Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but a our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be 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 live in a culture that values competency. If I hire a plumber, as I’m going to do later today, I want to know that the plumber can do the job better than I can, which shouldn’t be hard. I don’t want someone coming who doesn’t have a clue how to do the job.
At one level, competency is important in pastoral ministry as well. That’s the whole reason we have schools and training. Not everyone has what it takes to be a pastor. Paul gets at this when he writes, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Paul’s talking learned competency here.
But we can never forget that when you get right down to it, no pastor is really competent. This is not an excuse; we still have to do the hard work of preparation, and we still have to try our best. But we can never forget that we don’t have what it takes. There hasn’t been a pastor in history who’s been competent by himself. It makes a big difference when we realize this.
Rather than deflating us, this gives us confidence. The pressure is off us. Ministry really changes when we understand what Paul wrote: “our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant.”
Maybe we need to hang this above our desks. “Our sufficiency is from God. He has made us competent.” That will remind us that we don’t have what it takes, even when we’re at our best. But God has what it takes. He’s at work through us.
It’s God who calls us. It’s God who gives us the resources and the confidence. It’s God who assesses.
“Who is sufficient for these things?” Paul asks in 2 Corinthians 2:16. No one – but God makes us sufficient, and competent, by his grace. Our sufficiency is from God.