Monday, December 10, 2018

In the Face of Inadequacy

“Do not God's visitations unnerve us? But why? Because He never comes to us without asking us to do something. We never know what He will ask of us, but we know that we will be overwhelmed by our feelings of inadequacy.”
― Calvin Miller, The Christ of Christmas: Readings for Advent
It’s a good thing God’s outcomes don’t depend on our abilities. If that were the case, a young virgin from Nazareth would not have been selected as Jesus’ mother. A poor carpenter would not have been chosen His earthly father. The Bethlehem shepherds would not have been assigned to deliver the Good News. And so on.

After the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her this thing she will have to do, and after he tells her about Elizabeth’s own miraculous pregnancy, Gabriel says,
“For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

That was the ESV. I love the way the NIV puts it: For no word from God will ever fail.”

Mary was probably overwhelmed by her own inadequacy at this point. Even if I had heard an angel say “fear not” repeatedly, I would not have believed any of this was possible. And so Gabriel adds one more layer to help seal the deal. No word from God will ever fail. Nothing is impossible with God. Not His well-laid plans, not our mustard-seeds-can-move-mountains prayers, not the aligning of all things for the perfect fullness of time (Galatians 4:4).

If, like Calvin Miller—and a great many saints like him—God’s visitations unnerve you, then know that is not a reflection on any weak faith. It is a confirmation that we stand on holy ground before an all-powerful God. The things He calls us to are usually beyond our abilities. They will probably be more than we can handle. But if we trust the Instructor, then we can trust that He will see whatever thing to completion.

Yet, like those in the Hebrews 11 “Hall of Faith,” we may not ever see the completion of what God has asked us to do. How absurd would it have been for Mary to claim she wouldn’t carry Jesus unless she was promised that she would get to see Him “reign over the house of Jacob forever.” Or if the shepherds were like, “Nah, we’re not going to go into Bethlehem and tell people about this baby unless we see some proof of this whole peace thing.”

All by ourselves, we have inadequate faith (and gumption/courage) to do most things that God would ask of us. Praise God, faith is not built on sight, but on an assurance in the One who’s very messengers repeatedly tell us, “Fear not. Be not afraid.”

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