“This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God’s way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.” Ephesians 3:7-8 MSG
In this passage, Paul is writing a letter to the Ephesians. Paul is what people in the church might jokingly refer to as a “super Christian” and besides Jesus, He is one of the most talked about leaders in the New Testament who provides an example for us of what a life as a Christian can look like. But here, we get to catch a little glimpse into how Paul thought of himself. While we might idolize him, awestruck by his testimony, amazed by his stories and work in establishing the church, and then be full of reverance when we look to his martyrdom, Paul seems pretty surprised he was the one doing these things.
A little while ago, I wrote a blog post about what we are saying vs. what we should be praying. I think what comes out of our mouths in conversations can often be a hint about what we believe. If you aren’t sure what you believe about something, think about the way you talk about it. What you say often reveals your mindset. I think this is true when we talk about ourselves, and that inspired this post. It quickly soared its way to my most viewed post, and I think there's a reason this resonates with many of us. And we see it here in scripture.
What you might find yourself saying is, “I’m not ready, prepared or equipped.” The truth we find in scripture comes from the above passage: “I was the least qualified...God saw to it that I was equipped.”
I think sometimes we are so busy disqualifying ourselves from the work God wants to do in and through us, that we forget who is qualifying us. In some cases maybe we need an actual qualification like my husband who is a CPA, but even in that case, we still believe God is the One who empowered him to do the work to receive that qualification.
We often think about God providing for us, caring for us, and keeping watch over us. These are all things God does, but I also think God empowers us and equips us beyond our natural abilities.
But often, I find that when God starts nudging us toward something, we tend to sit back and point at ourselves like, “Who me? No way…”
Instead, we should be looking to God, eager and ready to move into what He has for us not because we are capable or ready or equipped, but because we can trust Him to do the equipping and preparation. If He needs us to get a specific qualification He will do it. If He needs us to get a specific connection, He will do it. Or, like Paul, if He needs to completely transform our identity and change the way we live, He will do it.
Paul’s attitude is humble and reflective. He recognizes that he didn’t think he was the obvious choice, and that his “life’s work” had nothing to do with his natural abilities. It had everything to do with God. He entrusted God to take care of all of the details, but he had to move into the position knowing he could entrust God to do the work.
I think this same attitude applies to us today. It might not be in work. Maybe it’s stepping into leadership in your church, or being the one who a friend called to walk through a particularly difficult season.
Maybe, you’re sitting back and thinking to yourself there is no way I can do this. And you probably can’t. At least, not in your own strength, dependent fully on yourself. But with the power of the Holy Spirit, of course you can.
When I look at the call I feel is on my life, I almost want to laugh. There is no way I can do this. I feel too young, I feel too naive, I feel like I don’t have enough talent or experience or knowledge or connections. And when I talk about it, sometimes I sound overwhelmed with the details and all of the things I feel like I should have figured out by now but I totally don’t.
I want to shift that. I want to sound more like this, more like what I see in scripture. Certain that I can’t do this on my own, and I might still feel like a surprising choice for this particular assignment, just like how you might be feeling today.
But that just opens up an invitation to our God to do the work in and through us that only He can do. It invites Him to do the equipping and the preparing and to handle all of the details because we know He can, and He will. We just have to trust Him, even when we might feel like Paul, uncertain that we’re the best person for the job. We probably aren’t. But God doesn’t need the best person. He just needs someone who’s willing to go when He asks, willing to obey when He calls, and ready to see Him move when we invite Him to. He needs us to stop asking ourselves if we feel ready. He needs us to stop making excuses about not being prepared or equipped. He needs us to show up willing to submit to His plan, willing to be used by Him, and ready to see His power at work in our lives.
-How has God equipped you in the past in a situation that you didn't feel qualified for? -Is there something you are facing that feels overwhelming? How can you trust God to equip you for it? -How do you feel when you depend on your own abilities and natural gifting?
What is one thing that you feel like limits you in something God is calling you to do? Pay attention to how you talk about that limitation, and intentionally replace your language with language that reflect trust and dependency in God.
Hey God, thank you for continually equipping us beyond what we are qualified for. You are the One who does the work in and through us. Make us more willing and obedient so that we can be used by you. Help us to surrender our opinions of ourselves to you, and to depend on you more deeply to equip us. Amen.