Falling in Love with Inadequacy
The following article is an excerpt from Jim Cobrae’s upcoming book, Followship: Pastoring in His Presence. This book will be released at the Pastors Gathering, hosted by the Rock Church in San Bernardino, CA (May 15-17, 2018). Click here to learn more about the Pastors Gathering, an outstanding conference that will greatly benefit pastors and their staff members.
We all live in this world of inadequacy—every day, all day. Most pastors see more of what we can’t do and what we don’t have than what we can do and could have. And because we do this, our thinking often stops us before we start. How much in life could have been accomplished if we never had to deal with the feelings of inadequacy and if we could truly feel we could accomplish anything?
If the enemy can just get your thinking off the truth and get you to think wrongly about yourself, he will defeat you before you even start. You’ll wonder, “Why start?” And you won’t.
This is where we find out what we’re made of. Are you just flesh and blood, or is your makeup body, soul, and spirit?
When I was a young person and had some idea that it could be the will of God for me to be in some form of ministry, I started wondering how could this be. I had never even read the Bible all the way through. Truth be known, I always tried to hide that I never read a book—no, not even one. In fact, my ability to read (as I mentioned before) was at a fifth-grade reading level. In school, I was the laughing stock of the classroom. I was very embarrassed about reading and any ability to be educated.
At the age of twenty, I got a job as a salesman with the 3M Company in their adhesive tape division. I could sell and did it well. I still wasn’t a Christian, and I thought life was all up to me. But after failure after failure in the business world, I finally came to Jesus with very little to offer.
Why would or how could Jesus want to use me? I had nothing to offer. Nothing! At this point, I became a willing person to His wants. At least I think so—but like all of us, what we think and what we do are two very different things.
I started to look at my gifting, my talent, my abilities, and even any intelligence that I may possess to see what it was that God might want from me. That was a big mistake because God is not looking at anything that we think could be important. God did have a requirement of me, but it was not like anything I thought I could offer. God required me to take my inadequacy and surrender it to His adequacy.
I can’t, and because I can’t—He can. Crazy, I know (back to the garden thinking).
Or, let’s put it this way: I put in the natural and He puts in the super, and now I have a supernatural experience.
Our Willingness, His Ability
So it is not about how smart I was or how educated I was or any of the things that we think we need to be in order to fulfill His will or plan. It is really about a person who comes to the conclusion that all we will ever need is His ability.
Don’t misunderstand—I’m not saying that you don’t need an education or some gifting. I’m saying it’s all found in His ability to get you where you need to be. David didn’t go to “king school” to learn how to be a king, but he did go to “heart” school and learn how to please God. We get educated and gifted in God’s process, and He will help you to become what He wants. It’s not what you think or in what you can do, but what He can do in you and through you.
I could be very educated but not very smart. What I mean by that is I could learn how to read and learn how to take tests until I become the apex of academia and still be as dumb as a sack of rocks. It is God who takes us through the education process, teaching us what we need and causing us to understand what He wants to use in a life with Him. Why? Because each of us is different. Where you don’t need to be trained someone else may need lots of training, and the opposite is also true.
Here is what I found to be true: recognizing my inadequacy is the first step to His fulfillment of my life’s desire.
Isn’t that what grace is all about? For years we’ve defined grace as “unmerited favor.” This is true, but few of us truly understand what that means because we don’t talk that way anymore. We don’t understand the fullness of the word “unmerited” or even “favor.” It means that God gives you something that you didn’t earn, but it means so much more. It is saying that God’s ability comes in when your ability can’t go any further.
I taught our church this little statement: “Grace is God’s sovereign, divine ability to get the job done on my behalf when I can’t do it.” Now that is grace.
Deby put it much simpler. She says, “Grace is God’s power in me to do what God’s Word demands of me.”
With all of that in mind, let’s look at some scriptures.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:7-11:
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing.
Note in verse seven, it is not about Paul and what he has and/or what he carries. To prove that, God allows a messenger of Satan to come against him. This keeps him dependent on God (be mindful that “dependency” is “humility”).
He asked God three times to remove the condition. To me, when Paul, this great apostle, asks God for something and doesn’t get it, we should pay close attention. God did not remove the problem (God does not always answer our prayers because He wants us to see something).
This statement says it all. Not only for Paul but also for you and me: “My grace [God’s sovereign divine ability to get the job done on our behalf when we can’t do it] is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in your inadequacy” (my paraphrased version).
In verse ten through eleven, Paul talks about his feelings, and these feelings should be our feelings because we should understand the importance the role of our inadequacy plays.
In James 4:6 it says, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
And in 1 Corinthians 1:27 Paul says, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.”
My failures and lack of ability to get things accomplished is an accepted position to God, and not a bad thing, because in my weakness and lack of ability, then He is made strong. When you recognize this, you and God are now in your proper roles in order to accomplish His will. This now becomes the exact position that God wants mankind to be in—completely dependent on Him for all fulfillment as we were before the fall or before the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Here is a fun question: “In your future, who needs to be strong—you or God?” The answer may surprise you. The answer is “both.” We do the best we can, but our confidence is in what He can and will do. That is the kind of thinking that takes a church of hundreds to a church of thousands.
I know that I have no answers to life, but I know the One who has all the answers to everything. And because I’m humble, “dependent,” He will add His ability to fulfill His plan for me.
There are many fascinating verses in Hebrews chapter eleven. I find verse thirty-four very interesting. This verse talks about all the great people of Hebrews eleven where no names are mentioned. It is saying something great about these people that we need to see. It is the very thing that makes them special enough to be in the Bible.
It says they “quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Hebrews 11:34). Their “faith” was simply dependency on God—humility.
So, fall in love with the plan of God and realize that your inadequacy is the open door to His power that will fulfill His plan for your life. We all understand this, we minister this, but we forget it and we live very troubled lives.
God gets the job done for us in our weakness. That’s why the Bible says, “All things are possible to him that believes.” Believes in what? In a God that gives more grace to the humble or dependent.