Feeling Deficient

Posted on August 26, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Devotional Reflections

I don’t think I am different from a lot of Christians in the tendency to feel deficient in ability and motivation for what I ought to be doing. We know we ought to consistently share our faith with others, should probably take a leadership or teaching responsibility at church or go on that mission trip, but we feel so inadequate. Certainly there are those who seem to exude confidence as they take initiative in various ministries. I have looked with envy on those who seem to have apparent giftedness that was enhanced by a high self-esteem.

This is especially true in the area of witnessing. I try to seek opportunities to engage the unsaved in conversation that would lead to a presentation of the gospel, but I don’t have the gift of evangelism. I admire those who seem to do this so naturally and effectively. My own feelings of deficiency reached a peak when I arrived as a missionary in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world. I suspect this is not uncommon to other missionaries thrust into a cross-cultural situation. In spite of my education and training I felt ill-equipped and intimidated. Frustration grew into discouragement, and discouragement grew into despondency when I couldn’t find the handle and no fruit was forth-coming.

It was somewhat consoling to discover the testimony of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. I had always thought of Paul as the missionary proto-type of boldness and effectiveness. He was my hero and model. My image was of a gifted evangelist who was persuasive in his wisdom and logic. He could fluently communicate the gospel with impressive oratory. Yet he defied this concept as he reflected on his ministry in Corinth.

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom….And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:1, 3-4). Could I ever identify with that! I could not speak the language fluently. The logic from my Christian worldview did not make sense from a Muslim religious perspective. I usually found people indifferent to my witness and often antagonistic, even threatening–talk about fear and trembling!

But Paul explained the key to overcoming these feelings of deficiency in verse two: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Too often we rely upon our own ability which will always be deficient. Jesus is the focus of our message and our witness. He has promised to bless and empower us as we focus entirely on Him. That is why Paul concludes this passage by saying that his witness “was in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4-5).

There is power in the message of the gospel–Jesus Christ crucified. He proclaimed in John 12:32, “And when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto me.” He was lifted up on the cross, crucified for the sins of the world. And when we lift Him up in a bold, positive witness of our faith, the Spirit of God indwells the truth of our witness. We don’t persuade people simply through our wisdom and a logical presentation of the gospel. Effective ministry doesn’t come simply through talents and personal skills. The power of God is unleashed when we lift up Jesus and focus on Him. After all, He did say, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

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