Has there ever been a time when God has called you to ‘GO!’ and you’ve replied ‘NO!’? If you’re anything like me, then the honest answer will be: yes.
But not because you were wanting to be disobedient, but rather because you were feeling disabled by inadequacy. In those moments the soundtrack playing inside your head is like Robbie Williams’ hit track ‘I love my life’ played backwards. You don’t hear the words: ‘I am wonderful, I am magical, I am free’; instead you rehearse the lyrics: ‘I am weak, I am sinful, I am unable’.
It’s easy to buy into the lie that God calls and uses other people – the Christian celebrities (like John Lennox, Tim Keller, Amy Orr Ewing, or Rebecca McLaughlin) whose books adorn our shelves and podcasts are recorded on our phones. We don’t feel worthy or adequate to be God’s spokespersons. So we remain silent and under the radar.
However, when we feel that way, the Bible gives us two liberating verses: ‘We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us’ (2 Cor. 4:7). This is an excuse to get a customised hat or t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan: ‘I am a crack pot’. We can rejoice in our felt weaknesses, because God demonstrates His power not in our strengths but in our weaknesses. At a time when Paul felt at his lowest he wrote these words: ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me’ (2 Cor. 12:9).
Let me tell you another story about how God uses people who are weak and feel inadequate. Out in the Bedouin desert, amid the burning sands and under the blazing sun, we meet a man who God calls to be His spokesperson. Yet Moses feels totally inadequate to the task. It has been said that Moses spent 40 years in Egypt thinking he was somebody; Moses spent 40 years in the wilderness learning he was nobody; and now Moses is going to spend the next 40 years of the life discovering what God can do with nobodies. And that should be an encouragement to all of us who feel like inadequate nobodies in evangelism.
In the following conversation, God provides five antidotes to the disabling poison of inadequacy.
Antidote 1 (Ex. 3:1-11)
Firstly, Moses objected: ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ (v.11). And God responds: ‘But I will be with you’ (v.12). Notice that God didn’t answer Moses’ question ‘Who am I?”. He simply promises: ‘I will be with you’! God does not need Moses to be anybody special. God will be to Moses all that he needs for the mission ahead!
The same is true for us in our evangelism. From one point of view, our sense of inadequacy is an indication of the reality that a human being is a breath clinging to the dust. We are nothing in ourselves. However, everything changes when we realise that the Living God is with us and we are filled with His Holy Spirit who breathes new life and power into us.
Antidote 2 (Ex. 3:12-22):
Secondly, Moses said to God: ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I say to them?’ This is a natural question for them to ask, because the Israelites have spent almost 400 years in Egypt, a culture filled with many different deities. Which of them does Moses represent?
Sometimes we can be afraid of attempting or initiating a gospel conversation because we’re afraid we will be asked questions that we don’t know how to answer on the spot. It’s interesting how God responds to Moses – He teaches him. For the first time God reveals His covenant name YHWH: ‘I AM WHO I AM’. Then God educates Moses how he is to answer that question: ‘Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to … a land flowing with milk and honey”.’
The Lord has blessed us by raising up many helpful apologists who can help us learn how to respond to the questions asked in our culture today (see ‘The Knowledge Gap’ article to find out more).
Antidote 3 (Ex. 4:1-9):
Thirdly, Moses objected: ‘But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice’. His concern is that history will repeat itself. Remember how 40 years previously Moses had attempted in his own strength to liberate the Israelites from slavery. However, the Israelites responded to him with contempt. Moses has spent 40 years in the desert healing from the wounds of rejection and is afraid of getting hurt again.
Likewise, Christians can be afraid of how people will respond to us and fear being rejected by them (we have thought about this in ‘The Fear Gap’). However, how people respond is not something you can control. That’s God’s problem, not ours.
God corrects the problem by giving Moses three miraculous signs – which lift everyone’s eyes off Moses to see how great and mighty is his God! God usually chooses to work through unimpressive things – like an ordinary wooden staff, or like an ordinary shepherd called Moses. But when they are taken up in God’s mighty hands, they became extraordinarily useful for accomplishing His invincible purposes. And so you can be encouraged that God is able to take ordinary you, your testimony, your conversations, your good works, your invitations to gospel events, and work powerfully through you in the lives of your friends.
Antidote 4 (Ex. 4:10-12)
Fourthly, Moses pleaded with the LORD: ‘I’m not very good with words. I never have been and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.’ It’s been 40 long years out in the desert shepherding sheep, and his powers of speech have atrophied due to saying ‘baaaaa’ all day long. Moses doesn’t believe he has the skills and abilities to do what God has asked him to do. I’ve heard a lot of people lament: ‘I want to serve God, but I’m just not gifted enough’.
However God responds: ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.’
God already knows what we can and cannot do – because He made us. He formed us in our mother’s womb with the personality, talents, strengths and weaknesses that each of us possess. When God calls us to play our part in His great work, then we can be sure He has a place that fits us (see ‘The Fear Gap’). And He may also surprise us by enabling us to do things we never imagined we were capable of in ourselves.
Antidote 5 (Ex. 4:13-17):
Lastly, Moses exclaimed: ‘Oh, my Lord, please send someone else!’ By this point Moses has run out of excuses, and just wants to run away. Then we read: ‘Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses…’
If you or I were writing the story, that would be the last we ever hear from Moses. But amazingly and graciously, God responds: ‘Is there not Aaron, your brother, … ? I know that he can speak well. … You shall speak to him … and he shall speak for you to the people’. As the story goes on we find that Aaron was more a hindrance than a help. But here’s the crucial thing to see here – Aaron didn’t replace or displace Moses in the plan. You cannot substitute someone else to take your place in God’s mission – you can’t just employ someone else to do it for you – it is no accident that God has placed you in your flat, in your course, with your friends, in your family, in your team. There’s an old hymn that says: ‘There’s a work for Jesus no one else can do but you’. The only person adequate to that unique task is you and Christ in you!
David Nixon is a minister at Carrubbers Christian Centre in Edinburgh.
This article is part of the ‘Mind the Gap’ series, a collection of short essays about overcoming everyday barriers to sharing the gospel. These are being published by Solas at www.solas-cpc.org/tag/mind-the-gap/ with more to follow over the coming months. Its title within the series is ‘The Adequacy Gap’.