Do you feel unqualified for what God is asking you to do? Is it something beyond your talents, abilities, or skill set? In this 5-day reading plan, Pete Briscoe shares how our earthly limitations never hinder what God wants to accomplish through us. We can be confident that if God has called us—He’ll equip us.
Everyone (else) is great
Refuse to be average. Let your heart soar as high as it will. —A. W. Tozer
When was the last time you were asked to engage in something beyond your skill set? Home maintenance, maybe? Perhaps your spouse asked you to hang a towel bar in the bathroom on a Saturday morning, which led to the discovery of a leaking shower pan, a rotted subfloor, and mold. And now you’re standing in a pile of rubble thinking: I just wanted a place to hang up my towel.
When was the last time God asked you to do something beyond your skill set? A yes answer would usher you into a role that felt way over your head.
I was a 22-year-old youth pastor when some parents asked me for advice regarding their rebellious teen. I was only four and a half years older than their kid, and I felt completely unqualified.
I had this same feeling when, as a senior pastor, I sat with a guy who’d neglected his wife for so long that she finally left him. He asked me what to do, but I wasn’t certain I could help.
And again, I felt this way a few years later when I realized I’d neglected my own wife to a degree, and now I needed to grow in this area. I didn’t know where to start.
The common feeling in all of these scenarios is the feeling of inadequacy. Inadequacy tells us our limited resources limit our contribution.
This has been a pattern taught to us since childhood. We learn there are great people who do great things, and there are average people who do average things, and finally, a much larger group of below-average people who do below-average things.
Youth sports are a prime example of this. Great kids get tons of playing time, average kids fill the gaps and serve as subs, and below-average kids warm the bench. Corporations are another example: great people climb the ladder, average people hover in the same position, and below-average people face layoffs.
But here’s what I need you to know: believing that our limitations limit our contributions is a worldly mindset. This mindset has no place in the understanding of Jesus and what He wants to do with us and through us.
Jesus, I’d love to be free of this performance-driven mindset. Free me from my limitations this week as I learn what it means to trust You. Amen.
Running toward inadequacy
The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them… —Arthur C. Clarke
Are you a runner? I don’t mean a half marathon or marathon runner. Rather, are you a person who runs from the slightest feeling of inadequacy?
Many years ago, I was asked to present a dramatic monologue during an event for Campus Crusade. I spent hours in preparation for my two-hour solo. And when the evening came, Libby and I were sitting in the front row, enjoying the program, and waiting for my cue. Just as it was my turn to go on stage, the emcee announced to the audience, “We’ve got a surprise for you!” Vonette Bright, the wife of Campus Crusade’s founder, was on the phone.
Over the loudspeakers, Vonette announced that her husband, Bill, was expected to pass away that night. There was a hush in the room and tears on our cheeks as we listened to Vonette share Bill’s story.
Then it was my turn. Before the lights came up, I was drying my tears and contemplating the intense moment we’d all shared. And then I realized my mind was blank. I was scheduled to be on stage for the next two hours, and I couldn’t remember a single line.
I was painfully aware of my limitations, and I contemplated dashing off the stage before go-time.
Inadequacy is a struggle. It can either paralyze us or taunt us. We want to either run away or ignore the request—convinced God has the wrong person in mind for the job.
This begs the question: Does God actually ask people to do things beyond their abilities?
Luke 9 would answer, “Absolutely.”
Jesus’ disciples had just returned from their first solo ministry circuit— driving out demons and curing diseases—and Jesus invites them to retreat with Him. But the crowds follow, and rather than turn them away, Jesus welcomes them and teaches until dinnertime.
The Twelve came to [Jesus] and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go… find food and lodging….”
He replied, “You give them something to eat.”
They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish…” (Luke 9:12-13)
Jesus had eyes to see the thousands of hungry people. He knew there wasn’t enough food. But He asked the disciples to feed them anyway.
Lord, it’s possible that focusing on my own limitations has stolen precious moments of worship. Rather than listen to a voice of self-loathing, amplify within me a voice of praise for You and the way You want to partner with me. Amen.
The one thing I was good at was winning scholarships and prizes, and that era was coming to an end. —Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
America has more than 2,600 accredited universities and colleges, with approximately 10 million students enrolled at any given time. Almost 2 million college grads are entering the workforce each year, but there’s one problem: too many people are equally qualified for too few job opportunities.
What do they do? The most competitive people dive back in and acquire more education and skills. This is our American culture; we value the accumulation of highly refined skills for the sake of securing employment.
The idea that God would ask someone qualified in a specific area to do something beyond that person’s skill set seems a little counter-cultural. We like to match a person to a task based upon their credentials. Also, we like to feel qualified. This is why we spend so much money getting trained in our areas of interest.
So why would God put us in such an awkward position?
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus sends out His disciples with a specific purpose. He wants them to do what He does—heal the sick and cast out demons. Realizing they aren’t qualified, “he gave them power and authority” to do as instructed (Luke 9:1). No degrees are required. No extra clothing, no cash, no food. Just a complete dependence upon Jesus’ power and authority.
The disciples were wildly successful. So much so that Herod, the ruler of that area, heard all about it and said, “I beheaded John [the Baptist]. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?” And he tried to see him” (Luke 9:9).
The disciples were preaching and healing, but Herod “tried to see Him,” singular. This observation points us to the why.
Jesus invites us to do things beyond our abilities because He knows we must depend upon Him to empower us. As a result of His empowerment, others will be drawn to seek Him.
Jesus, inadequacy says I’m not enough. But You say anything I offer is more than enough. May I spend every day depending upon the “more than enough” Spirit who lives in me as we do things together that are way beyond my own abilities. Amen.
Are you available?
I haven’t any language weak enough to depict the weakness of my spiritual life. If I weakened it enough it would cease to be language at all. —C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
What if your skills are rusty?
What if it’s been a while since you tried to exercise that gift?
What if you’ve only dreamed of doing this?
The Gospel of John gives us some details about the feeding of the masses that Luke leaves out. In Luke, we’re told it was the disciples who had the loaves and fish. But in John, we find out it was a young boy (John 6).
Were those loaves and fish meant to be dinner for his family? Was his family there with him? Was he running errands, got sidetracked by Jesus, and now he’s late for dinner? Who knows?
What we do know is that one boy had five loaves and two fish, and Jesus’ disciples offered them to Jesus while stating the obvious—they weren’t enough.
Since childhood, we’ve been taught that great people do great things, average people do average things, and a massive group of below-average people do below-average stuff.
Greatness is for the elite.
The rest of us just aren’t enough.
Charles Spurgeon said of this passage in the Gospels, “All that mattered was that the lad’s loaves were in the Lord’s hands.”
It could have been ten loaves or half a loaf. It could have been fresh bread or stale bread. It even could have been crumbs from the bottom of the boy’s basket.
In the hands of Jesus, “not enough” is more than enough.
Jesus told His crew to feed the masses, and He had every intention of empowering them to do so—no matter the quantity or quality of the goods offered.
It doesn’t matter how few gifts you bring. It doesn’t matter if your skills are rusty. It doesn’t even matter if your abilities aren’t all that able. All that matters is you make yourself available to Jesus.
Lord, I could define myself by my shortcomings and weaknesses. Or I could define myself by my availability to You. May I be openhanded with all the loaves and fish in my life. Amen
Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them. —Albert Einstein
If you’ve ever wondered, What does Jesus want to do with me? I’m about to tell you the answer. Jesus takes limited people and does limitless things through them. This is what He did then, and it’s what He will do now.
We’ve been reading about the boy who gave Jesus his five loaves and two fish, and with those loaves, Jesus fed thousands. The bread could have been stale, and the fish could have been fishy, but all that mattered was that the lad’s loaves were in the Lord’s hands.
What we see as “not enough” becomes more than enough when offered to Jesus.
So what does this look like in everyday life?
Some of us are parenting teenagers right now. We’re looking at our kids and looking back at Jesus and wondering, Why did You ask me to raise this kid? It seems like I’m doing it all wrong. My child thinks I’m terrible and I am struggling.
And Jesus is saying to you, “I have you right where I want you—raising this child, so I can demonstrate how capable I am through you. So relax. Let Me, parent, through you. Trust Me.”
Some of us are leading ministry, and we are painfully aware of our inadequacy. We are limited and convinced our limitations limit our contributions to our ministry.
Jesus knows this isn’t true. In fact, our limitations give Him room to demonstrate His power.
Some of us are being asked to give generously, but all we can think about is our limited income. Listen, even if you have only a little, trust God. Put the gift in His hands and see what He does.
Even crumbs can be multiplied when they’re offered to Jesus.
Jesus, maybe I look around my life and see only what I lack—time, money, talents, and skills. Let me see my life through Your eyes. Let me see all this lack as the perfect space for You to show off. Thank You for inviting me to be a part of Your great plan. Amen.
- Is God asking me to do something that I don’t feel qualified to do?
- Do I need to trust God to empower me?
- Can I make myself available to God despite my shortcomings and weaknesses?