make us ‘sufficient’ or ‘competent’ to do his work, so that we can be the fragrance of God.

To not let the God be the one to make us sufficient means that would become like peddlers of God’s word.  We would be package up the words with nicely defined answers.  Though it is still necessary to learn and develop our ability to communicate a message, but that is not all.  We must rely on Him to make our words have power.  Our intellectual preparation is necessary but not sufficient to touch the hearts of those who are seeking.

Why would anyone become a peddler of God’s word?  It is easy when I let my pride get the best of me.  When this happens, my abilities and inabilities become a paramount concern and I want badly to prove myself and try to amend those parts of me that are lacking.  In this my focus on is entirely on myself and what I can produce in my own wisdom and power.  I want to say, “I did this and this good thing happened.”  I am not thinking of prayer and asking God for what I am clearly not able to do.  If my thoughts were on God and His purposes and His glory, then I would pray and God would act.  It is when I am feeling inadequate or less that another person in some way, that I want to shine for my own sake.  It is my sense of inadequacy that drives me to want to do things on my own and for my own glory.

Looking back on past years, there were times I felt desperate about a meeting and rather than trying it on my own, I prayed, “Lord, please make me equal to the task.”  I often would end those talks feeling like nothing good came of it, but it is those times that others say that they were ministered to.  When I was “sufficient,” I didn’t pray any such prayer; and no one reminds me of those times.  Being at a loss, feeling generally foolish and powerless, I now pray for God’s power and his help, that he might put the right words in my mouth to speak and provide the power beyond what I can give.

  • Have I accepted my identity as a “minister of a new covenant?”

Accepting that I am a “minister of new covenant” means that I accept that the power of this new covenant comes only from God.  This is a covenant not of the letter, but a covenant of the Spirit.  It is beyond me to be this minister on my own.  However, it is a great comfort to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to do the work that I hope for but cannot force.  I know that I can give over to God’s hands the things that I cannot do in my own limited power.

Submitted by Hope C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

  • In 2:16, after noting the life and death stakes involved in Gospel ministry, Apostle Paul asked, “Who is sufficient for these things?”  Here he gives the answer.  What does this passage say regarding the true source of sufficiency?  How do I view issues of competence, what I can claim for myself, and my sense of inadequacy regarding tasks God has given me?

The true source of sufficiency is from God and commissioned by God.  He is the one who has made us sufficient to be ministers of the new covenant.  Sufficiency doesn’t come from any skills, talents or competencies because it is a ministry of the Spirit.  It is a matter of life and death, a matter of people, not of tasks or rules.  Yet our views of what it takes to be a minister is still so often dominated by worldly ideas of competence and talents.  My sense of inadequacy regarding tasks God has given me is often more influenced by my own picture of a successful minister than what God truly desires.  The results are feelings of insecurity, inadequacy and all the other consequences of the comparison trap.  This view leads me to focus on being a sufficient person, a competent person, someone who can carry out my ministry duties well.  But that entirely misses the mark.  Truly who is equal to the task of the life and death stakes involved in the ministry of the gospel?  The truth is, I am not competent to carry out such a task.  I am not sufficient.  I do not have what it takes to lead people from the procession of death to the procession of life.  It is God who makes me sufficient to be a minister of the new covenant.  So then, while there is nothing of myself that I can be confident in, nothing that I can claim as coming from myself, I can be confident in Christ, that God will grant me the sufficiency to obey his commands and to be his minister of the new covenant.  Though at times I may feel at a loss as to how to help someone I am ministering to, God will give me the sufficiency to persevere.  Though I may so painfully feel the reality of my own sinfulness and limited amount of love I am capable of, God will make my heart sufficient to encompass another person.  So I do not need to worry about being a competent minister but I need to become one who is dependent on God to make me sufficient for whatever task he has in mind for me.  I need to become one who is obedient to the task he gives me because he will provide the way.

Submitted by Jeff L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

2 Corinthians 3:4-11

  • In 2:16, after noting the life and death stakes involved in Gospel ministry, Apostle Paul asked, “Who is sufficient for these things?”  Here he gives the answer.  What does this passage say regarding the true source of sufficiency?  

This passage states clearly that the true source of sufficiency is “from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant.”

  • How do I view issues of competence, what I can claim for myself, and my sense of inadequacy regarding tasks God has given me?  

As I consider God’s call upon my life to lead our high school ministry, the dominant feeling that I have is a feeling of inadequacy and lack.  I almost always feel like I’m failing or falling short in some area, whether it be leading staff, loving the students, guiding & directing the ministry, teaching God’s word, or whatever it may be.  Ministry is just so challenging and my confession is often, “I do not have the sufficiency to do this.  I cannot do it.”  But often, this is where I stop.  I just get overwhelmed by the task and seeing my inadequacy, I fall into despair and feel like I cannot do it.  But this passage acknowledges that I, in myself, do not have the sufficiency.  But there is a source of sufficiency, and that is from God, who will make me sufficient.  God who has called me will provide me all I need to be faithful to that calling.  The example of Moses comes to mind.  Was Moses sufficient to the task of delivering and leading Israel?  Babysitting 2 million whining & complaining people?  In one sense, no…he didn’t have what it would take within himself, but in another sense, yes, he had everything he needed, because God would lead him and provide for him every step of the way–physically, emotionally & spiritually.  Moses simply had to step out and obey.  Was Moses prepared?  Was he ready?  Did he have all kinds of “deliverance” training so that he could feel sufficient in himself to lead Israel?  No…but God would be with him, and He would provide “on the job” training for him to meet every challenge that came up.  Was it easy?  Far from it…Moses had to learn as he obeyed and it was as he obeyed, that he discovered that he was sufficient for the task, not because of himself, but because God was with him, had called him, and was using him.  This has been my experience leading our youth ministry, a task far beyond me…but as I have stepped out and responded to His call, He has provided everything I need, moment by moment, to lead this ministry.  As I move forward into a new year of ministry, with all the challenges it will present, I do feel daunted & inadequate, but I can face the future with confidence, not because I have any sufficiency within myself, but because I know that God is with me and He will make me sufficient for the task. 

  • Have I accepted my identity as a “minister of a new covenant?”

I think often, my self-conception is not so lofty.  I do not apprehend and live out of the reality that I am a “minister of a new covenant”–that I am a minister of the glorious new covenant that leads people to reconciliation with God and a new life through the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ!  Rather, I simply think of myself as a young staff at this church or I get caught up in what I’m doing in ministry, which is often not so glorious–the day-to-day logistics of running a ministry, running around with students, being an entertainer, a cheerleader, whatever I need to be.  In the midst of whatever I’m doing and whatever my earthly titles or roles may be, above all, my self-conception & identity must be defined by the word of God, which is that I am a minister of this new covenant.  What a glorious & ennobling and lofty identity this is!  I pray that God would indeed give me the sufficiency to fulfill this calling.

Personal Prayer

Lord, thank You for this glorious calling to be a minister of the new covenant.  I am utterly insufficient for this task, yet I trust that You will provide me with the sufficiency.  As I approach this task that is far far beyond me, I look to You for wisdom and sufficiency to carry out this glorious calling.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Submitted by Janice L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

  • In 2:16, after noting the life and death stakes involved in Gospel ministry, Apostle Paul asked, “Who is sufficient for these things?”  Here he gives the answer.  What does this passage say regarding the true source of sufficiency?  How do I view issues of competence, what I can claim for myself, and my sense of inadequacy regarding tasks God has given me?

This passage reminds me that the true source of sufficiency comes from God, through Christ.  God Himself is more than able to make us to be ministers of his new covenant.  When I think about the role I have come to embrace – to be a minister of the gospel and an ambassador of God – I often feel daunted and overwhelmed.  The stakes involved are indeed a matter of life and death; they are of utmost importance for anyone.  And yet I am called to be a minister of this gospel?  What I do and say matters.  But an honest examination of my heart would only show me that I am inadequate for this lofty calling.  My heart is full of selfish agendas; my desire is for self-elevation and comfort.  The times I desire less of those things, I envy others who are “better” at ministry, more capable to juggle many demands of life, and hence given more responsibilities and entrustments.  Even the best of my intentions are almost always tainted with desires for attention and approval from people.

So when I look at my capacity and capability, I don’t feel much confidence in what I can do for God.  I realize that I have a lot of fear in me that causes me to not attempt to do certain tasks because I fear failure and I just don’t feel good enough.  I focus on failure scenarios, which causes me to hesitate taking risks for God.

But this passage teaches me that I need to have an attitude of humility before God-given tasks, because it is not out of my own will-power and competence that I am able to handle God’s work.  It is through God-given strength and grace that is sufficient to make me a minister of this life-giving new covenant.  When I feel tired from a long day of work or feel overwhelmed by life’s demands, yet I need to prepare for ministry events or have a tough conversation with someone, I need to claim this verse that says my sufficiency comes from God, and I should simply go to God for strength.  This passage also helps me to remember that I should approach each task with a sense of gratitude as God is the one who supplies strength and makes up for my lack.  Rather than fretting about an issue or feeling helpless regarding tasks or responsibilities God has given me, I could channel that energy to praise God for being my strength and amply providing me his grace.

  • Have I accepted my identity as a “minister of a new covenant?”

In my earlier years as a Christian, I remember feeling resistant towards this calling because I was afraid that I would not be able to handle it well.  But over the years I have learned that it is God who supplies extra strength.  Since God desires to use me as his instrument, I am learning that there is no need to shrink back or hold back on anything out of fear that I would fail or that I fall short of handling a task.  Instead, I can exercise greater trust and dependency on what God can do through me, and humbly embrace this new identity as a “minister of a new covenant.”

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