4_your Inadequacy And Gods Power
YOUR INADEQUACY AND GOD'S POWER
Freedom From Your Fears - Part 4
"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know... his incomparably great power for us who believe." Eph. 1:19 (NIV)
"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." 2 Tim. 1:7 (NIV)
What's our natural response to feeling inadequate?
1. We Cover up (Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves)
2. We Hide out (They hid in the bushes)
3. We Put down (They blamed one another)
HOW TO ELLIMINATE THE FEAR OF INADEQUECY:
I. RESPOND TO INCURABLE WEAKNESS WITH DEPENDENCE ON GOD
"But he said to me, `My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Cor. 12:9-10 (NIV)
"A self-sufficient fool falls flat on his face." Prov. 10:8 (TLB)
"I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory." Ps. 63:2 (NIV)
II. RESPOND TO UNREASONABLE PEOPLE WITH GOD’S PATIENCE
"Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love." Eph. 4:2 (TLB)
"Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible." Rom 12:18 (TLB)
"And I pray that you... may have power... to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." Eph. 3:17-18 (NIV)
III. RESPOND TO IMPOSSIBLE PROBLEMS WITH FAITH
"God can do things that are not possible for people to do." Luke 18:27 (NCV)
"And he asked them, `Why were you so fearful? Don't you even yet have confidence in me?'" Mark 4:40 (TLB)
"Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power... Nothing is too hard for you." Jer. 32;17 (NIV)
YOUR INADEQUACY AND GOD'S POWER
Freedom From Your Fears - Part 4
Anytime we face something new in our lives we face the fear of inadequacy. This is a very simple fear to describe. It's when you look at your life and you think, "I don't have what it takes." I don't have what it takes to be a parent, to be a leader, to be a believer. Have you ever felt that way? We all have. Everyone in this room has.
It's very important to understand that God doesn't want us to feel this way. A lot of times we get confused in Christianity and in church. Sometimes people confuse this fear with humility. They think God wants us to feel this way. God wants us to feel like we're not worth much, just sort of down here. That's not true at all.
Ephesians 1:19 "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know his incomparably great power for us who believe." 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." That first prayer is my prayer for you today. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be opened, that you can see from the inside out how great God's power is for your life. That's the answer to this fear of inadequacy in our lives. You might circle "his incomparably great power". He wants to share it with us. How great is God's power? He keeps the world spinning. He keeps the sun burning. He takes billions of stars and hangs them in place and keeps them there, every minute of every day and the Bible says He wants to take that great power and transform it into our lives and make it work in our lives. He wants to take our feeling of "I don't have what it takes" and He wants to express to us that He has what it takes in everyday life.
How? How does He do that? How do I experience His power in my life? We have to learn to trade in our response to our feelings of inadequacy for God's response to our feelings of inadequacy. When you learn that you begin to set aside this fear and begin to enjoy a new sense of strength and power and real confidence in everyday life.
What's our natural response to feeling inadequate? Some of the things you think of were things described to us the first time anyone felt inadequate. It started way back in the Garden of Eden -- this feeling of inadequacy. The Bible tells us that Adam and Eve bit into the apple and they realized they were naked and they were ashamed. That's not a bad description of what inadequacy is all about. All of a sudden you've got this terrible realization of what's missing in your life. And you struggle with that.
That reminds me of one of my favorite stories about a pastor who went to preach a sermon and used one of these loose leaf Bibles, ones that you could take pages in and out of so you could put your own notes in. On the way up he didn't know it but one of the pages of scripture fell out. He got up and was going to tell the story of Adam and Eve. "`And Adam said to Eve ...'" and he turned the page. One page had fallen out and he didn't realize it. He turned back. "`And Adam said to Eve ... And Adam said to Eve...' Very interesting. It looks like a leaf is missing." That inadequacy! You just have the feeling something's missing in your life.
Look at the response. When we feel inadequate,
- We Cover Up. Adam and Eve sewed some fig leaves. We cover up. We pretend "I've got it all together. I understand. Everything's fine." We cover up. We don't want to let anybody know.
- Or We Hide Out. Adam and Eve were very simple about all this. They hid out in the bushes. We're a little more complex. We hide in our office or in our house or in our car. We say, "I'm never going to let myself be hurt like that again. I'm never going to face a situation like that again. I just won't go. I won't be there." Do you ever do that when you feel inadequate? Hide out?
- Or We Put Down Or Gossip. This is probably the most natural response to feeling inadequate. They blamed each other. When you feel inadequate, the most natural response is to put somebody else down. I'm feeling inadequate so let's make them feel inadequate too. We do that to each other. We try to bring other people down to the level we're feeling.
These responses -- hiding out, covering up, putting down -- if you do these things in life it's not going to make you feel any more powerful or any more adequate. It's just going to confirm and strengthen the feelings of inadequacy that we all face in our lives. There is a different direction to take -- God's direction.
I am set free from the fear of inadequacy not by great successes, but from how I respond to difficult circumstances. It's not great successes that make me feel more adequate. A lot of people think it is -- if they can have a few successes in life they would get over the hump. It doesn't work. Many times the more successes you have the more you feel like you have to match up to it. You feel more and more inadequate in life.
Think about the entertainment world. John Housman said, "One of the emotions of my life when it comes from acting has been terror." Richard Burton admitted that one of the reasons he became an alcoholic was because he was terrified someone would discover who he really was. Barbara Streisand began singing again after not singing in public for twenty years. She felt inadequate. With a voice like hers she felt inadequate!
Successes don't do it. You can't pile up enough of them to make you feel more adequate in life.
The way to begin to feel a new sense of confidence and strength and power in life is to begin to learn how to respond to difficult circumstances. When you and I feel inadequate God sends difficult circumstances into our life. We can respond in one of two ways. We can get mad and bitter and feel more and more inadequate or we can understand the way God wants us to respond. Once you've learned that you begin to build confidence into your life. It would be easy this morning to just spend twenty minutes building you up, building up your confidence, telling you how great you are and you can go out and do anything. That would last about as far as the end of the parking lot, until you hit the first difficulty in your life. That's not God's way of building confidence into our lives. His way is to send into our lives some tough circumstances, to show us how to respond. And when you respond in the right way, He builds confidence into your life.
Three circumstances He most popularly sends into all our lives and the response you and I can make that can build His confidence into our lives.
I’m set free from the fear of inadequacy when I respond in these three ways:
1. RESPOND TO INCURABLE WEAKNESS WITH FAITH
2 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul, as great as he was, struggled with some incurable weaknesses in his life. And because of this he asked God to take it away from him. He said, I don't want to live with this. God said no. "God said to me, `My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness.' For when I am weak then I am strong."
What is an incurable weakness? Some of you get weak at the knees when you see a chocolate bar. Is that what we're talking about? No. And it's not sin in our lives because that's curable. We can change. We're not talking about temptation.
An incurable weakness is a limitation. It can be physical, emotional, a talent limitation. It's any limitation in your life that's inherited or you can't change. Paul had a name for his weakness. He called it his thorn in the flesh. We don't know what it was. A lot of people have a lot of different ideas. Some people think it was the fact that he couldn't see very well, possibly malaria. I read one guy said his thorn in the flesh was his wife. I don't know where these commentators get some things! I don't think that's what it was. It was some kind of a physical limitation in his life.
"My power is made perfect in weakness." Doesn't that sound strange? Doesn't it seem God would make his power more perfect in our lives by causing us to be more powerful? But it doesn't work that way. When I face a weakness in my life it invites me to respond to God in a way that can build a new sense of confidence. The Living Bible translates this verse, "My power shows up best in weak people."
How can you see God's power in a physical limitation in your life? How can you see God's power in the fact that you're not as talented as somebody else? One word: Dependence. When I respond to incurable weakness with dependence. Many times our response to our feelings of insecurity and inadequacy is we keep life pared down to our human limitations, "This is what I can do... this is what I can't do..." We get wrapped up in ourselves and that's usually a pretty small package.
To help you see where you might be surrendering in your life to this fear of inadequacy, ask yourself this question once a month or so: What am I attempting in my life that I could not pull off in my own strength that requires God's strength? Dependence helps us to understand God's strength in our lives. How do you see God's power in your weakness? Dependence on Him. Not yourself but on Him.
I think a lot of times when people think of depending on God, they think of a large rock and you're leaning on Him and it's a very secure place. Maybe that's part of the picture but it's not all of it. i think of it not as leaning on a large rock, but as getting on a large rocket. He's going somewhere. God is going somewhere. When you depend on Him, it's like getting on the space shuttle, it's going to take off and fly. There's a power there that you don't have in your life and depending on Him ties you in to that power. The Bible tells us apart from Christ we can do nothing but in Christ we can do all things. Proverbs 10 "A self sufficient fool falls flat on his face." That's pretty simple!
Sometimes God has to put us flat on our back to keep us from falling flat on our face. So we can look up to him and say, "I need to depend on You in my life." That's why He sends weakness into our life. God loves to turn our greatest weaknesses into our greatest strengths.
If you're one of those people who think you could never really be a person of faith, to trust God like we're talking about, you respect people who do, you wish you could be like that but you think you don't have that kind of faith to trust. The greatest people of faith that I've known often have been those people who you'd looked at before they became a believer and said, "They could never be a person of faith. Their life is filled with sin and temptation and struggle and difficulty. They could never be a person of faith." But the greatest people I've known of faith have been those very people.
The same is true of the stories of the people in the Bible. When you come to Christ in that way He often turns your greatest weakness into your greatest strength. There are some people who come to jc and say, "God, look at what you've got! I'm pretty great! I've got all this intelligence. I was brought up in this Christian home and know the Bible and all this stuff." God can't do very much with that kind of a person. They're depending on their self. But when someone comes to Christ and says, "I need You. If I'm going to do this God, I'm totally depending on You." There is hope and promise in that of your becoming one of the greatest people of faith of all times. God loves to turn our greatest weakness into our greatest strength. If you feel you have a weak faith or no faith, depend on Him and let Him turn it into your greatest strength. That's what weakness is sent into our lives for.
With each of these, I want to give you a practical place to start. Depending on God is a huge thing in life. Where do you get started? What's something you can regularly do to build that attitude into your life? A starting place for responding to incurable weakness with dependence: Worship weekly. There is something about worship that reminds us of how powerful God is. It's a regular reminder we do in our lives. Psalm 63 "I've seen you in the sanctuary and I've beheld your power and your glory." That's what worship does for us. We realize we're poor and weak, we had a tough week, we blew it! But God is thinking about me right now! I think the most significant thing that happens in worship is not that I come and think about God but that I realize how much He's thinking about me every moment of every day of my life. That builds into my heart an ability to depend on Him. It's like a weekly exercise to build your dependence on God muscle. One of the things God sends into our lives to build confidence in Him is incurable weakness.
2. RESPOND TO UNREASONABLE PEOPLE WITH GOD’S PATIENCE
Do you know any unreasonable people? We all have unreasonable people in our lives. They are a part of our lives. One person said unreasonable people are like heavenly sandpaper. They irritate out the rough edges of your life.
What does an unreasonable person look like? Timothy faced a lot of them. The criticize much more than they encourage. The attack you, always on the offensive. They always want to get you involved in arguments. It seems like you can never just have a discussion with this person, it's always an argument. They tend to major on minors and they keep you from focusing on what's really important. They are often filled with selfishness. Does that remind you of anyone? Sometimes you work with them. Sometimes they are in your small group. Sometimes they are in your car pool. Some of you have so many rough edges in your life that God has seen to it, that you're married to your heavenly sandpaper! Who's words do you remember more? The encourager or the critic? The critic. That shows the power of the unreasonable person in our life. God has sent these people into your life to build into your life a sense of His power.
I was joking a moment ago about you being married to your heavenly sandpaper. The truth of the matter is you can't be that close to somebody without them irritating you every once in a while. Isn't that true? You just can't. I don't understand how in the world I can go so quickly from wanting to spend the rest of my life with my wife to "I can't stand it when you do that thing!" But it happens. Sometimes that's the person God is using. I have a lot more rough edges than my wife. That means she has to be a lot more irritating that I am!
God has sent these people into your life to develop a sense of His power. How? What is the response I can have that can develop that? Patience. Again and again the Bible encourages us to be patient with unreasonable people. When you love the unlovely you're acting most like God. Jesus said to love your enemies so that you can be just like your Father who is in heaven. He sends His sun on the evil and on the good.
Ephesians 4:2 "Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love." Make allowance. If you're driving and following a large motor home, the wind is blowing and the motor home is weaving back and forth. If you're going to pass that motor home, you're going to give it some allowance so it doesn't bump into you. This verse is saying make allowance for people. Give them an extra lane or two. Realize they're going to weave sometimes, they're going to make some mistakes in life.
You've got to give yourself the freedom to fail. This verse is reminding us you've got to give others the freedom to fail, too. That's part of being patient with other people.
Romans 12 "Be at peace with everyone just as much as possible." There is only so much I can do. But as much as you can do, that's what God expects you to do. You can't be patient for them but you can be patient for you. Realize there is a difference between patience and capitulation. You can give to others without giving in to others. Being patient doesn't mean you always let them have their way or ruin your business. Being patient simply means that you love them no matter what. That's tough. For everybody I know that's tough.
Where do you start? How can you develop this attitude in your life? The starting place is to picture God's love for you. See it. "I pray that you may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." He's praying that you can see it! It's one thing for a guy to stand up here and talk to you about how great God's love is. It's quite another thing to grab hold of it, to picture it, to see it for yourself.
Have you ever gotten one of those postcards of the Grand Canyon that someone sends you? How can you reduce the Grand Canyon to a 5X7 postcard? You can look at that postcard but you'll never understand the grandeur of it. To really understand the Grand Canyon you have to go to it and walk right up to the edge where you could fall off and see it for yourself.
Paul writes and says, I want you to picture God's love. I want you to see it for yourself, how high, how long, how wide, how deep it is. Once you see that you'll have a new strength to love other people. Once you picture how deeply God loves you, you can love other people. God is so patient with me. He knows every fault in my life and every stupid thing I think and say and yet He still loves me, He's still patient with me and shows His grace to me. That helps me be patient with other people. That's the number one thing that helps me be patient with other people! Seeing God's love for you strengthens your patience with others.
3. RESPOND TO IMPOSSIBLE PROBLEMS WITH FAITH
He encourages us to learn to respond to impossible problems with faith. A lot of times we think if God is trying to help me become more confident why does he often put me in places where it seems like I can't succeed? How does that build my self confidence? He's not trying to build self confidence. He's trying to build our confidence in Him. That's where the real power is. That's where the strength is.
Jesus called His disciples timid only once. They had a lot of problems as disciples. They made a lot of mistakes and did a lot of dumb things but there was only one time that He called them timid. It was when they were in the middle of the Sea of Galilee and a huge storm came by. These disciples were fishermen. They knew a dangerous storm and they knew this one was dangerous. They were afraid for their lives. They were in a panic, running around, wondering what to do. Jesus was sleeping through the whole thing. Finally He woke up and stretched out His arms and said, "Peace, be still" and the storm was calm. He looked at His disciples and said, "You timid disciples! You men of little faith!" I think, if I'm in the middle of a hurricane don't I have the right to be a little frightened? Be in a panic? I think the reason Jesus was upset was because they were focused on the storm around them and not on Jesus Christ who was in the boat, who had the answers.
As a parent, if you have the answer to one of your kid's problems, if you could help them, and they didn't ask you for help, wouldn't that upset you? It upset Jesus. He knew He had the answer. He had the power to make a difference. The fishermen cowered from the waves in timid fear instead of calling upon the master in total faith. The disciples were in over their heads literally, they couldn't handle this. That's not what upset Jesus. It was the fact that they didn't turn to Him and say, "You can handle this." It's OK to admit you can't handle it but when we do we need to look to the God who can.
Luke 18:27 "God can do things that are not possible for people to do." Of course He can, He's God. But have you discovered that in a personal way in your life? The way that God helps you to discover that is by sending impossible problem in your life. Jesus said to His disciples at the end of that storm, "Why were you so fearful? Don't you even yet have confidence in Me." Impossible problems are an invitation to have confidence in God not in ourselves.
Jesus gave His disciples an object lesson in this once. He taught them a lot about this. He knew how feelings of inadequacy can overcome our lives. Jesus was teaching to about five to ten thousand people one day. The day was drawing to an end. The disciples came up to Him, "How are we going to feed all of these guys?" Jesus said, "You feed them." Talk about an impossible problem! They didn't have any food! They found a boy who was willing to give a few loaves and fish. They put it in Jesus' hands and He divided them and everybody was fed that day with twelve baskets left over.
Do I ever feel inadequate? You better believe I do! Trying to tell dozens of people this week end about how high and wide and deep God's love is and communicate that, I feel a little inadequate to try to do that! This fear of inadequacy more than any other is the fear I've faced in my life. I think it's one of the things that goes along with growing up in a home that's not so secure. Maybe some of you have faced the same thing. You're going to face some of this fear in your life.
When I first came to Prince George Community Church three years ago, I came from a smaller church in Southern BC. Did I feel inadequate sometimes coming here? Yes! This story of the feeding of the five thousand is what helped me to get through those first few months. I knew more than anything that God wanted me to be here but even knowing that you can still feel inadequate. I remembered this story and a line from a song, "Little becomes much when I place it in the Master's hands." My little becomes much when I place it in the Master's hands.
All of us, when we look at our lives from time to time, we feel like we don't have much to give, much to offer. Little becomes much when you place it in the Master's hands. You may not feel very adequate as a parent, but your little becomes much when you place it in Christ's hands. You may not feel very adequate as a leader, a manager, a husband, a wife, but your little becomes much. He can multiply it when you place it in the hands of Jesus Christ.
A starting place for recognizing how much God can do in your life is an object lesson God's put all around us. Look at what has made! Jeremiah 32 "Lord you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power. Nothing is too hard for you."
One of the characteristics of this fear of inadequacy is that you feel like you're all alone. You feel like you're the only one that feels this way. Everybody else is filled with confidence. They're going through life great. But you don't feel like you've got much sometimes. You feel like you're all alone. That is not true. Just look through the Bible at some of the people who faced this fear of inadequacy. Moses faced this fear. He wrote the first five books of the Bible. But he faced this fear. Joshua faced this fear. He led the people into the promised land. But he faced this fear. Jeremiah who was a great prophet faced this fear. Peter faced this fear -- one of the disciples. Timothy faced this fear -- one of the leaders of the early church. They faced it for different reasons. Moses felt like he couldn't talk well enough. Jeremiah felt like he was too young. Peter felt like he was too brash and emotional. Timothy felt like he couldn't deal with people. But they faced it and they dealt with it. Un-dealt with, this fear of inadequacy can steel your life's purpose away from you. But dealt with, the Bible presents an exciting picture of God being able to transform people who face this fear when they give it to him. It doesn't present a picture of somebody just getting barely over the line and making it up to the level of mediocrity. it presents a picture of people being transformed. Moses confronts Pharaoh and Jeremiah becomes a prophet and Peter speaks so confidently that thousands of lives are changed when he speaks. Timothy becomes a pastor at Ephesus. Why? Because they looked at their fear of inadequacy and they trusted God. They found out that He is able. He is able to do immeasurably more than anything you can ask or imagine.
You may be thinking you don't see that happening in your life. God's going to lovingly continue to send into you life these circumstances, weaknesses, unreasonable people, impossible problems. Every time they come they're inviting you "Respond to Me." And you're going to learn to do that and as you learn He's going to build into your life a new sense of confidence.
The power of God's love makes the difference.
Jesus Christ, we need the power of Your love expressed in our life every day. You know us. You see us. You see how sometimes we feel very inadequate for life. We feel very inadequate for faith. Help us to understand today that our confidence can be found in You, that Lord, when we come to You we don't find someone who puts us down. We find someone who lifts us up. We do rise with wings like eagles, by faith and trust in You. I pray particularly for anybody today who is feeling like You can't work in their lives, You can't solve this problem. Lord, flood their hearts with hope and strength and joy in knowing that You are a God who not only cares but who has the power and willingness to make a difference. We turn to You, God. In Jesus' name. Amen.
A verse I remind myself of almost every time I say anything to anybody about Christ: Ephesians 3:20-21 "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory." To Him, according to His power, at work within us. Amazing, isn't it?