“and who is adequate for these things?” (II Corinthians 2:16)
Anyone who has ever taken their Christian ministry seriously can identify with the words of the Apostle Paul in this verse. Here Paul just exclaims about the gravity of the ministry he is involved in. He has just written that he and his fellow workers are “an aroma from death to death” and “life to life” among the people to whom they ministered. He knew that eternity was on the line with each conversation, each contact with people he encountered.
He did not take this lightly. So here he sighs: “Who is adequate for these things?” Paul knew that he couldn’t rightly fulfill this weighty responsibility on his own. He had not the power or wisdom or words to rightly deal with each person, knowing that their eternity might hang in the balance.
But this very attitude is itself a blessing. It is what Jesus called in Matthew 5:3 being “poor in spirit.” The poor in spirit realizes that he is inadequate in himself; that spiritually he is poor — literally a “beggar” who must depend upon someone else for his needs. But Jesus proclaimed: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” When we admit our spiritual need, then we are blessed, for God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).
This attitude of inadequacy is vital first of all in salvation: the first step to salvation is realizing that we cannot save ourselves. Then we are in position to call upon the Lord to ask Him to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves, and the poor in spirit are saved as they call on Him.
But poverty in spirit is also an essential attitude as we seek to fulfill the ministries to which God has called us. “Who is adequate for these things?” Who can say just the right words to a lost person? Who can adequately express a virtually inexpressible spiritual truth in a sermon or Bible lesson? Who can rightly counsel a young woman who is considering abortion? Who can rightly balance love and truth to a person who doesn’t want to listen? If you have ever served in ministry, you can empathize with Paul’s feelings: “Who is adequate for these things?”
The answer is, of course, that none of us are. But if like Paul we will admit our inadequacy, and ask God for help, He will indeed give grace to us if we are humble, and advance His kingdom through us if we are poor in spirit. Don’t be discouraged: it’s not a problem if you feel inadequte for the ministry God has entrusted to you. The problem comes when you feel like you are!