2 Corinthians 3:5
Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.
Have you ever been called incompetent? I have. It happened to me twice while I was working at Samaritan Hospital in St. Paul. I was hired as the night Lab Technician on weekends. I was the only one on duty Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. After I was hired, I was informed that I would have to do EKGs. That was something that I had not been trained to do. I was given a half hour introduction on how to perform an EKG and then I was on my own. The first time one was ordered I messed up. The Doctor on duty that night pronounced me incompetent. That little incident pushed me to make sure that I got it right the next time. On another occasion, a lab test was ordered that I did not recognize. I told the nurse in charge that it was not on my STAT list. I soon received a call from the attending physician who informed me that I was wrong and told me I was incompetent. That too spurred me to make sure that I was ready to perform that test the next time it was ordered.
There have been many times, over the past 35 years of ministry, that I have felt incompetent. I encountered that feeling on my very first day as a young associate pastor. The Senior Pastor was out of town and the message came into the office that one of the church members had died. I was dispatched to go and comfort the grieving widow. I felt completely unprepared to face this delicate situation. As I drove to the home of the widow, I prayed that God would give me the right words. I do not remember anything that I said that day, but a unique bond was formed with that widow, which has lasted for decades.
I have often felt inadequate as a leader. Yet, through the years, God has continually placed in positions of leadership. Many of those times, others have affirmed that I was to lead. On a couple of occasions, I have been told that I was inadequate for the task, yet God still used me to lead through that difficult situation. What I have learned over the years is that my competence is not dependent upon my talents and skills. My competence is dependent upon yielding my talents and skills to God and allowing Him to use them for His glory.
Think of how many leaders in the Bible were basically incompetent to lead, until God got a hold of them. Think of Moses, Gideon, David, Peter. All of these men had major flaws, yet God used each one in a powerful way. Moses was a fugitive; reluctant to go back and face Pharaoh, full of excuses why he was the wrong choice. Gideon was timid, scared, and full of self-doubt. David was young and inexperienced. Peter was brash, often speaking before he thought; jumping into situations that he should not have.
All of us could use incompetence as an excuse for not stepping up to the plate in service for Christ. I can tell you, from firsthand experience, that Jesus doesn’t accept that excuse. He didn’t accept it from Moses or Gideon, and He will not accept it from us. If He calls us, and He has, then He will empower us to accomplish the mission.
Paul understood this clearly. Paul had all of the theological training that one could want. Yet, when it came to serving Christ as an Apostle, he felt out of his depth. He had to learn that his skills and talents could take him only so far. At some point, he had to rest in the power of God to take his efforts to a new, higher level. That is exactly what happened. Paul was constantly dealing with those who called him incompetent to lead. Instead of attacking them and defending himself, he turned to Christ. He was able to draw strength from the truth that it was Christ who empowered him to spread the Gospel and lead the Church. Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)
We all feel incompetent at times to serve Christ. We all have excuses about why we are inadequate and why God should use someone else. The bottom line is that none of our excuses matter. When Jesus calls us into service, He makes us competent to serve, whether others agree or not. Our confidence is in Christ and not ourselves. As Paul says, in Romans 8:31, What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?